My Search for the Best Protein Powder

I read a lot of health and fitness blogs.  I’m definitely a fan, but one of the things that sometimes irks me is that their lives don’t seem real to me in the sense that many of my favorite blogs are run by full-time bloggers.  They work from home, and have a schedule where they can work out at a variety of different times and can prepare their meals just before eating them since they’re at home.  In that sense, I can’t really relate.  My breakfasts don’t normally look like this:

pancakebreakfast

Ok so they don’t have breakfasts like that everyday either, but doesn’t it seem like it sometimes?

During the week I don’t really have time to make elaborate breakfasts.  Most days sleep and convincing myself to get my butt to the gym are more important.  Consequently, most mornings are a little bit like this:

Rushing out the door with a smoothie in a jar, my purse and my lunch bag.  A smoothie for breakfast is great, because I can drink it in the car or at my desk when I get to the office.  Lately, I’ve been trying to add protein to my morning smoothies to help keep me fuller longer.  I’ve had a container of protein powder sitting in my cupboard for over a year and honestly, I hated the taste.

I decided to go on a mission: to find the perfect protein powder.

My criteria are pretty limited: calories and taste.  I don’t want something too high in calories or sugar, but I definitely want it to taste good and keep me full til lunch.  So I went to the store and found as many single serving protein packets as possible.  Let me tell you about some of the ones I tried.

As a control, I mixed all of these protein powders with: 1/2 banana, mango chunks, spinach, kale, water, ice.  I figured that’s what I normally would want to have it with, so if it tastes good with that, I’d be pleased.

Just a note: I bought all of these protein powders on my own, I was not compensated for any of this.  This is just my opinion based on my palate.  I’m not a nutritionist or any type of expert on protein powder, I’m just a consumer sharing an opinion.

1. Garden of Life: Raw Protein

gardenoflife

Flavor: Real Raw Vanilla (they also have a chocolate and vanilla chai, I believe)

Taste:  Good.  A little on the sweet side.  It’s sweetened with stevia, which isn’t terrible.  I guess if you just mixed this with water or almond milk it might be the perfect sweetness (since mango and banana I mixed it with are sweet also)

Texture:  A tiny bit gritty, but not too bad.

Price: the small packet I got was $2.79, which is kind of expensive for a single serving.  On Amazon, a 22oz (approx. 28 servings) container costs $25.83.  That comes out to about $0.92/serving.  Not too bad, price wise.

Calories: 90 Calories for 17g of protein.  Keeps the smoothie pretty low cal, which for me is great.

Overall: I really like this one.  The flavor is great.  It was a little grittier than the others but I didn’t mind it.  I definitely like that it’s vegan, raw and plant-based.  I’m considering buying the large container of this one.

2. Vega One All-in-One Nutritional Shake

vegaone

Flavor: French Vanilla

Taste: Super tasty!  It reminded me of a milk shake, but that makes sense.  This isn’t actually protein powder.  It’s like an all-in-one nutrition shake, that said it had 15g of protein so I thought I’d give it a shot.

Texture: Super smooth.  I was definitely a fan of this.

Price: Probably the most expensive one.  Roughly 22 servings for $55.99 on Amazon.  That comes out to about $2.55 per serving.  Priceyyyyy…

Calories: 135 calories for 15g of protein.   BONUS: 6g of fiber! 50% of your daily vitamins and minerals.

Overall:  This was really good.  Loved the flavor and the texture.  It kept me full for a long time, but honestly, the deal breaker for me is the price. Woh woh.

3. 100% Whey Gold Standard

Flavor: Chocolate. I’m not really a fan of chocolate protein powder but I gave it a try anyway. My Co-worker gave me a serving of this to try.

Taste: Ok, not too chocolatey when mixed with the fruit and greens.   My complaint is that it has that whey protein after taste that I’m not a big fan of, but that’s subjective and also sorta just the nature of the beast.  I found myself guzzling this as quickly as possible just to get it over with… womp.

Texture: Very smooth!  Not gritty at all.  Definitely a bonus.  If you like frothy (which I hate), this (like other whey powders) gets frothy in the blender (even just mixed with water).

Price: On Amazon, it costs $53.99 for 73 servings.  That comes out to about $0.73 per serving.  Can’t beat that.

Calories: 120 calories for 24g of protein, pretty darn good.

Overall: Not bad.  Don’t think I’ll get it just because of the after taste but I’d be curious to try the other flavors like banana or vanilla.

4. Designer Whey

Flavor: French Vanilla

Taste: Ok so this is the protein powder that started the search.  I bought this one at Trader Joe’s and at the risk of sound harsh.  I hate the taste of this protein powder.  I don’t like the after taste at all.  It’s really hard for me to even finish a smoothie with it, and I am definitely not a picky eater.  A lot of times I found myself adding scoops of unsweetened cocoa powder to my smoothies to cover up the taste.  No bueno.

Texture: Smooth, frothy, not chalky.

Price: On Amazon, 4lbs for $45.19.  Not bad in terms of price.  Comes out to roughly $0.72 per serving.

Calories: 100 Calories for 18g of protein.  Not bad.  I think I’ll take Garden of Life over this one any day…

Overall:  I just can’t stand this one.  I’m pretty much convince I just don’t like the taste of any whey protein powder.  If you mix it with water and chug it, it’s fine, but if you’re going to sip over the course of half an hour (like I do with my morning smoothies), it’s not pleasant.  This one is a no-go for me.

5. Plant Fusion

Plantfusion

Flavor: Vanilla Bean

Taste: The package says “Amazing Taste.”  It’s good but I’m not sure I’d call it amazing.  It was a little sweet for my taste (sweetened with stevia).  To be honest, the taste was sorta “meh” for me.  Maybe I’m raising my protein powder flavor standards?

Texture: Smooth, not chalky or gritty when blended up.  I was a little concerned because there seemed to be a lot of powder in the packet, but it all smoothed out.

Price: On Amazon, it’s $30.31 for 2lbs, that’s about 30 servings.  So about $1 per serving.  Price isn’t terrible.

Calories: 120 calories for 21g of protein.  That’s pretty good in my opinion.  Up there with the 100% Gold Standard Whey, which probably had the best calorie to protein ratio, but I will say I much prefer the taste of this one.

Overall: This one is not bad.  It’s probably my second choice in terms of protein and price.  This one is a blend of pea protein, artichoke protein, amaranth powder and quinoa powder.  I’m definitely a fan of the fact that it’s plant-based.

I think so far, Garden of Life Raw Protein is the winner for me.  I love that it’s plant-based (we love the Earth, right?) and it tastes pretty darn good.  The fact that it’s low calorie just sort of sweetens the deal.

I’m going to keep trying more to find what I like but this was a good set I tried so far.  I’m really interested to try egg white protein powder.  I think I just need to stay away from whey.

Do you use protein powder? If so, what’s your favorite kind?  Suggest away because the search continues for me (maybe)!

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30 Day Paleo Challenge: Ending Early

So I started the 30 Day Paleo Challenge 14 days ago.

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Unfortunately, I’m cutting it off at the half way point.

I feel guilty for not committing to the full challenge, but then I remembered this is just a blog.  It’s not my job.  I don’t get paid to do this.  My life doesn’t depend on it.  It’s for fun.  This challenge became more than not fun and everyone around me noticed.

My boss asked if I was depressed.  My mom asked why I kept it up if I wasn’t getting positive results.  My poor boyfriend.  I don’t even know what he was thinking.

Ultimately, my blog is not a diet blog.  It’s a food blog.

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I love food.  Cooking and sharing what I make is just fun, so I want to keep it that way.

But all that said, I wanted to share my thoughts on my two week attempt at Paleo:

1. Paleo is just NOT for me. 

I think everyone’s body and metabolism is different and you need to find what works for you.  I was hungry all the time, unsatisfied, cranky and I had strange bowel issues (that I’ve NEVER had before) that I never talked about because that seemed like TMI.  If you haven’t found what works for you yet, then Paleo’s worth a try.  Even if you have found what works for you, sometimes trying something new (like Paleo) is a good reminder of that.

2.  Paleo was just too much meat for me. 

porkloin

When I say meat, I mean any animal protein (including chicken and fish, not just beef and pork).  I used to be vegetarian.  Even though I’m not anymore, I’m used to eating beans 3-4 times a week.  Honestly, I felt disgusting eating as much meat as I did during these past few days.  This is definitely not an environmentally-friendly diet.  I’m ready to eat beans.

3.  There are some things I’ll keep.

paleobreakfast

I don’t think I’ll go back to putting milk in my coffee, and honestly I really enjoyed the paleo pancake and green smoothie breakfast.  I’ll probably keep that up instead of yogurt.  I felt great in the mornings after eating that, and I would stay full for a good while.  So there’s a plus!

4.  I didn’t lose weight, and that’s ok.

I think I didn’t lose weight because it wasn’t that drastically different from my previous diet, and I don’t have that much weight to lose.  I’m used to packing my lunch and cooking from scratch.  So that wasn’t that big a change.  The biggest change was the elimination of beans and tortillas (I don’t even buy bread or cereal).  I think if I wanted to have the drastic results that other people talk about on paleo, I would have had to eliminated fruit and nuts.  That means basically only eating meat and vegetables.  That’s limiting WAYYY too much.

5. I need to make dinner. 

karlathanksgiving

I used to just sort of snack for dinner, and that made me want sweets.  I realized that when I eat a full meal for dinner, I don’t want dessert as much.  Lesson learned: cook dinner, sit down and eat it!

6.  I can go without sugar for a week, no problem. 

I did it for 2 weeks just now.  I passed up cake at a wedding, didn’t eat chocolate chips, eliminated all added sugars, and I didn’t die!  I originally wanted to give this a try because I thought I ate too much sugar.  I think it’s totally feasible (and healthy) for me to stick to once a week treats.  I just proved to myself that I can do it for longer than a week.  I just need to stick to it.  Saying NO isn’t that hard.

7. I know my body. 

hairhighlights

As someone who has maintained a 50lb weight loss (fluctuated 10-15lbs over the years but managed to keep it off), I know what works for me.  Having everything in moderation keeps my happy, healthy and satisfied.  It encourages me to exercise more and not overeat.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with eating bread, cheese, wine, cake, cookies.  You just shouldn’t be eating it everyday.  But like I said, that’s me and my body.  Paleo might work great for others.

8.  I’d rather not binge.

Last night, I had 4 and a half pieces of pizza, about 3 pieces of cake, and a bunch of flat bread with eggplant dip.  More than I need to eat in a day, and while I was happy to eat carbohydrates again, I didn’t feel good eating that much.  I can’t remember the last time  I had a binge like that.  I’d finally kept it under control and gotten by by practicing moderation.  Feeling deprived makes me binge.  If I had a totally normal relationship with food, then cutting out food groups probably would be fine.  But let’s be honest, I don’t. But that’s just me and my issues.

Overall, Paleo was a good experiment, but it just wasn’t for me.  I know what works for me.

I remember the first day I started a diet, over 10 years ago (funny the things we remember, right?), we had guests over that night.  My mom made something delicious that was totally NOT diet-friendly.  She said not to worry.  Have dinner with everyone and continue the diet tomorrow.

That’s the best advice I ever got. 

This weekend, my mom gave me a large pieces of cake that she brought from Guatemala. My aunt in Guatemala made it.  I don’t know how she does it, but I swear it’s the best cake on Earth.  I cut the large piece is half, put each piece in a ziploc bag and stuck them in the freezer.

The pieces are waiting for me for that moment when I really want it and it’ll taste best, not just when it’s there.

Cake in the freezer.  That’s what works for me.

Thanks for following me on my Paleo experiment.  It’s been fun (or something).

Now, back to normal blogging?

 

UPDATE: In case you’re curious… here’s an update on Life After the Paleo Challenge

30 Day Paleo Challenge: Day 13. It’s Just Food.

This morning, I woke up and did a St. Patrick’s Day themed 5k with some friends.

photo-8

It was nice, relaxed and fun.  At the end of the race, they passed out a bunch of snacks.  I’m not really sure what I was thinking but I grabbed a Kind bar, a Think Thin bar and a Gnu bar (all mini sample sizes), along with an apple and banana.  Those bars are totally NOT paleo.  But I figured I’d hold on to them for after the challenge.

So I came home after the race and had the usual green smoothie and paleo pancake breakfast.  That was all good and fine.  It was a cloudy day and I had no plans, so I curled up in my pajamas and watched Girls.

Around 1pm, I got hungry.  I looked in the fridge and there was a paleo meal waiting for me.

Left over pork chops and cauliflower and sweet potato fries.

I totally did NOT want to eat that.  I also didn’t want to leave the house to get a salad.  So instead, I ate the Kind bar, ThinkThin and Gnu samples. Then I had a spoonful of peanut butter with jelly.

Paleo Fail.

For a while, I felt bad about it.  But then I remembered.  It’s just food.  It’s NOT a big deal.  Some sample bars aren’t going to kill me.  Neither will some peanut butter and jelly.

For the sake of all female-kind, let’s remember, it’s just food.  No matter what our relationship to it is, it’s just food.  Eating the “wrong” thing shouldn’t make me feel bad.

So I’m over it.  I messed up.  Last night, I also had a few bites of Pad Thai.  Then I had a massive stomach ache.  Karma? No.

It’s just food. 

I probably ate the Paleo-friendly coconut soup too fast.  That’s it.

KeepCalmStudio.com-[Crown]-Keep-Calm-And-Paleo-On

Now I’m going to the mall to distract myself…

Do you feel guilty after a diet mess up?  Should we?  Thoughts?

30 Day Paleo Challenge: Day 11

Two nights ago, I made a super tasty dinner.  I’ll tell you about it because it was also day 11 lunch.

paleodinner2

Seriously, it was ready in about 15 minutes from start to finish, and I thought it was pretty tasty.

Pork Loin and Sauteed Vegetables

Few slices of pork loinMixed vegetables of choice*
Garlic powder
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

That’s all you need.  Season pork loin with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Heat some oil (about 1/4 a tbsp is good for 5 pieces) in a pan on medium/high heat.  Add pork.  Cook 2-3 minutes per side.  Set aside.

porkloin

Add vegetables to the same pan.  Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.  Sautee until tender.   Serve and enjoy!

*I used the asparagus stir fry mix from Trader Joe’s, but I won’t lie, while it’s convenient, the asparagus was really tough.  A lot of it was the tough ends that I would cut off on asparagus.  Half the time I felt like I was eating twigs and branches, so maybe steer clear of that?

Quick, easy and tasty.  And I always make too much for one person, so there were plenty of leftovers.

paleodinner

Day 11 was an interesting day.  Apparently, March is the month of Karla trying new things, because  I went to Bikram Yoga for the first time.  My co-worker talked me into going with her, since they offer new students 2 weeks of unlimited classes for $20.  I figured why not?

So the studio is located in The Camp (if you’re an OC local), and it was interesting.  I’ll start by saying, the place is stinky, which is totally expected given the heat and sweat and warm bodies.  Definitively, not cute.  I had been having anxiety all day about it.  I thought for sure I would die.  But good news, guys!  I didn’t die!

In fact it was sort of fun.  I’m not sure I love it, but I’ll definitely have to give it another try, especially since I’ve got two weeks of classes.

I will say I came home with a pretty bad headache that lasted pretty much all night and an overwhelming desire to take a shower.  I don’t think I’ve ever been that sweaty in my life.  As a self-proclaimed “yoga hater,” I’ll say I definitely enjoyed it more than I disliked it.

After a much needed shower, I surprisingly wasn’t hungry!  Can you believe it?  So I decided to make a dinner that takes a while and it included sweet potato fries!

bakedsweetpotatoefries

Apparently I’m late to the game, but if you cook your sweet potato fries on a cooling rack (over a baking sheet that is) you get crispy, evenly baked fries!  Who knew?

So along with my tasty, crispy fries, I had cauliflower puree (because I’m OBSESSED) and some rotisserie chicken left over from Sunday.  Delicious.  Simple.  I swear the cauliflower puree was the tastiest thing on the plate!

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On nights like this, when I’m not starving and I have a tasty dinner, I might even like Paleo… That’s probably because it just feels like I’m eating normal food I like, not making myself eat one thing when I really want another.

Have you ever tried Bikram Yoga?  Love it? Hate it? 

30 Day Paleo Challenge: Days 9 & 10

So after my Monday freak out, I was ready to quit this challenge.  Thanks everyone for your supportive comments.  They were very encouraging and I truly appreciate it!

I decided to tough it out a little longer.  During the week, Paleo isn’t that hard.  I’m used to making my own lunch and bringing it to work, so that’s not anything new.  I used to bring salad, soups and beans a lot.  Now I’ve just replaced the beans with meat (which I’m not a huge fan of).

I think the challenge will remain the weekends.

On the hunger front, things have also been better.  This is potentially for 2 reasons:

1. I’m busy at work so I don’t think about food as much as I would on the weekends.

2. I’ve started packing enormous lunches that are guaranteed to keep me full.

Day 9 Lunch:

paleospaghettisquash

It looks small, but there is literally half of a spaghetti squash in that container, with spinach, marinara and two pieces of chicken.  Ordinarily I would consider that to be two meals, but now I eat it at once.  I’ve had this two days in a row and it has kept me pretty satisfied.

Later that night, I had dinner at my sister’s house.

paleodinner

We had salad, sweet potatoes and tilapia.  I had a bit of non-paleo mayo (with the sweet potato).  Not the worst slip up on Earth.  I’ll survive.

Day 10:

I decided to switch it up.  Everyday I had been eating a Paleo Pancake with a green smoothie.  Today I had this:

baconavocadoscramble2

Bacon Avocado Egg Scramble

1 slice of bacon
1/4 avocado, dice
2 eggs

Cook bacon in a skillet until crispy.  Remove bacon from pan (once cooled, chop) and wipe off some of the bacon fat with a paper towel.  I think a lot of people would have kept the bacon fat but it just looked like too much to me.  In a bowl, beat 2 eggs.  Add eggs to pan with remaining bacon fat, add bacon and scramble.  Just before the eggs are done, add avocado and mix around.  Serve with coffee for a super breakfast or a great dinner.

This one is pretty easy to scale up.  You can add salt and pepper too.  I didn’t, but I won’t stop you from doing so.

baconavocadoscramble

This was pretty tasty.  It was a great manly breakfast after my manly feeling crossfit workout (clean & jerk, 15-12-9!).   I won’t lie my black coffee was a little less enjoyable without my paleo pancake.

For lunch, I packed a mighty salad of lettuce, spinach, mini bell peppers, pickles, and avocado, along with a chicken breast.

paleosaladandchicken

Again, I was full for a long time.  I’m glad the hunger levels are going down.   That makes it all a little more manageable.

Unfortunately, I am still pretty much always up for a cookie.

I’m starting to think that won’t ever change…

Moving Myself

My former (but quited beloved) roommate, Christina, would always say “I’m going to go move myself” before going to the gym.  So in the spirit of missing her… today I moved myself and it was great!

I came home from work, had a snack:

2 egg white and a banana that for some reason look like they’re smiling at me.  Don’t you think?

Then I headed over to Nancy’s, and we walked to the river for a nice jog along the water.  The weather was perfect.  We didn’t go too fast, and I was pretty pleased with life.  After our lovely jog in the perfect 65F Roman sunshine, I headed to the dark dungeon that is my gym.  I’m not sure I mentioned this before, but my gym is in a basement, which is no fun.  It usually sticky and humid down there, probably because there’s no ventilation and tons of people sweating in close quarters.  Not cute.

Per usual, I was a sweaty mess there for a while.  But hey, at least I moved myself a little bit.

Then dinner:

Who says healthy has to be boring?

Certainly not my Palak Chana (Spinach and Garbanzo bean) Masala with Chicken on rice with green beans.  Basically chana masala with spinach and chicken added.

Ready for a recipe?  It’s been a while since I’ve had one of those:

Palak Chana Masala

adapted from Manjula’s Kitchen

1-3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cumin
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 can of tomato puree
4 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1/2-1 tsp chili powder
1 cup water
1-2 cans of garbanzo beans, rinsed (I used one since I added chicken)
few handfuls of spinach
1/2 tsp garam masala
3 grilled chicken breasts, sliced (optional, I actually used less)

Heat the oil in a pot.  Once the oil is hot, add cumin and flour and stir and cook for 1 minute.   Add ginger and tomato puree and stir.  Add the remaining spices (except garam masala) and stir.  Add the garbanzo beans, water and spinach (and chicken if you want to use it), cover and simmer on low for about 10 minutes.  Lastly stir in the garam masala!

Serve with rice and/or vegetable of choice and a dollop of greek yogurt!

Serves 4-6.

Vegetabley mess, just how I like it!

Well, I should probably go do some exit project editing, but let’s be honest, I’ll probably watch an episode of my new (to me) obsession… Alias.

Goodnight!