Among the healthy and fitness minded people I know, there is a bit of a debate going as to whether protein powder is necessary. Some, mainly those that eat very healthy balanced meals anyway, believe that if you eat properly in the first place, protein powder is simply redundant. The other faction believes firmly in a post-workout shake, even if you eat nothing but plain chicken, fish or beef, raw veggies, fruit, glass of milk, and lots of water.
While I don't always live by this, I am of the belief that nothing replaces healthy eating. Sure, we splurge on junk now and then, especially with a young kid in the house and when time is of the essence. But nothing can replace a healthy diet. This article in Runner's World provides a bit more information on the value of protein in your active diet. One key item in this article, cited from the USDA's Recommended Dietary Allowance, is that an average weight 165 lb runner should have 75 to 120 grams of protein daily. I'm about 9% heavier than that, so using that same calculation, I should be aiming for 81 to 130 grams of protein daily.
So, all that being said, after a run or a bike ride, I like to have a protein shake along with my meal. Part of the reason for my belief system comes from a few years ago when I got heavily into bike riding. I would average over 400 km per month and over three hours per week (usually three separate one hour rides). I wasn't very calorie conscious back then so once I got to my peak performance, I started dropping weight like crazy. With some helpful prodding from my wife, who is far more nutritionally aware than me, I researched diet and proper calorie intake, had my wife teach me about balancing calories and all that, and massively increased my food intake on days I went for my rides.
The end of it was that I had to completely re-think the way I eat before and after my bike rides and runs and I knew that I had to increase my protein intake specifically. But my one issue here is that I am lactose intolerant so getting additional protein from milk and yogurt wasn't possible. I already incorporate milk and yogurt into my diet to the extent that my body can handle it and we already eat as much chicken, fish, and red meat as we are comfortable eating.
So I started researching protein powders. My wife helped and had a preference for powders that didn't load up on carbs, had low sugar and sodium, and, ideally, were natural. A number of my friends recommending using the website and online store SVN Canada, so that's where we conducted our research.
The one product we found that fit our criteria and that both my wife and I could agree on was North Coast Naturals 100% Iso Protein. The price was reasonable and it fit in with our nutritional goals. We have gone through several tubs of it to date, and we continue to order it again and again. I alternate between the vanilla and chocolate, both of which are awesome. It's smooth, easy to mix, and tastes great (and I typically really don't like protein powders). My wife also uses it in some of her breakfast smoothies.
Overall, I highly recommend it. I definitely give this one two big thumbs up.
And a second nod here also to SVN Canada. Great resource for reviews and products. Fast delivery (usually within 24 hours, always within 48 - but, granted, they ship from within the Lower Mainland so it is also a short distance for those in and around Vancouver). Great, fair pricing. And for the two times I have had to contact customer support, they also have great customer service!