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For gym-goers and those who love convenience, protein powder is such a staple in a daily routine. Mixing it in with some greens, fruit, as a binder to make protein pancakes or muffins, or just shaken with some water provides a quick and easy meal packed with protein and nutrition. However, all powders are not created equally. Without the right ingredients, your protein powder isn’t working as hard or as well as it could be. Here’s what to look for when shopping for protein powder:

Filler Ingredients

This is the category that can really make or break a protein powder’s effectiveness. Make sure to read ingredient labels carefully. Are the fillers high on the list of ingredients or are they listed at the end? In short, the higher an ingredient is on the list, the more of it the product contains. Fillers should never be listed above amino acids or the protein source. If they are, your product is more filler than function.

Amino Acid Makeup

Proteins are a byproduct of a combination of 20 Amino Acids. A protein powder’s worth and effectiveness can be determined by their amino acid profile. When looking for a protein powder, you should keep an eye out for two types of amino acid chains: branch chain amino acids (BCAA) and Essential Amino Acids (EAA).

BCAAs carry nitrogen, which is needed to assist our muscles in synthesizing to other amino acids to produce an anabolic effect. This chain also stimulates the production of insulin, providing necessary energy to our bodies. BCAAs are also essential to spare lean muscle tissue when the body is shedding weight. EAAs contain Tryptophan, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Threonine, Valine, Leucine, Lysine, and Isoleucine.

Each amino acid plays a specific role in the body, so the combination of the acids should cater to what you want and need.

Protein Source

There are a lot of opinions out there on which base protein (i.e. whey, casein, egg, soy, etc.) is the best or worst in protein powders. Many companies will suggest that one is superior to all others. However, when choosing a protein powder, you should look for one that contains a combination of a few different types of protein.

Whey contains a high concentration of leucine, a complete protein source. However, whey is extremely fast acting and its effects wear off quickly. Casein, however, releases over time and maintains an even amino acid level throughout the day. So, ideally, you should look for a powder that contains both. That way your protein is working when you need it and its effects are continuing to benefit you all day long.

Our bodies are incredibly complex machines. We need very specific ingredients and compounds to function effectively and efficiently. Protein powders with the right ingredients and makeup can do wonders to supplement and add to the amino acids and processes our body creates and experiences. Doing your research, evaluating what your body needs, and really reading ingredient labels can take your protein powder to a whole new level.