This is a guest post by Josh, catering chef at USA Today and a cycling enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter at @thisisthedude.
Ever had a bad protein shake or mix? Me too, so I sampled four single serving packets and evaluated them based on taste, texture, and wholesomeness. I mixed each type with water and milk to find which one I think is best.
The main sources of protein are whey, soy, and plant (typically brown rice, pea, or hemp). Whey protein digests really quickly. Soy protein is a great vegetarian source of protein. Plant proteins offer a good source of protein for vegans and may contain additional nutritional supplements since they do not always contain all amino acids.
The first powder that I tasted was Blue Bonnet’s French vanilla flavored Whey Protein Isolate. It had a vanilla taste that I found cloyingly sweet. The texture was super smooth with the slightest hint of chalkiness. It is also really wholesome; the protein is not broken down by heat during the filtration process and contains only 3 other ingredients (Stevia is my only knock, but that’s my personal opinion).
The second powder I tried was Blue Bonnet’s French vanilla flavored Soy Protein. The texture was slightly granular but it had a pronounced oatmeal taste that I didn’t really like. It’s wholesomeness is a little harder to judge because they added nutrients to “support cardiovascular health” and “bone health” but doesn’t contain anything I wouldn’t support.
Next up was Naturade’s vanilla flavored Pea Protein. First off it’s vegan and gluten free, so if that’s your thing, sweet. The texture was thicker than the previous two and had a hint of toasted coffee. It wasn’t too sweet but had a lingering, indistinguishable “green” flavor, similar to a “green juice” you’d get from a juice bar. Naturade left me wanting in the wholesome department. There are a few ingredients that I find unnecessary and I’d rather they did without.
Lastly, I tasted Spiru-tein vanilla flavored Whey, which they label as a high protein energy meal. It’s gluten free and made with Spirulina (derived from seaweed, it is a great source of protein containing all amino acids). This powder, to put it nicely, turned me off. It becomes very viscous and almost gelatinous (I’m guessing the Spirulina has some thickening properties similar to that of agar agar) and had a slightly offensive seaweed smell. It also didn’t mix thoroughly and formed little gel-like balls (granted you may be able to get rid of them by mixing more but I mixed each drink for the same amount of time). As for wholesomeness, again it was tough to decipher since this powder has the most added vitamins and nutrients out of all the powders. It isn’t bad, but I did rank it the lowest of the bunch.
One additional note is that I’ve always mixed my protein powders with milk. During this taste test I noticed that I prefer water, it was thinner and the flavors were milder. I liked Blue Bonnet’s Whey the best, even though it was too sweet. It’s texture and flavor sold me. The pea protein is my second choice because I think that “green” flavor isn’t a bad thing and I believe with the right juice it’d be great (can you say carrot juice and fresh ginger?). Last on my list is that lovely Spiru-tein Whey with Spirulina, mostly because I like to keep my vitamins separate from my protein drinks, but also because of that unforgettable flavor. So drink up and let us know what your favorite protein mix is!