I was recently asked by a client about protein powders and what was good, did they need them, what to buy, etc.
Protein needs vary widely by individual. Most medical resource would state that the average (adult) women needs about 50g/day and the average man about 60g/day. Those who do "heavy lifting" on a daily basis, whether it be from body-building or a manual labor job, likely need more in order to help with muscle repair; however, I don't ever advise more than double this typical amount. Pregnant or breast-feeding women also have higher protein needs. I also find that those with body fat/weight issues or blood sugar control thrive with ~25% higher protein intake. Of course these higher intake needs should be balanced with plenty of alkalizing vegetables and low-sugar fruits for minerals and pH balance in the body.
We do need to consume protein regularly because unlike fats and carbohydrates, the body can store exceedingly little protein (in the form of amino acids): typically only about a day's worth.
Indeed, the popular choices of toast, cereal, bagels, pastries, and muffins - all very carbohydrate rich - are what most consume for breakfast. All of these are lacking greatly in protein and healthy fats as well as nutrient density. To start getting out of this habit, a simple and easy healthy, balanced protein "smoothie" can be a convenient option for anyone who struggles to eat a healthy breakfast otherwise.
My first preference for protein in a shake would be via whole food.
I often recommend my clients use 1 heaping Tbsp each of hemp seed and flaxseed; paired with 2 Tbsp almond butter added in the mix yields a shake with about 15 grams protein. This is similar to many protein powders and offers a wide array of minerals (primary and trace) as well as healthy fats.
Of course there are times when food allergies/sensitivities, individual tastes and texture preferences, or the need for specific nutrients in targeted medical foods require a protein powder. Generally, I think good quality whey protein is a good choice because it includes all essential amino acids (a complete protein). However, whey protein is not suitable for those with dairy sensitivities/allergies because no protein powder is available that is guaranteed to be 100% casein-free (the other major protein in dairy besides whey and unfortunately also the one that causes most inflammatory issues with dairy).
For vegans and those with dairy issues, I most often recommend a rice-based protein powder which is largely non-allergenic. My favorite brands are Nutribiotic for general use and Metagenics' various medical foods for targeted medical conditions (e.g. Type 2 diabetes, heavy metal toxicity, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease).
Eggs are not a "dairy" food (they are just often placed in a similar part of a grocery store), and they have no proteins in common with dairy. Thus any of these choices could be suitable.
Because it can be difficult to find one certified as GMO-free (or organic), I do not generally recommend soy-based protein powders except in special circumstances. Soy may also conflict with specific hormone balancing needs as it is an estrogenic food.
Gelatin from animal tissues is a rich source of the protein collagen, such as one would render in making homemade bone broth. Collagen is what we need to build soft tissues such as skin, hair, nails, and joints. I agree this is a very healing food and particularly excellent for those with GI disorder/disease. You can also purchase collagen or gelatin powders which can be added to protein shakes for another boost, especially since you get the bonus of supplemental glycine (a critical amino acid needed for making glutathione for detoxification and also a inhibitory neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation). Great Lakes is a particular brand I often recommend to clients for this purpose, as they sell a version that does not require strong digestion to break down for absorption.
I hope that helps you with any protein powder questions! There is so much out there that it can become a bit confusing!
In health & happiness,