I get quite a few questions about protein powders. Like everyone else I had my fair share. However, what people fail to realize is whatever your body doesn’t use up, it will get stored in your fat cells. And while low carb, paleo, SCD diets are all fine, we still have to be careful of higher protein diets. See my posts on Paleo Diet Good for Most and The Positives of Paleo). I want to teach you how to choose a healthy, high quality protein powder while disclosing the truth on protein powders.
I think there is a time and place for protein powders, just not every single day. I also want to educate you how to read your protein powder labels so you can make a wise decision whether or not. After posting and asking which ones are the best I want to help you better understand what to look for in a protein powder. Most are junk and full of synthetic GMO junk, but there are some other good clean brands out there.
To Whey or Not Whey?
You wan to buy a whey protein concentrate powder that is a high-quality whey protein. It must be cold pressed, derived from grass-fed cows, and free of GMOs, chemicals, and sugar. This type of whey protein and how it is made contains all the essential amino acids, keeps its nutrients in tact and has higher nutrient value than commercial processed protein powders. When whey protein is heat pressed, it denatures the protein. Whey protein Isolate is a denatured protein, your body cannot process this form of protein (whether soy or whey). Since isolates are heat processed, it destroys all of the amino acids needed to help your body absorb protein properly. What often happens is companies will fortify the nutrients and vitamins back into the powder often with synthetic vitamins and sweeten it with junkie sugars such as sucralose, fructose and some other sugar alcohol that ends in “ol.” If you are not sure about how the protein powder is made, call the company and ask what type of dairy they use and how do they process it.
Soy? Not so much..
Soy is a very, very hard legume to digest and most of us cannot digest it. It is a close cousin to peanuts, and some who have serious peanut allergies may need to stay away from soy too. Soy is best digested when it is fermented in the forms of miso, tempeh and natto. The problem is about 95% of soy in America is mostly a GMO crop. I recall back in my more active fitness days, I would drink my strawberry soy protein shake with my soy milk thinking I was sooo healthy…all it did was make my stomach more bloated and distressed. Protein powders should be easy to digest, not cause more distress. When the body is presented with a synthetic isolate, the body may need to draw on its stores of cofactors needed to better absorb the vitamins and minerals, namely proteins, carbs, fats, bioflavonoids, and enzymes, but this is not always the case. And men, soy may decrease your libido and can cause temporary infertility because it decreases testosterone. Women, it will mess with your thyroid too because of its high estrogen content. (You can read more here on The Whole Soy Story). My opinion, stay way from all forms of soy protein powders.
Pea Protein and Rice Protein Makes a Perfect Protein
If you are like me you want something that is gluten, soy and dairy free, but finding one that tastes good is a challenge. Rice protein alone tastes chalky or gritty. Pea protein alone taste like, well powdered peas. Rice is missing one amino acid from being a perfect protein and by adding pea protein, this blend makes it a complete. This is a great option for small kids since they are both easy to digest, it is the least allergenic and provides a comparative alternative to whey protein. A high quality brand is by Thorne Research Mediclear. Some companies will add cranberry or hemp protein which all can be a nice blend if done right.
When it comes to reading labels, I look for:
Fake synthetic vitamins:
Acetate or Palmitate (synthetic form of Vitamin A)
Vitamin D2, Ergosteral (Yeast) or Calciferol (Synthetic form of Vitamin D, should be D3)
d-Biotin (synthethic form of Biotin)
Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (synthetic form of B6- pyridoxine)
folic acid or pteroylglutamic Acid (synthetic form of folate)
cynocobalamin (synthetic form of B12)
vitamin E labeled with a dl- prefix
corn syrup, HFCS and corn sugar
guar gum/xanthan gum,
cornstarch, corn flour and corn fiber
These thickeners all trick your body into thinking it is full unnaturally, which is not healthy. It can also leave you feeling bloated and icky.
I am also looking for unhealthy oils such as canola (even if it says non-GMO).
I am very cautious on ‘natural flavorings.’ I want to know what is hiding in those natural flavorings and often will call the company.
Many of you asked what are my favorite brands? I chose these brands because they are GMO-free, uses high quality standards in making their powders and there are no synthetic vitamins, sugars. I am also looking for powders that are low in most of the allergens of wheat/gluten, dairy (whey and casein) and soy.
Based on what my followers asked and on what I look for in a high quality protein powder, the following does not meet the criteria:
Not approved, don’t consume
Arbonne: Too many thickeners, synthetic B12
Juice Plus (soy protein isolates and too many thickeners)
Isagenix: Synthetic Vitamins and GMO, uses canola oil
Shakeology: Synthetic vitamins and GMO
Plant Fusion (one I use to like, but stopped because it has crystalline fructose, which is just as bad as HFCS) if they reformulate to stevia, then I’d reconsider
Nature’s Bounty Protein (Soy Protein Isolate, Maltodextrin, Fructose, Synthetic Vitamins)
Nature’s Pearl Pro (it says it is dairy free, but contains sodium caseinate, which is derived from dairy)
Jay Robb Egg White Protein Powder, we need to eat the yolks folks!
Jay Robb Whey Protein Isolate (see above)
Vega One. Overall, this is a fabulous protein powder. My only, only hang up is they use cynocobalamin. UGH! Everything else in the product is super high quality, why skimp here? But it is also not GMO-verified
Dynamic Greens: I like what I see in this product so far, it is not gluten free and they do not disclose their vitamins, so I cannot speak to that. This is a new one to me and I like what I see
Garden for Life RAW
Sunwarrior Raw Warrior Blend (and it taste great too!)
Tera’s Organic Whey
Nutiva’s Hemp Protein Powder
BioPure Protein by Metagenics
What I don’t do is replace my daily meals with protein shakes. We are meant to chew our foods, not drink them and what I want you all to do is to be mindful of what you are putting in your mouth to drink. Liquid diets are meant for medical purposes and not a daily meal replacement. While I understand it is easy to mix and shake, spend an extra 5 minutes preparing your foods to eat it. Your body will love for you to feed it real food.
I want to be realistic and know many of you rely on protein powders for a protein boost, but just like carbs and fats, whatever your body doesn’t use will get stored in your fat cells, so use your proteins wisely.
There are a lot of protein powders on the market. I want to give you the tools to make your best judgement and learn to buy a high quality powder to use occasionally, not daily. Were you shocked? I want to know what you think of this list based on the ingredients I listed above? Use this list to be a better consumer of the protein powder you decide to choose.