The fitness industry has undergone dramatic changes in the last two decades. Everything has changed, starting from the nature of equipment to the science of training and nutrition. Previously believable myths have been subjected to the intense scrutiny of lab experiments, to decipher what is true science and what was in common lingo, referred to as “bro science”. Nutrition is one of the most important, but often neglected elements of exercise and body-building.
It has often proved to be difficult for a number of people to consistently meet their required caloric demands from proteins, as it can be costly and also time-consuming to prepare whole foods for consumption from rich protein sources. This is why, a protein supplement is a great way to optimize your protein intake so that you can get quality protein throughout the day at the right price, without having to spend those hard-earned dollars in buying only steak, milk and eggs.
Protein powders are also a great way for vegans and vegetarians to get the amount of protein their bodies require from regular workouts. Here, we have accumulated all the recent scientific research and data analysis to understand what are the factors that you should look into, if you’re looking for quality protein powder. If you’re undecided on what basis to choose your best budget protein powder, you are lucky to have stumbled on to us. We have systematically enumerated all pointers that should govern your choice and have also created a list of best budget protein powders.
What is a Protein Powder and How does it Work?
As explained in brief above, tough workouts do not automatically guarantee muscle growth on their own. The aspect of nutrition is often neglected and it is a foolish mistake to make. This is because not supplying your body with adequate macro-nutrients, can actually do more harm than good in the long run – especially if you’re a hard worker at the gym. Even in cases where individuals are looking to lose fat, it is vital to realize that nutrition is the key. And when we talk about breaking down our calories and macro-nutrients, we are essentially deliberating on how many calories to get from protein, fats, and carbs.
Proteins are the building blocks of muscle and recovery. Among all the macro-nutrients, they are the most important, as they essentially supply the fuel that your muscle fibers require to grow. People often forget or just don’t know that what they do during their workouts, and that does not lead to muscle growth. It only causes the breakdown of muscle fibers. The actual growth of the muscle takes place during rest and recovery periods and here is where protein powders can work their magic.
It often proves difficult for people to get their required calories from whole food sources and a protein powder can be a great substitute for hours of cooking or inconvenience of gorging down on huge quantities of a bland chicken breast. It also acts as a great protein source on the go and in quick time so that you don’t have to make compromises regarding how you use your valuable time.
Considering all these factors, it is not surprising that this is a fledgling industry and hundreds and thousands of people consume protein powdered drinks every day. The downside is that because this is such a growing industry, companies are often out to make a quick buck at the expense of serious health issues for the consumer. This is why it is important to have a decent degree of knowledge regarding what protein powders are, what their functions are and most importantly, understanding the factors which determine whether it is good or bad.
Factors to Consider while Buying Best Budget Protein Powder
On a fundamental level, the value in economic terms is basically used to determine the worth of the product in relation to its price and for protein supplements, it is more or less the same. It’s basically an assessment of the pro’s and con’s of the product in relation to its price. In this case, that is calculated as the difference between the benefits and burdens of the product divided by the cost per serving. It is important for consumers to ensure that they get maximum value out of whichever protein powder they choose to buy. It is also important to remember that value is relative and buyers can expect different levels of value at different price ranges.
In most cases, the concept of quality is relative. It is a lot more so in the case of protein powders, as they come in a variety of compositions and constituents. Some protein powders are reported to cause a range of anomalies such as gastrointestinal bloating, cramps and flatulence. Others have different issues with regard to mixability and may cause digestive issues because of thickness or density. Several factors are used to get a sense of the quality of a particular protein powder. These may include Yield, Amino Acid Profile( BCAA – EAA ratio), WPI: WPC ratio, filler percentage, taste, ease of use, digestibility and a host of other factors.
By yield, we generally mean the amount of protein that is found in per serving of the powder. It is a percentage representation of this number that is mathematically represented as follows :
(Grams Protein Per Serving x 100) / Serving Size In Grams
In order to give an example, let us consider a protein powder – it consists of 100 gms per serving and 50 gms of protein is found in each serving. This gives us a percentage yield of 50% protein. This does not represent a good deal as you should get more protein when you pay for it and not filler components. While saying that, it should also be understood that no protein powder provides 100% protein. But a good ratio is vital to good nutrition.
Amino Acid Profile
This factor is one of the most important ones to consider when buying a protein powder, especially for people who are professionally into bodybuilding and strength training. As explained above, any protein powder gives us a percentage number as yield and the other part is non-protein. However, the entire non-protein percentage is not composed of filler, as some may mistakenly assume.
Amino acids also contribute a significant part of the non-protein percentage. Two kinds of amino acids exist and both are equally important. BCAAs or branch chain amino acids and EAA or essential amino acids – and both are found inside protein powders in different quantities.
BCAAs are basically carriers of nitrogen that help in creating the anabolic effect leading to muscle growth. They are also responsible for stimulating the production of the insulin hormone that is responsible for the muscle cells’ absorption of blood sugar, providing energy for workouts. These acids are also helpful during fat reduction cycles that aid the body in preserving lean muscle mass.
EAA’s, on the other hand, is a great yardstick for determining the completeness of a protein powder. Since there are 20 essential amino acids that make up proteins, it is important to understand that these have different functions by stimulating growth in different types of muscle fibers.
Different Functions for each of the 20 Essential Amino Acids:
Amino Acid Function
● The energy source for muscle tissue
● Strengthens the immune system by producing antibodies
● Helps detoxify liver
● Causes the pituitary gland to release growth hormone
● Needed to combine proteins
● Increases muscle mass
● Reduces body fat
● Increase immune system strength Aspartic Acid (Non-Essential) Shuttles toxic ammonia out of body
● Aids Protein Synthesis
Glutamic Acid (Non-Essential)
● Reduces cravings for sugar
● Reduces Fatigue Glutamine
● Increases Growth Hormone secreted by the pituitary gland
● Hormone Manufacturing
● Aids digestion
● Raises energy levels
● Helps heal the muscle tissue
● Aids in growth
● Needed for tissue repair
● Produces antibodies, hormones, and enzymes
● Helps metabolize fats into energy
● Maintains nitrogen balance
● Helps remove fatty substances from the body
● Helps digestion
● Suppresses appetite
● Produces the chemicals which control impulse transmission between nerve cells
● Needed for the proper functioning of joints and tendons
● Helps strengthen the heart muscle
● Strengthens the immune system
● Makes antibodies
● Helps maintain protein balance in the body
● Releases growth hormone
● Healthy functioning of the Thyroid and Adrenal Glands
● Muscle Coordination
In order to figure out the concentration of BCAA’s to EAA’s, the following formula may be used :
Total BCAA / Total EAA = x%
A good resultant would be something around 50-55%.
WPI : WPC Ratio
In the modern world of market capitalism, sellers and companies use a wide range of tactics to seduce buyers to invest in overpriced products. The fitness and nutrition industry is no different, but it is important to remember that proteins are proteins. However, it should not be forgotten that proteins can have different effects on the body, based upon how they are manufactured. For instance, the common Whey Protein may have different variants :
● Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)
● Ion Exchange Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)
● Cross Flow Micro-filtered Whey Protein Isolate (CFM)
● Hydrolyzed Whey Peptide (HWP)
These proteins are differentiated based on a number of factors – the size of molecules and degree of digestibility being the most crucial. The biological value of WPI is higher than WPC. This essentially leads to the popular idea that WPC is inferior and that protein powders below the WPC level are basically junk proteins.
The idea of a “junk” protein is that it contains various inferior sources of protein such as those found in egg, beef, pork etc. However, it is common knowledge that these proteins act as great mass gainers, and therefore the idea that WPC is somehow inferior is not wholly accurate. The point is that a high protein diet will yield similar results – regardless of the source.
It is, however, prudent to note that consumers should always look for a powder that has a combination of different protein sources such as whey, casein, egg, and others. Different protein types perform different functions. For instance, whey acts as a fast acting high protein with a high rate of oxidation. Casein, on the other hand, presents a slow digesting option and others such as egg provide a combination of both types.
As far as the question of soy protein goes, male bodybuilders should stay away from it in large quantities as it contains phytoestrogens, which is a female hormone and could create hormonal complications for men if used for extended periods in large quantities. It is, however, safe to be used occasionally and below a level of 80 gms.
The presence of a certain percentage of filler is an unavoidable and a feature of all protein powders. However, it is better to ensure that the percentage is as low as possible. Since it is unrealistic to expect a 100% yield, consumers have to put up with filler components such as ash, moisture or any other substance that is non- amino acid. Flavoring ingredients such as cocoa also fall into this category along with fats and carbs. Protein powders high in BCAA to EAA ration are naturally low in filler and vice-versa. Hence choosing wisely is a necessity.
The question of taste is a subjective one to a certain extent, especially when it comes to protein powders. It is often misleading to go by flashy adverts regarding tastes on the product itself. It is, therefore, best to seek advice on this issue from individuals who have used a particular product and are happy with how it tastes. As you will be using the product daily, its best to give this factor some importance as it will be a very unpleasant experience to have a protein powder that does go down the throat.
Inconsistency in consumption of protein powders essentially means sacrificing muscle gain, as it disrupts the nitrogen and hormonal balance of the body.
It is important to remember that actual muscle growth takes place during rest and recovery, which is in turn dependent on nutrition and the correct supply of macronutrients to repair those torn muscle fibers.
Ease of Use
This factor can be understood as a combination of two sub-factors – mixability and digestibility. It’s better to look for a protein powder that does not require a blender to mix properly but also one that could mix better in a blender. This way you can use your blender when you have the choice but don’t have to worry in cases where you don’t and can mix it well enough in a shaker or even with a spoon. There have been many cases where cheap proteins have proved to be more of a loss than a money-saving tactic and it’s better to know that really cheap protein powders are most likely not genuine.
On the question of digestibility, it is fair to ensure that the powder does not make you feel bloated upon consumption. That is usually a sign of a cheap manufacturing process where the raw materials have not been adequately processed.
We can, and have spoken about a host of different factors that work in determining the best budget protein powder. The reality, however, is that this is essentially a result-based business. The best is simply the one that works the best for you. The research and analysis of factors definitely help, but ultimately it all comes down to if you’re happy with the results after using a particular product for a certain period of time. This factor can also be extended to consider the results or lack thereof, of others who might have used the product. It is always the best option to do a little bit of digging, both online and offline, to check and see what protein powder might suit you best keeping in mind your own unique goals.
Top 10 Best Budget Protein Powders 2020
Optimum Nutrition (ON) is easily one of the most favored companies when it comes to legit protein powders. The gold standard edition is a fantastic alternative, as it really gives you your money’s worth, with around 24 gms of protein per serving. The high protein content and the existence of BCAAs ensure a smooth combination of developing muscle size as well as strength.
It is a great choice for a post-workout drink, and can also be consumed in the morning after waking up. This product is great as it minimizes filler ingredients such as fat, cholesterol, and lactose. By using this product regularly, many satisfied customers have reported an improvement in their results and that is why it is considered to be a benchmark in the realm of protein powders.
2. Isopure Zero Carb Protein Powder
This product from Izopore is another useful and pocket-friendly option when it comes to buying an effective protein powder that produces results. It provides an impressive 25 gms of protein per serving of this whey protein isolate. A great additional incentive for purchasing this powder is the presence of added mineral blends and vitamins, that help in the overall growth of body and the immune system.
For lactose intolerant fitness enthusiasts, this product represents a great option, as it is completely free of lactose as well as gluten. This powder can be used as pre or post workout drink to bump up the levels of daily protein consumption. It can also be used first thing in the morning and also in between meals. As far as budget protein powders go, there aren’t much better.
3. BSN SYNTHA-6 Whey Protein Powder
BSN has made quite a name in the fitness industry, owing to their wide variety of nutrition products and their affordable price ranges. Many consumers have a preference for this particular powder that is guaranteed to complement your daily diet in the best and most complete way possible. Providing a healthy 22gms of protein per serving, this Casein milk protein, and whey isolate powder is a great choice for bodybuilders and powerlifters alike.
Even if you’re just looking to get in shape and replace a few pounds of fat with muscle, this is the one for you. A 5gm offering of fiber preserving only manages to increase the lure of this classy product. It produces a rich creamy milkshake that is sure to get your taste buds all jumpy. For anyone looking to promote the rate of muscle protein synthesis to achieve greater muscle growth, this product presents a great affordable, yet a quality option.
4. Orgain Organic Plant Based Protein Powder
If you’re a vegan or a vegetarian, don’t let anybody ever tell you that cannot consume enough protein to build muscle and strength. This plant-based protein powder from Orgain is an ideal choice for men, women, and children. This is the best option for on the go nutrition and protein requirements. This product provides 21 grams of plant-based protein for every scoop you take and consists of a wide variety of healthy vegetarian goodness in the form of organic peas, brown rice and chia as well.
This unique protein powder is also responsible for 5 gms of organic fiber, 3 gms of net carbs and 0 gms of sugar. Considering the high prices of vegetarian protein sources, this powder gives you a great value for money deal with an excellent product that is sure to leave you satisfied once the results start showing.
5. MusclePharm Combat Protein Powder
MusclePharm has developed quite a reputation in the last few years as a provider of good quality and affordable nutrition related products – and this is one of its best options. The interesting point about this powder is not just that it provides a whopping 25 gms of protein per serving, but that it contains 5 different sources of proteins. This diverse range of sources ensures that there are enough fast and slow digesting types of protein that stimulate muscle fibers in different ways.
It contains whey protein isolate, whey protein hydrolysate as well as BCAAs and whey protein concentrate. It is also rich in glutamine and other essential digestive enzymes. The manufacturing of this product is based on a university study formula that seeks to optimize muscle growth, while also aiding in the prevention of injury and an increased speed of recovery. It has also acquired plaudits for its taste and can be consumed along with a plethora of other food products such as water, milk, almond milk, fruits, and vegetables. Very few protein powders can claim to provide such a complete and diverse profile of protein and other nutrients at such a low cost.
6. Muscle Milk Genuine Protein Powder
Muscle Milk has come up with many impressive choices when it comes to cost-effective and results-oriented protein powders. For every couple of scoops, this budget protein powder provides 32 gms of protein along with 3 grams of leucine – all in a meager 280 calories. This product can be used as a great option for a protein-rich snack between meals, apart from the conventional usage of a pre or post-workout supplement.
This product has received rave reviews for its great taste. It can also be used to make a number of delicious food items such as pancakes and smoothies, to bump up the protein content significantly. Having attained a Protein Digestibility Amino Acid Score of 1.0, it is easily one of the best most efficient protein powders that ensures your digestive system can run like clockwork. At this price, it represents a shrewd and sensible buy.
7. Body Fortress Super Advanced Whey Protein
Body Fortress is another brand growing in popularity for providing a great source of quality protein at a consumer-friendly price. It is a fantastic choice for newbies and seasoned weightlifters alike, as it provides ample fuel to the body that helps in sustaining grueling workout and also speeds up the process of muscle recovery.
The whey protein powder is spiked with generous levels of creatine that acts as an agent of faster recovery, thereby allowing you to push harder during a workout without worrying about injuries. In terms of mixability, this product shows great versatility as it can be dissolved easily without the help of an expensive blender. It also gives the consumer a great combination of whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate, so that all types of muscle fibers can be adequately stimulated for optimum growth.
8. Reserveage – Grass Fed Whey Protein
This grass-fed whey protein powder form Reserveage has been selling like hotcakes across many popular stores, owing to its high biological value. It has often been considered as a next generation product when it comes to protein supplements and you will understand why. The alluring fact about this product is that the manufacturers have ensured that source of protein is nothing short of natural grass-fed cattle, without an ounce of artificial and synthetic hormones such as rBST and rBGH.
This unique product is not only of great quality but has also received wide acclaim for its delicious organic taste that will ensure regular consumption for optimum results. It also had a very good mixability rating and is sure to merge seamlessly with your overall diet without causing any digestive abnormalities whatsoever. Its safe to say that a product at such a price is definitely what you would consider a real “steal”.
9. Verum Labs Grass Fed Whey Protein Isolate
Whey isolate powders are a fantastic choice for bodybuilders to complement their grueling workout. The protein is digested slowly over time, ensuring that the body is slowly, but consistently undertaking muscle-protein synthesis. This grass-fed variety is organic and boats of a great track record of results. This product contains no artificial sweeteners or hormones and is completely free of gluten and soy.
It is composed of all natural seasonally sourced whey, that is procured from the fresh farm produce of midwest farmers to create a completely non-denatured whey isolate, rich in all the essential amino acids. Providing a healthy dose of 21 grams of protein and 4.5 grams of BCAAs per scoop, this product is a great choice for people looking to undertake fitness and strength programmes on a budget. It comes fully cold processed and third-party tested to make sure that there are no chemicals mixed in, making this a great source of quality protein at a very affordable price.
10. Optimum Nutrition Gold
Our final product on this list is another widely acclaimed and well received one from the renowned supplement company Optimum Nutrition. The function of Casein protein is to primarily act as a slow digesting protein – it is recommended for purposes of overnight recovery. Packing a significant quantity of 24 grams of protein with each serving, this product produces the best results when consumed between meals and, or just before going to bed. Along with the high quantity of protein, each serving of this effective protein powder gives you approximately 5 grams of BCAAs. As far as prices go, there aren’t too many in the market that can stand up to this one. It really is the complete package and would make a great buy.
In our article, we have discussed at length, the various factors that should go into determining your choice if you’re considering buying a protein powder. As we have stated before, protein supplements are a great way to ensure that your body gets the required amount of protein it needs, without having to spend a lot of money to buy whole foods. Supplements can also act as a great time saver for us to secure our nutritional requirements, without having to go through the hassle of cooking. The important point is that protein supplements can be useful – but only when they are used in the proper manner.
For instance, a supplement is just a supplement and not a replacement of whole foods. Food should comprise the bulk of your diet if you’re serious about dropping fat and building muscle. All things considered, the choice ultimately comes down to your own individual needs and it’s better to do your research regarding a number of factors such as your body-type and what programme suits you best. Everything is connected in this regard and once all of the variables, like training, rest and nutrition are working together in tandem, your protein supplement can act as the proverbial “cherry on the cake”.