Protein powders are a tough beast to crack. There are thousands of choices out there and most of them are saying theirs is ‘the best in the world’. While there are certainly a few great options, most protein powders on the market today aren’t worth your hard-earned money. So, how do you make sure the protein powder you are using is one of the few good ones? Here are our top 5 protein powder hacks to help you decide. Will yours pass the test? Let’s break it down.
Lets’ face it. Not all protein powders are created equal. The most popular powder out there (and for good reason because of the amino acid profile) is whey isolate so let’s start there. Your mom was right all along (with a twist!): ‘You are what you eat…EATS’! A really high-quality whey protein isolate comes from truly grass-fed cows. These cows are free to range the beautiful hills of New Zealand feeding on 26 wild and indigenous plants growing in the extremely fertile volcanic soils found on the island. Contrast that picture with the cheap whey that comes from domesticated, caged animals that are fed GMO corn and soy and are injected with growth hormones and antibiotics. You don’t need any of that in your life, we promise! Although both sources can claim the final byproduct is whey protein, the biochemical makeup of the 2 powders are very different. Bottom line, know where your powder is coming from. A quality source will always be number one.
The first ingredient better be a high-quality protein source like whey protein isolate! If the first ingredient in your powder isn’t protein, run! Beware of soy protein in your products. Soy is the most common Genetically Modified Organism (GMO). Soy protein is dirt cheap and makes it easy to list 20g of protein on the label, making it look like it’s a fantastic protein source to the unassuming consumer. Don’t be fooled by this trick! Soy is chock full of phytoestrogens and is extremely parasitic. If there is a soy-based ingredient on the label you know immediately that the distributor is NOT concerned about you or your health and is only interested in the bottom line. After you get past the protein sources, your label might start to look a little scary. If the ingredient list is super long and filled with words you can’t pronounce you might want to think about switching powders. Look for artificial sweeteners like Sucralose (Splenda), aspartame or saccharine. These chemical sweeteners can wreak havoc on your gut and leave you dealing with indigestion, bloating, flatulence or even a cumulative buildup over time of these chemicals in the form of cellular toxicity. Sucralose is most commonly used to sweeten up protein powder. It is 600 times sweeter than sugar and unbelievably inexpensive to manufacture. If your powder is artificially sweetened, flavored or colored (dyed), ditch it! You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel once you rid your body of all these man-made chemicals. Look for a powder that is sweetened naturally with stevia, LoHan, Monk Fruit or Xylitol. These natural sweeteners are easy on the gut and good for the soul because they still pack that sweet punch.
This is a tough one! When proteins are broken down biochemically, they become amino acids. Aminos are the true building blocks of life. Every cell, tissue, and hormone in your body is comprised of a variety of amino acids. A protein food’s strength or weakness is based on the quality and quantity of it’s essential and non-essential amino acid profile. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized by the body and must be consumed in the diet. Non-essential amino acids still play a vital role in your overall health but are considered “non-essential” because your body can synthesize them from other sources. Both sets of amino acids are extremely important to your overall health. If a food containing protein does not offer all of the essential AND non-essential amino acids, it is categorized as “incomplete.” On the other hand, a protein source that offers all of the amino acids is considered a “complete” protein. It only makes sense, then, that a high-quality protein powder would contain ALL 20 amino acids making it a complete protein source. Whey protein has always touted the highest score as it relates to its amino acid profile.
Most protein powders are high heat or chemically processed and extracted. This process denatures the proteins and actually changes the chemical structure of the protein itself. When these proteins are damaged in processing, they cannot be properly broken down and utilized by the body. Not only will you experience high levels of indigestion by using a denatured product but, more importantly, the absorption rate of the protein is decreased by as much as 70-80%! Let’s break that number down on a cheap bag of denatured whey from the local warehouse store. Let’s say you buy a 6lb bag of whey protein from the store because it’s a killer deal and the label says it provides 25g of protein per serving! Sounds incredible at first! If you can only utilize 20-30% of the 25g, you are truly only getting 6.25g of protein! Gram for gram, what are you paying for? That huge 6lb bag of denatured whey is an extremely expensive daily trip to the bathroom. Look for a protein powder that has been cold processed beginning to end. This will ensure you are utilizing every gram you are paying for and not just flushing your money and your goals down the toilet. Do not purchase a protein powder based solely on cost. If you are looking for a cheap powder, they are a dime a dozen. The fact is, these powders are underwhelming at best in the performance department, so please don’t waste your money.
Taste is, and always will be, KING! There are quite a few protein powders on the market that have a great nutrition label but taste like licking chalk off of a pile dirt. If you don’t LOVE the taste and texture of your powder then branch out and find one you drool over. Artificial sweeteners can certainly make a powder taste good but the tradeoff isn’t worth it. The really good powders will generally use a blend of natural sweeteners to get the taste, aftertaste, and texture just right. Taste quality in your powder can make or break a recipe in a heartbeat. On the flip side, a powder that nailed the taste test can turn a basic oatmeal or protein shake into a crave-worthy masterpiece! Don’t compromise on this one. Make sure you look forward to how the powder reacts with your taste buds.
If you have goals in mind and you are working hard to reach them, be sure your supplements are working with and for your body and not fighting against it. There are so many cheap, chemical filled protein powders and a million other supplements on the market. KNOW what it actually is that you are putting into your body. It can be fuel or it can be poison. Knowledge is power and when it comes to protein powders, now you know.
For more health and fitness tips, follow JJ on Instagram: @hiittrainer