ClassPass 101: Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Protein Supplements

When you think of protein powder, meaty dudes lifting extremely heavy weights probably come to mind. But what exactly is in the powdery protein supplements these guys drink? Do you actually need to be taking added protein in order to build muscle?

We did some digging to get the scoop on protein powders — what they are, who should use them, and the pros and cons. Read on for everything you’ve wanted to know about protein powder!

What exactly is protein powder?
“Protein powder supplements are just supplements,” says certified personal trainer Brandon Mentore. “They’re meant to be used to ensure adequate protein intake when conventional methods of consuming protein aren’t feasible. There are many types of protein supplements out there including fish, beef, egg, whey, pea, hemp and soy.”

Who should take it?
Not getting enough protein due to a dietary restriction (like being vegetarian), or have digestive problems that limit your ability to eat and digest protein-rich foods? Mentore says protein supplements might be necessary to use, especially if your goal is to build more muscle.

Athlete and fitness personality Kate Osman suggests taking protein supplements if you’re on a rigorous workout routine, as it helps with tissue repair and muscle growth. “Obviously, you can get protein from foods,” she says, “but if you want to supplement your intake with another source, protein powders are a good way to do so.”

Are there different protein supplement suggestions for men and women?
Typically, your protein needs depend on body weight and personal level of activity, so it’s possible for men and women of varying fitness routines to have different requirements, Osman says. It’s a good idea to consult a physician, dietician or trainer to determine what amount of protein is appropriate for your fitness goals.

Which protein powder is the best?
Different strokes for different folks, but a few experts shared their picks. “Standard 100% Whey is my pick,” Osman says, “because it has 24 grams of high-quality protein in every serving but isn’t high in fat or carbs. Plus, it comes in a huge variety of flavors and tastes good.”

“Whey protein is the best form of protein if you are looking to make your muscles grow,” says fitness instructor Henry Halse, “since it’s very rich in an amino acid called leucine, which is the most important amino acid for muscle growth. It can actually stimulate muscle protein synthesis, even when you’re not exercising!”

Does anyone need to take it?
“It’s always ideal to eat your nutrients,” says certified health coach Lula Brown. “But if you’re working out a lot and struggling to get in enough grams of protein per day, supplements are your next best option.”

Danielle Page is the founder of ThisisQuarterlife.com, a blog that provides necessary information for navigating the awkward phase of adulthood known as “quarterlife.” Danielle’s work has been featured on Cosmo, Woman’s Day, Your Tango, Bustle, The New York Times, Thought Catalog, Elite Daily and the Huffington Post.