The Ultimate Guide to Protein Powder

Written by Dr. Sophie Pollon-MacLeod BSc, ND , CISSN. Naturopathic doctor and Sports Nutritionist

If you landed on this page, you may be interested in incorporating protein powder into your dietary regime. You may have gone to your local health food store, or started browsing the web in search of a protein powder, only to discover an overwhelming amount of information and options.

At NutriChem, we value educating our clients and are all about making the complicated health stuff practical and easy to digest. Keep reading if you are looking for a simplified, evidence based, step-by-step approach into what to look for in a protein powder and some commonly asked questions.


Step 1: Why protein? Understand the essential role protein plays in human health

Proteins are large, complex molecules made up of smaller units called amino acids. Amino acids are essential to the structure, function, and regulation of the body’s cells, tissues, and organs. Proteins play a vital role in virtually every biological process and are involved in various functions. If you are not achieving adequate protein intake on a regular basis, this can have a significant negative impact on your health and well-being.


Step 2: Understanding your individual protein requirements 

Before diving into purchasing a protein powder, it is best to start by reflecting on your individual goals and body requirements.

If you meet any of the following criteria, chances are you would be a good candidate for protein powder supplementation to help you achieve additional daily protein intake, above what is recommended by the Canadian Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA).

1. You are active.

    • A common misconception about protein powder is that it’s only used by people who spend 10 hours in the gym everyday and look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. That is FALSE! If you are a person that moves your body, whether it’s walking, running, pickleball, strength training, yoga… your protein requirements are greater, and using a protein powder can help support recovery, performance, & muscle protein synthesis.
    • Protein recommendations based on activity level:

      • Moderately active: 1.3-1.5 grams of protein per kg of body weight (g/kg)
      • Highly active: 1.5-3 g/kg

2. You are trying to lose weight.

If you are reducing your caloric intake, you should be increasing your protein intake. There are two main reasons behind this strategy:

    • Maintain muscle mass while losing weight to help support metabolism and sustain weight loss changes for a longer duration.
    • Support satiety protein can help to keep you full and reduce cravings 
    • Improve insulin sensitivity: protein can help to manage blood sugar levels. There is also preliminary research that whey protein has insulinogenic activity.
    • NutriChem’s Logical Choice Whey protein powder is 80 kcal and 19 grams of protein per scoop

3. You are vegan, vegetarian or consume a mainly plant-based diet.

    • While it is absolutely possible to achieve your protein goals while consuming a plant-based diet, it can be a challenge for a lot of individuals to reach those goals on a daily basis. Using a plant based protein powder is a great option to help supplement meals to achieve protein targets consistently, especially the essential amino acids that are key for muscle protein synthesis. I frequently recommend a complete protein such as NutriChem’s Riza Max organic brown rice protein.

4. You are over age 30 (yes, 30).

    • One of the most underrated health effects of aging is loss of muscle mass. This is known as sarcopenia. Muscle mass decreases by approximately 3-8% per decade starting around age 30, and increases even greater after age 60. This contributes to metabolic changes that can increase risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hormonal changes, fatigue and weight gain. In order to combat this change and preserve muscle mass, strength, & function, I recommend:
      • achieving a greater protein intake regularly by using protein powder
      • Initiating strength training a minimum 2 x per week


Step 3: Pick a protein powder

There are 3 main things you need to consider when choosing a protein powder: Protein source, amino acid profile & non-medicinal ingredients.

1. Protein Source: Animal Vs. Plant-based protein powder.

The first step is to identify what type of protein powder is best for you, your body & health goals.

    • A plant-based protein powder may be more suitable for you if…
      • You are vegan/vegetarian and do not consume animal products
      • You have food sensitivities such as dairy or egg
      • You have a skin condition such as acne or eczema
    • An animal-based protein may be more suitable for you if…
      • You are an active individual that participates in sport or strength training.
      • You are texture or taste sensitive and prefer a protein powder with a more smooth/creamy taste.
      • You have challenges with blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity. Whey protein has been shown to have insulinogenic activity.
        Animal-Based protein powdersPlant-Based protein powders
        Whey Protein
        Paleo (beef) protein
        Casein protein
        Egg protein
        Rice protein
        Pea protein
        Hemp protein
        Soy protein
        Quinoa protein
        Mixed plant protein 

2. Amino Acid Profile:

    • Remember in Step 1 when I mentioned those things called Amino Acids? Well, they are important and should always be considered when choosing a protein powder.
    • Essential Amino Acids (EAA) are amino acids which are *essential* to our body because they must be consumed through the diet. When choosing a protein powder, we want to consider the amino acid profile and percentage of essential amino acids per serving. Figure 2 depicts the percentage of EAA compared across various protein sources. As you can see, animal-based protein (gray bars) contains a higher amount of essential amino acids compared to plant-based proteins (white bars).
    • Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) Leucine, Iso-leucine & Valine are the key players in protein powder as they have the biggest role in muscle protein synthesis (MPS) a.k.a helping you to BUILD muscle (and that’s the whole point remember!). Leucine is the most important BCAA when it comes to building muscle, which is why animal based protein protein powder such as Logical Choice Whey protein, is the protein of choice for most athletes and active individuals.

      Figure 1. Percentage of essential amino acids (EAA) comparison of various protein sources. White bars represent plant-based protein sources, grey bars represent animal-derived protein sources, and black bar represents human skeletal muscle protein. Dashed line represents the amino acid requirements for adults.

      Source :

3. Ingredients & Non-Medicinal Ingredients: Additives, sweeteners & fillers:

    • Ok, picture this: you go to the grocery store to buy a banana. You get home, peel the banana and inside you find half a banana, plus two gummy bears, half an avocado, three orange slices and some random nuts. That is essentially what is happening with a lot of the protein powders on the market right now; some protein powder companies like to add all sorts of other ‘stuff’ that may seem enticing on the label …added greens, fruits, cookies and cream flavour…but remember, you were just looking for a banana to begin with. In this analogy, the banana is the protein, and you want the whole thing.
    • The ingredients of a protein powder should be one or two ingredients, and the first ingredient should ALWAYS be the protein source.
    • The ONLY ingredient in NutriChem’s organic rice protein, is rice protein… the only ingredient in our unflavoured whey protein is whey protein.

Vega protein ^ a “plant based protein” that is also potentially contaminated with milk, soy & eggs.

Step 4: How to incorporate your protein powder into your diet 

There are many ways to incorporate a protein powder into your diet, beyond protein shakes. Check out a few of our nutritionist made recipes below.

Want to learn how to calculate our individual protein requirements?

Get a copy of our protein 101 handout here.

Other common protein powder FAQ:

Yes! If you have chosen the right protein powder for you, and are able to tolerate it there are minimal adverse effects. We always recommend talking to your healthcare provider such as a Naturopathic doctor to determine which type and dose of protein is best for you.

You can take your protein powder at any time of day. Using a protein powder in the morning helps to consume a protein rich breakfast and balance blood sugar but you can also take your protein pre or post workou or anytime throughout the day. Some athletes also choose to do a pre-sleep protein shake which helps with recovery and muscle protein synthesis at night.

This question often arises from individuals trying to optimize their diet for muscle building, weight loss, or general health. The answer can vary based on factors such as age, sex, activity level, and goals.

This is based on many factors and differs for each individual. Protein powder should be used to supplement a balanced , healthy diet. Depending on an individual’s goals, activity levels, current dietary regime I usually recommend between 20-40 grams of protein powder per day, or take as needed.

A protein powder alone cannot help with weight loss, however it can help support body composition changes such as an increase in lean muscle mass in combination with strength training.

A common myth about protein powder is that it is harmful to your kidneys. A 2024 position statement by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition stated “ individuals engaged in exercise training and who are otherwise healthy can consume protein up to 4 or 5 times the Recommended Daily Allowance without experiencing adverse effects.

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Naturopathic Doctor Sophie-Pollon-MacLeod
Dr. Sophie Pollon-MacLeod, B.Sc., N.D.

Dr. Sophie is a Naturopathic Doctor and Sports Nutritionist with a passion for evidence-based approaches to supporting her patient’s health. Prior to obtaining her doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine, Dr. Sophie completed her undergraduate degree in Human Kinetics at the University of Guelph. She is also a personal trainer with over 8 years of experience.

Her experience as a trainer ignited her passion to pursue a career in healthcare and help others towards feeling their best. Dr. Sophie combines her expertise in exercise physiology and naturopathic medicine to support her patients towards achieving weight loss, improving performance and aiding in pain management. She goes beyond symptom management and utilizes a full-body approach to get to the root of health concerns. Dr. Sophie possesses additional qualifications from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) and Functional Range Conditioning (FRC®).