With a decreased appetite, it’s tough to get enough protein into your diet. When I was going through treatment, the last thing I wanted to eat was any type of meat. Sometimes protein supplements or powders are good to sneak into a shake or yogurt to increase those much needed calories. But with SO many options, how do you know which protein supplement you should pick? Don’t feel overwhelmed - read on to find my simplified approach to selecting a protein supplement.
Step 1: Protein Source
Protein powders can be made from various sources but I’m going to only discuss the most popular four. While whey and casein (or a blend of these two sources) are most common, patients with diet restrictions (e.g. vegetarian, lactose intolerance) may prefer an egg or soya based protein powder. However soya based products in patients with hormone sensitive cancers should be avoided.
Step 2: Formulation
Once settled on an appropriate source, consider a formulation. Concentrates are the most common and economical formulations and contain varying amounts of fat and carbohydrates. Some patients may experience stomach upset from a concentrate – certainly an unwanted side effect if you are in the middle of chemo treatments, therefore an isolate may be preferred. An isolate, is a further purified concentrate that contains a higher amount of protein per serving. Lastly, hydrolysates are a predigested protein formulation that allows for faster absorption when consumed post-work out - occupying part of the athletic market. However this plays no role if the goal is to simply increase overall calories (vs maximize muscle mass). When maximizing calories is the goal, hydrolysate formulations are not worth the cost.
Note: Many products will contain a “blend” of different protein sources or formulations. No specific blend is beneficial over another.
The Bottom Line:
Picking a protein powder can seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. If you don’t have a food intolerances/ preferences, an economical whey concentrate is likely a good first choice.
The information shared does not constitute a medical consultation and is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult with your doctor or other qualified health provider for questions regarding a medical condition.
Please do not disregard professional health provider advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here. In the event of a medical emergency, call a doctor or 911 immediately.