Protein Powder: The Diamonds In The Rough

Don't overlook these cheap protein powders, they are comparable to the more expensive brands but cost much less.

Don't believe the hype in the fitness magazines or the commissioned salesman at your local sports nutrition store, you don't need to spend a small fortune on protein powder that works. High quality and cheap can coexist, so long as you know what you're looking for, and what to avoid.

While I'll list my favorite cheap protein powders that work just as good as the "designer" brands in just a moment, I want to issue a strong caution: Just because these protein powder mixes work great and off a huge dollar-for-dollar savings doesn't mean that all cheap protein powders are created equal. Far from it, actually. In most instances you get exactly what you pay for. The following are my exceptions.

Types Of Protein Powder

Did you know that there are several different types of proteins available on the fitness nutrition market? And I'm not just talking about brand names, either. The world of protein is very diverse, as it is in nature, and developers actually create several different types. It's important to know what kind you're buying so you'll know what to look for in cheap protein powder once it's time to do some shopping.

Let's start with the two most common types of protein powders:

Whey Protein Powder

You've probably heard all about the power of whey protein, even if you didn't realize it. That's because this type of protein is the most common powder you'll find. It's actually created as a byproduct during cheese production, so it's typically diary based (though you can find non-dairy types if you look hard enough).

The major advantages of whey protein are its low cost and quick digestive rate. Because it costs so little to create (like I said, it's actually a byproduct of an entire different product - cheese - which is being made daily), the retail price of most whey protein isolates is much lower than the other, more complicated types. Chances are if you've bought cheap protein off the shelf, it was whey protein powder.

Whey has another major advantage: Your body processes it very quickly; nearly instantly, actually. This is why hard-core bodybuilders and athletes often call whey a "fast burn protein." It literally surges through your body and muscles within minutes of drinking it. This fast action makes it the best post workout protein powder you'll find.

Casein Protein Powder

Unlike whey, casein protein works much slower in your body. But don't make the mistake of thinking this is a bad thing - it actually offers several benefits, based on when and how you take it, of course. Earlier I said the whey protein was a perfect post-workout "blast," well casein protein is perfect for other times of day when you want to keep your body humming along at a more consistent rate. Many athletes find cheap casein protein powder to use as snacks, and sometimes even small meal replacements. I've even heard that taking casein powder before bedtime actually helps your body rebuild better while you rest.

Casein is unlike whey in another way, too: Cost. Casein protein usually costs more to produce than whey, so finding cheap casein protein powder is relative to what you're buying. That's also why most people who just look for the cheapest protein powder often pick up whey without even realizing that there's a difference amongst powders at all.

What To Look For When Buying Cheap Protein Powder

Regardless of if you're buying whey or casein (or a variety of the other less common types, which are generally much more expensive), you'll want to make sure you're buying protein powder that works. Otherwise, what's the point? You can save all the money in the world, but if you purchase powder that doesn't do any good, your money is complete wasted regardless of the savings.

Here are a few things you'll want to consider while shopping for cheap protein powder:

Grams Of Protein Per Serving

One of the first things you'll notice when you start reading the labels of the nearly infinite brands of this stuff is that some offer more grams of lean protein per serving than others. This is where you can start filtering out the crap right off the bat. After all, cheap protein powder is pretty much useless if it doesn't have very much actual protein in it! Start doing the math here and you'll see that the protein-per-dollar on some of the cheapest powders on the market really aren't so cheap after all, since you're not getting anything in return for your dollar.

Question: If some of the poorer-quality protein powders have less protein in the same general serving size, what's the rest of that powder made out of? Answer: Fillers. Some are useful (such as flavoring and amino acids), some aren't.

Amino Acid Profile

Amino acids play a pivotal role in protein digestion, and your protein powder should include them. Any cheap protein powder that works will include all - or at least most - of the following. If you're reading a label and don't see most of these Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) and Essential Amino Acids (EAAs) listed, I'd highly suggest you set it down and look at another product.

  • Alanine
  • Arginine
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Cystine
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Glutamine
  • Glycine
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Theonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Tyrosine
  • Valine

My Favorite Cheap Protein Powder That Works

I've actually got a handful of cheap protein powders that meet all the criteria I've listed above; and more importantly, have given me great results - just as good as the designer and more expensive protein powder blends.

Gold Standard Whey Protein

Gold Standard Whey Protien PowderGold Standard Whey Protein costs less than $50 for five pounds on Amazon, and is feature-for-feature just as good as the protein powders that cost twice as much, if not better. Each scoop contains about 23 grams of pure protein, not to mention a full assortment of branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) and essential amino acids (EAAs). While the price tag may seem kind of steep compared to some of the bargain basement brands, when you compare apples-to-apples, you'll see that even the junk brands can't compete with the cost-per-protein pack of Gold Standard.

But even more important: It actually tastes good! That's something you can't say for too many other nutritional products. And Gold Standard whey protein stirs up very easily, so you won't get all those nasty clumps in your glass. You can mix it with a spoon, put it in the blender or do what I do: Use a small hand shaker.

Gold Standard Casein Protein

Gold Standard Casein Protein PowderGold Standard Casein Protein costs about $30 for a two-pound container only at Amazon, and is probably the best Casein protein powder that works that I've ever found. And I've tried quite a few, with mixed results - and this one really does what it says it does, and does it better than any of the others, regardless of the cost (most cost at least twice as much). Like the company's sister product, whey protein, this one comes with all the BCAAs and EAAs you'll need, and is about as lean as you'll find in the entire market.

And this one stirs up just as easily as the whey protein. Mix it up in a wide variety of flavors and take it whenever you desire that "slow burn" protein, such as when you first wake up or before you go to bed.

Bottom line, you can find some great stuff at a great price. Whether you try the Gold Standard brand that I love or find your own favorite, as long as you do your homework you can find cheap protein powder that works just as good as the more expensive varieties.