Canstar Blue reviews and compares protein supplement products from Optimum Nutrition, Nature’s Way, Bodytrim, Musashi and ALDI. Powders, shakes and bars reviewed on variety of flavours, hunger satisfaction, taste, texture, value for money, effectiveness and overall satisfaction.
If you’ve been hitting the gym, or just wanting to lose weight or replace the odd meal, you might have considered buying a protein supplement. But where on earth do you start?! Jumping into the world of protein supplements can be mind boggling, and you would pretty much need a chemistry degree to fully understand all the different names, products and jargon. However, despite all of those confusing terms, at the end of the day, what you probably need a boost in is just good old protein.
You can get lots of protein from chicken, but that gets a bit dull after a while, and isn’t very convenient if you need your protein quickly. So if you want something that’s easy to wolf down to get a boost in your protein intake, while not tasting too badly, a protein supplement could be the way to go. Of course not all brands are made equal, and often protein supplements can be quite pricey, so it pays to get it right the first time, rather than have a tub of protein powder left sitting on your kitchen bench, or a pack of protein bars lying around. Canstar Blue has surveyed hundreds of Australians to get the skinny on what protein supplement company is king. In 2017, it’s Optimum Nutrition.
Powder, bar, or shake – no matter what you choose, protein supplements should be just as the name describes – full of protein, and not much extra junk. A 30g scoop of protein powder should have at least 23-25g of protein, while a 60g bar should have at least 10-15g protein or so. Many brands have much higher protein content than this, so it pays to do your research. Watch out for the sugar!
Optimum Nutrition dominated in every category in our 2017 review, rated five stars for taste, texture, hunger satisfaction, variety of flavours, effectiveness, value for money and overall customer satisfaction. It was four stars overall Nature’s Way, Bodytrim and Musashi, with ALDI scoring three stars.
So what drives overall satisfaction for pumped up protein consumers? Our research found:
Evidently Aussies value effectiveness over all other assets of a protein supplement. After all, you’re not spending money for an enjoyable snack – you want results. Often this can boil down to how much protein content is in a bar or shake, as having a protein shake that is half sugar probably isn’t going to yield as good results as one that has a high protein count. As mentioned earlier, a 30g scoop of either WPI or WPC protein should ideally have at least 23-25g protein included, and be low in sugar and fats. However, protein supplements are not the ‘magic pill’ when it comes to bulking up or slimming down. They have to be used in conjunction with a well-balanced diet, and a healthy and consistent exercise or weightlifting regime.
Consumers also value a product that is pleasant in taste, and one that satisfies hunger. Raw protein isn’t that great to taste, which is why companies try their best to mask the taste with their own flavourings. Remember, watch the sugar content!
As for hunger satisfaction, this is probably more important for those trying to lose weight, but protein is generally a more satiating macronutrient than carbohydrates, so many are on the right track already. Once again, looking for a bar or powder with a higher protein count could help to fight off hunger for longer. As always, check the label.
Notably, many Aussies surveyed were already pretty clued up when it came to protein supplements:
Texture and value for money were also important factors for Australians. Texture might apply more to protein shakes, as who wants to drink clumps of protein? Ick! Value for money was down on the list in importance, suggesting some shoppers may be willing to spend a bit more on a protein supplement they know they will be happy with. Variety of flavours was down on the list of priorities, probably mostly because most companies produce the same sort of flavours – chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, banana, and so on. Often the more experimental or delicious-sounding flavours like ‘cookies and cream’ or ‘salted caramel’ can be a bit hit or miss, so it can pay to go with the ‘tried and true’ flavours.
Protein contains four calories per gram, while fat has nine calories per gram and carbs have four calories per gram as well. This is why it’s important for a protein supplement to be mostly made of protein.
Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) has slightly lower protein content per 30g, but is a more densely-packed form of protein, allowing more powder per scoop.
As for bars, they generally vary wildly, but 10-15g is about standard for a 60g bar, while some have as much as 20g of protein. To get the best ‘bang for buck’, your protein supplement should ideally have as much protein per serving possible, while being low in carbs and fats.
The most common formula of recommended protein intake getting around is the old chestnut of 1g/lb of bodyweight. What is means is that if you weigh about 200lb (or about 90kg), you need 200g of protein per day. This equates to 2.2g per kilogram. For a lot of people, this is a lot to take in, and probably means a big adjustment to their diet.
So a 90kg person could get away with 160g of protein, or even less based on what study you follow. Those studies show that your muscles slow the synthesis of protein after about 0.8g/lb or 1.8g/kg. Those losing weight may still want to consume more protein to bust their hunger and limit the bloating effect that carbs can have.
Sedentary people may be able to get away with even less protein content. In a western diet, very little of our food is high in protein, and is instead processed and carb or fat-laden. If inactive, and not interested in bulking up or slimming down, 1g per kilogram may be suitable. In any case, these studies may be limited in scope, so don’t take our word for it; as always, consult a medical professional if embarking on a change of diet and/or exercise.
There are many different kinds of protein supplements, even including bars made of bug protein! Below is a list of the more common types and whether they are vegan-friendly or not.
|Type of Protein||Vegan Friendly?|
|Whey (WPC and WPI)||No|
For vegan-friendliness, it always pays to check the label, as the vegan-friendly proteins may be made with products that are not vegan-friendly in the end, and may contain traces of animal products anyway. Whey protein is generally the most common form of protein, but if you’re lactose intolerant or a vegan, you may want to look elsewhere. Protein types are named after the source – egg protein is sourced from eggs and so on. Keep in mind that WPC and WPI generally have the highest protein content per serving, but all others generally contain at least 20g per 30g scoop, or 10-15g per 60g bar.
In any case, there are no specific proteins that target ‘weight loss’ or ‘bulking up’ – your body doesn’t differentiate. Instead, it’s what you do with the protein that matters; if you consume more than your body needs you’re probably going to put on weight, and vice versa. Just like choosing a paracetamol tablet based on a specific ailment, your body doesn’t work that way and won’t discriminate based on protein for ‘bulking’ or ‘cutting’.
The protein supplement world can generally be broken up into two categories – shake/powder, and bar. Canstar Blue has sought the opinions of hundreds of Australians to form our customer ratings, including all types of protein supplements. Here is an overview of what each brand in our review offers, to help you decide which might be best for you.
All five brands in our review have a range of protein powders and shakes.
Most supplement companies in our ratings produce a range of protein bars, with the notable exception being Nature’s Way.
There are a number of protein supplement companies not in this year’s review because they didn’t get the minimum sample size required in our survey. However, this doesn’t mean they are any less worthy of your consideration. Increasingly, a large number of people are heading online to perhaps save a buck. About one third (34%) of those surveyed bought their protein online rather than in store. Some online supplement companies are:
Many of these online companies do away with fancy packaging and marketing spin, and instead focus on just no-frills protein. They generally prefer you to buy in bulk – 5kg+ at a time – and you’ll have to watch out for shipping costs.
Another brand that has seen a lot of hype is Quest. Quest specialises in protein bars, and their nutrient profiles feature some of the best protein-to-carb ratios in the industry. As a consequence, you can also expect to pay a fair bit – about $4 for a 60g bar. In any case, no matter what protein brand you decide to go for, it pays to always do your research, read the nutrition labels and consult a qualified professional with any questions, or before undertaking a change in diet or exercise.
This information is not medical advice, and Canstar Blue is not making a recommendation or giving advice about medications or health related products. Always seek the advice of a doctor or pharmacist to find the right medication for you.
Canstar Blue commissioned Colmar Brunton to survey 3,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have bought a protein supplement in Australia in the last 12 months – in this case, 822 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
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