Adequate protein intake is essential for proper body function, but if you perform any type of weight-bearing exercise, your protein needs increase as your need for muscle repair increases. Many people turn to protein supplements to meet this increased need, but wheat germ is another viable option that may be more amenable to certain diets. There are large differences between the two, so it's best to know all the facts before you choose. While wheat germ has a virtually constant nutrient profile, protein powders can vary drastically.
Protein powders are available in a variety of fat and calorie content options. Weight-gain formulas can have over 2,000 calories per serving, while other versions can have as few as 100 calories. Fat content can range from over 30 grams to no fat at all, depending upon the formula. A 1-cup serving of wheat germ has 432 calories and 12 g of fat, so while it may not be the best choice for the dieter, it definitely has a place in a bodybuilder's bulking diet.
Wheat germ is the part of the wheat seed that provides food for growth, and as such, contains a hefty dose of protein -- 32.8 g per cup -- but that protein also comes with 56 g of carbohydrates. Protein powders can contain over 50 g of protein per serving, but most average around 25 to 30 grams, and many protein powders are free of carbohydrates. If you're only looking to boost your protein intake, a zero-carb protein shake may be better for you. But consuming carbs and protein at the same time is important after a workout, because the carbs help restock your glycogen stores and speed the amino acids to your muscles more quickly when they are most in need of repair. In this case, wheat germ can be considered a viable option.
Many protein powders are fortified with vitamins, and many also contain extra amino acids that may help boost muscle repair. Wheat germ, on the other hand, is naturally high in B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorous. A 1-cup serving also contains 17 g of fiber, which is often absent in protein powders. Wheat germ provides more complete nutrition than protein powder, but you may not need complete nutrition in your protein supplement. If you are using it as a snack rather than a meal replacement, the vitamin and mineral content is not as important as long as the rest of your diet is balanced.
Wheat germ and protein powders are easy to prepare -- simply add milk. A prepared protein shake is more portable than a bowl of wheat germ, but may not be as filling. There is no reason why you can't make them both a part of your diet -- use your protein powder as your supplement, but use wheat germ as a topping for cereals, salads, yogurt and other snacks; this way, you get the benefit of both.