Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Guide to Protein Powders

As anyone who reads this blog with any regularity can attest, I like smoothies...a lot. They make for a satisfying midnight snack and the perfect accompaniment to my nightly blog reading. Part of what attracts me to these blender creations is that they provide a convenient way to sneak in an extra serving of fruit, dairy, and, most pertinent to this post's topic, protein. Not only does the added protein hit ensure that I consume adequate amounts of this very necessary macronutrient, but it also adds a lovely "shake-like" texture to my blended beverages.

Over the years, I have experimented with them all: whey, soy, rice, hemp, even pea proteins. Here is a brief review of my protein adventures:

Whole Foods Soy Protein Powder
Given my obsession with all things Whole Foods, it shouldn't surprise you that I have sampled their house brand of protein powder.
*I have come to prefer non-animal sources of protein, so I opted to use their soy variety; they also produce a whey formula.
*Just two flavors are available: chocolate and vanilla. Both are quite palatable and lend themselves well to a variety of flavors.
*Unlike some powders, they may simply be mixed with milk--and still be tasty. Often protein powders need other components such as fruit or non-dairy ice cream to mask an unpleasant "protein" taste.
*Each packet contains 110-120 kcalories, 24 grams of protein, and partial supplementation in a few vitamins and minerals.
*Also available in canisters. A formula with added spirulina is also sold in some markets.
Living Harvest Hemp Protein
Just like my pal VeggieGirl, I have a healthy appreciation for this brand of protein.
*Available in 3 varieties: original, vanilla spice, and chocolate chili. My personal fave is vanilla spice (especially with mango!).
*Hemp has a very strong and distinctive taste, so I recommend easing your way into using this variety of protein. Get acclimated to its taste in combination with other flavors (from fruit, for example) before trying it on its own. Lindsay had the brilliant idea to mix it with oatmeal!
*Each 4 tablespoon serving contains 120-130 kcalories, 9 grams of protein, and a surprising 8 grams of fiber.
*Available in packets or canisters from their online store, as well in some Whole Foods markets.
To see more of my Living Harvest creations, click here.

Nature's Plus Spirutein
This was my first protein powder obsession...I will always have a special place in my heart for Spirutein.
*Available in SEVERAL varieties:
-Fruity: Strawberry-Banana, Strawberry, Strawberry Shortcake, Pina Colada, Tropical Fruit, Peaches 'n Cream, Tangerine Dream, Cherries Jubilee, Blueberries 'n Cream, Nutty Berry Burst, Banana, Raspberry Royale, Exotic Red Fruit
-Non-fruity: Egg Nog, Chai Latte, Chocolate, Vanilla, Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl, Double Fudge Crunch, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Cookies 'n Cream, S'mores, Cappuccino
-Flavors in italics are my favorites!
*Strawberry-inspired flavors are NOT good--their flavorings are simply not quite right. Think cough medicine.
*Spirutein develops a light and fluffy texture when whipped in a high-speed blender. Yum, smoothie "clouds."
*Select flavors are available in unsweetened varieties and are just as tasty!
*Nutritionals vary according to flavor, but most contain 100-130 kcalories, 14 grams of protein, and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. I like that each serving provides 300 mg (30% RDA) of vegan calcium.
*Available in canisters or packets from many online stores, but I choose to order mine from Lucky Vitamin for their wide selection of flavors.
*My girl over at Gliding Calm likes to add Spirutein to her oats every now and then!
To see more of my Spirutein creations, click here.

Alive! Ultra Shakes
These provide a nice alternative to your average protein powders--great way to eat your peas!
*Available in soy and pea-rice protein blends, in vanilla and apples & cinnamon.
*Don't be turned off by their green color! They taste delicious, regardless of their slightly off-putting hue.
*Similar to Spirutein, Alive! shakes develop a pillowy texture when blended.
*Each serving contains 130 kcalories, 15 grams of protein, and whopping amounts of vitamins and minerals. You might not want to consume these daily so as to avoid excessive supplementation.
*Available in canisters or packets at Whole Foods Markets.
To see more of my Alive! shakes, click here.

Nutribody Protein
I received a large canister of Nutribody to sample for VegFamily--it turned out to be a favorite. You can read my review of it here.
*Available in a single variety, original (but it tastes like vanilla to me!)
*Sweet-tasting, despite its 0 grams of stevia here either. Luo han is the sweetening agent here.
*Protein is derived from brown rice, making it suitable for those allergic to soy.
*Each 4 tablespoon serving contains 124 kcalories, 26 grams of protein, and 1.3 grams of fat. There is no other supplementation. (Bummer!).
*Quite possibly the most versatile protein powder I have used--perfect for any smoothie.
*Available in canisters on the company website.
To see more of my Nutribody creations, click here.

Amazing Meal
I received these packets as a result of my position at VegFamily as well--I will definitely order these for myself in the future!
*Available in 3 flavors: Original, Pomegranate-Mango, and Chocolate; all three are excellent, but I especially liked the mango and chocolate varieties.
*Protein is derived from hemp & rice, but the blend also includes a vast array of superfoods such as wheat grass, kale, and goji berries!
*Each serving contains 120 kcalories, 10 grams of protein, and an impressive 6 grams of fiber.
*Available exclusively at Whole Foods Markets.

To see more Amazing Meal creations, click here.

Nutribiotic Rice Protein
This provides the perfect compromise for the soy-averse and those who do not like the taste of hemp.
*Available in plain, vanilla, chocolate, and mixed berry. Formulas with added flax and antioxidants are also available.
*This powder tastes sweet to me as well, but it is completely free of sugar and sweeteners.
*I suggest adding a scoop of cocoa powder for a deeper, more instense chocolate flavor; otherwise it lends a "milk chocolate" flavor to your shakes.
*Each 1 tablespoon serving contains 55-60 kcalories, 12 grams of protein, and little to no other supplementation.
*Works well in Gina's breakfast cookies!

To see more of my Nutribiotic creations, click here.

Nutiva Hemp Shake
Another hemp protein after my heart...
*Available in 3 varieties: chocolate, amazon acai, and berry pomegranate. The amazon acai is undrinkable, in my opinion.
*Again, this powder has a strong hemp taste that is almost spicy; proceed with caution if you're a hemp newbie.
*This powder does not mix well with ice--combine only with fruit, milk/juice, or non-dairy ice cream/yogurt.
*Each serving contains 80-100 kcalories, 6-9 grams of protein, and 8 grams of fiber. You're out of luck if you're looking for additional supplementation.
*Available online at many outlets, including Amazon.
To see all my Nutiva creations, click here and here.

-You can revisit my post devoted to smoothie makin' here.
-I also reviewed another brand of protein (rather unfavorably) here.

Whew! I think that summarizes my protein powder career. I welcome comments, questions, and suggestions for other protein products. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

i'm a little scurred b/c i have the nutiva, hopefully i can make it work! ha and i love your skillet background :D

Marianne said...

That's a whole lotta protein powder! Great to have the side by side comparison though all in one post. I don't know that I can get any of those types of powder here in the stores though to even try. I might have seen the Living Harvest, but that's about it.

Anonymous said...

Great reviews!

I definetely need to look into trying some of these out. I have only tried the chocolate hemp shake and I thought it was pretty good.

In regards to your Amy's burger question, I think the California burger is my favorite so far, I haven't tried that many, but I remember the all American burger being pretty bad!

Erica said...

Wonderful post- you make the best creative! I am still working on exploring protein powder so I found this especially helpful. So far I have had a whey (jay robb) and a vanilla rice. I mixed jay robb directly with milk and the rice with yogurt. I plan to shakes again now that we have our magic bullet back ;)

Nicole said...

Thank you for this post!! I always get so confused when trying to pick out a powder!

Anonymous said...

YAY YAY YAY !!! you rock for doing this post!!!

i am almost out of my Trader Joe's Vanilla Soy Protein powder, so I will have to begin searching for my next cannister!! or maybe I should fiddle with some individual ones first......... hmmm..

ANYWAYS, thanks for the shout out and also thanks for taking the time to educate us on the pro pow!

mucho love, and HAPPY MONDAY C!

Anonymous said...

My favorite brand by far is the Whole Foods Soy Protein. It's so good and works well in everything!

I didn't like the Vanilla Hemp, maybe it was too grainy? Or the flavor was just really grassy to me.

I haven't tried many flavors of Spiru-tein but I love the texture of it!

Alive Shakes = Gross. THe texture is really jello-like when I put it in the blender. I just can't stomach it.

I really want to try that Nutribody though, thanks for this awesome post!!!

VeggieGirl said...

I have a new one for you to try!!! I've been using this in addition to my Living Harvest hemp protein powder:

Lauren said...

Thanks for the informative post - I've been disappointed by protein powders in the past, but I'll have to give some of the ones you reviewed a try.

I love Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - wonderful book!

Anonymous said...

WOW! Thank you soo much! I will definitely look into that "Amazing Meal" powder. Mango has a special place in MY heart, too. I've tried the Alive! powder &, more often, Spiru-tein!
This is a GREAT guide, so thanks again!

Anonymous said...

This post rocks because it's got all of the Caroline protein goodness in one place :o) I recently bought an Alive! packet and received some Hemp protein in a goodie package, so I will definitely be giving those a try soon! I wonder if I'll become a convert over whey?! It could happen!

K said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! I've been procrastinating jumping on the smoothie train since it's so cold but now that it's begun to warm up, I've been researching protein powders. My question is (and it'll be hard for you because I know how much you love them) what is your ULTIMATE favorite one?

Katie said...

Thanks for the information! I like smoothies, but I get overwhelmed by all the protein powder options.

Vegan On Stage said...

I have been obsessed with smoothies lately!!! They are so delish.. (I love making chocolate ones cause i feel like its a shake!)

Ive been using hemp vanilla protein powder.. its really great!

ChickPea said...

CarolineBee: It's not so bad when mixed with lots of fruit--just don't try it on its own!
Marianne: Sorry for the humongous post--I hope you're able to find some of them though.
Talieworld: I'll remember not to try the American!
Erica: Shakes are so fun and easy! Enjoy coming up with your own creations:)
Nicole: No problem!
GC: Thank YOU for suggesting this topic--I think it's something a lot of people would like to know more about. I'll have to keep my eye out for the TJ's brand!
Shelby: The hemp protein is more of an acquired taste. The Alive! ones also have to be consumed the right way--they're pretty narsty alone.
VG: Oooh! Thanks for the rec! I have complete confidence in your suggestions:)
Lauren: Glad you liked the post. Animal/Veg/Miracle is a fab book--I have revisited it a few times since finishing it.
OrangePop: You're very welcome! Happy protein powder shopping!
EatingBender: Ooh--you'll have lots of fun experimenting with your fab VitaMix and protein powders. Let me know how it goes!
K: Oh my, I have no idea if I could choose an absolute favorite....but the the blueberries n cream Spirutein is always a hit with me, no matter my mood.
Katie: Hopefully this post will help you narrow it down a bit!
VeganOnStage: Yes, I totally use my concoctions as shakes as well--the chocolate makes it so decadent!

Andrea of Care to Eat said...

Wow, this was extremely informative for me! I've been needing to figure out what non-dairy protein powder I'm going to get after I'm done with some old Muscle Milk Light and now I've got some good ideas. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent review! I tried the Living Harvest Chocolate Chili today and it was interesting. I definitely didn't ease into the hemp taste. ;) I wish it had more protein though.
Thank you so much for all the info! I have a recommendation. It's not as cool as yours but I love it. I use GNC brand soy powder! It's 130 cals for 25 grams and tastes amazing! Plus I think it's only $16 a canister and they always have a special of some kind - buy one get one half off or something like that.

Danna said...

This is a GREAT protein guide, so thanks again! My first protein obsession is Nature's Plus Spiru-Tein Chocolate Protein available at GNC.