In the last few weeks I have been piling up information on you about how to go about selecting the best protein shake. Now comes the fun part when we get to flex all that knowledge to separate the great protein shakes from the average ones.
From our first article, we know that we want whey concentrate protein that is extracted using a non-chemical process. Further, the second article tells us how we separate the pretenders from the performers. If you are still in two minds about whether you really need protein shakes, you can explore here if they are worth it to you.
To start with, I am comparing the brands /products that I have personally used and those that are popular in the market.
- Optimum Nutrition
- Ultimate Nutrition
- Muscle Tech
All of these are top sellers and have an established reputation in the supplements industry. I have selected products from each brand that have whey as their main protein source. Now lets go ahead and get a closer look at them.
Basic Review: We want to make sure our protein source and type is healthy and also understand what kind of processing is done to extract these proteins.
Most brands sell whey in a blended form – i.e. mix of Concentrate, Isolate and Hydrolysed. This is done to increase the protein content so that your powder packs more punch in every serving. Protein in their isolate forms are missing their bio-active compounds that have the properties to boost immunity, anti-oxidants, etc. Read more about why these and other criteria’s are important.
If we go lenient on this criteria, then most of these brands above pass through this first filter. This is quite significant as a lot of other companies do acid-washing and ion-exchange processing to extract the protein at lower costs. Clearly, these few brands are amongst the best in the industry.
Additives Review: Now lets dig deeper to really understand what else if being added to these powders.
I have been taking Mercola’s Pure Protein for a few years now and I am so comfortable with this brand that I have not had to look beyond for an alternate. That changed when I decided to write this series about Protein Shakes. And I found a few that are making the right promises and seem to be just as good.
- Mt Capra
- Vital Whey
- Reservage Whey
All these companies not only meet our criteria above but genuinely care about giving wholesome nutrition in their products without the use of artificial sweeteners or other chemicals. Mt Capra’s source of milk is Goats that feed on grass free from chemicals and pesticides. DesignsForHealth has a protein powder that has only whey listed as its ingredient – no flavour, no sweetener. Reserve Whey also just like Mercola uses Lechitin from Sunflower seeds that are GMO free. Vital Whey is another company that meets all our criteria and has great reviews.
I am excited to tell you about these brands because these are only a handful amongst maybe thousands that really care about what is going in their products.
Now for the bad news, they are not available in India. If you want these, you would have to get international shipping and also pay the 40% customs duty. This made me think about the economics of the whole situation and if they are really worth the trouble.
A lot of reviews compare protein powders based on their protein content alone. I have gone a step further to look at how much a gram of protein costs me in each of these brands.
Our ‘natural’ protein brands are almost double in terms of cost when compared with the popular brands that use artificial sweeteners and others chemicals. Are they worth it? In my opinion, yes. It is the price I am willing to pay for a better quality product and also for my peace of mind.
Your answer to this actually really depends on you. If you believe that organic food is a marketing hype or that drinking artificially sweetened colas will have no affect on your health, then you would go with the more popular brands. To be honest, the fact that Optimum Nutrition’s Gold Standard Whey protein is the second largest selling item in the Sports & Nutrition category on Amazon will tell you that you are not alone. But like me, if you also believe in organic food and that the chemicals and artificial additives in packaged foods are destroying our health then your choice will be easy. Read more about why I think this is the case.
Where & How to get the ‘natural’ protein brands:
If you are in India, you should visit company websites and then request for international shipping. Mercola does it and I am connecting with the teams at Reservage Whey & Vital Whey to find out if they do too. Actually Mercola is also available on Junglee(dot)com but the price is so ridiculously high that you are better off getting it shipped directly from the company (Rs 6,600 compared to some Rs 5,000 including import duty and shipping cost).
Update Jun 28, 2015: In discussion with the companies, discovered that their shipping rates are quite high (~$60). Reservage directed me to the website in.iherb.com which is a registered seller for all the 5 brands shortlisted here. They provide very cheap international shipping (~$10). Use coupon code ZDQ521 to get 10% off on your first purchase#. Oh and also keep in mind, on all international orders whether from the Company directly or through iherb website, the Customs/ Import Duty is additional and is usually charged by the courier company at the time of delivery.
I get my Mercola supply from my brother who orders from them in bulk. In fact if you decide to get international shipping, it makes sense to order 3-4 months supply in advance.
If you are based outside India, you can check on Amazon. I have seen the prices there are usually $10-$20 cheaper than the ones on the company website.
Here are the links:
Meanwhile, we are out of protein powders in the house and I am looking to gain some lean mass over the next few weeks. I have decided to give Vital Whey a try and have to wait for them to confirm if they can ship it to me. Until then my post workout proteins are good old eggs and milk!
These are my best bets right now. It gives me about 21gms of easily digestible and high BV (biological value) proteins after my workout. One protein powder serving does about the same.
Anyway, this is just a make-shift arrangement until I get Vital Whey protein (let me know if you want to know the details of how to order it). I love the convenience of a protein powder and if you trust the brand, then nothing can trump them (sorry eggs and milk, I still love you too! ).
Related: Whey Protein: How To Make It At Home
*Note: Mt Capra links to the company website while others link to amazon(dot)com.
#PS: This site utilises affiliate links to help sustain our efforts in getting you the best information possible and continue sharing with you genuine product reviews
Sources: Prices for DesignsForhealth & Reservage Whey from amazon.com; Vital Whey, Mercola and Mt Capra from respective company websites; Prostar and Gold Standard prices from amazon.in for India and amazon.com for price comparison in USD; All prices as last accessed in June 2015; Product information from respective nutrition labels and company websites