Protein Powders: The Good, The Bad, the Non-Whey!
Thank you to Katie for your question, which inspired this blog post.
There are A LOT of protein powders out there right now, I mean...A LOT! Which ones do we recommend? How do you interpret what the ingredients mean? How much protein should you take? When and how often should you take it? So many questions, and we will try our best to demystify protein powders and carve through a lot of the BS in the fitness industry.
A note from Bret- "Just to be honest, here, the supplement companies are 100 percent out for your money. The human body can maintain its muscle mass with FAR less protein than you might think, but the brands who manufacture protein supplements don't want you, the consumer to know this. Their recommended serving sizes are so large so that you'll use it up more quickly, so you need to buy their product again. The bottom line is if you choose to supplement your protein intake with powders, you need to understand that any excess protein you consume that is not readily digested WILL be stored as body fat. There are two great times to use them, and we will cover that later."
In general, most people we've met prefer the taste of whey-based protein powders (whey is a form of dairy, derived from the processing of milk and cheese). Let’s be honest, a lot of people don't tolerate it well. If you're allergic or intolerant to dairy, whey based protein powders may cause extra bloating, constipation, feeling like death, etc...If you’re anything like me, I’d rather not feel any of those things, ever!
The other problems that often hide in protein powders is the sugar content, and/or artificial sweeteners like maltodextrin or dextrose. Of course the more sugar there is, the better it will taste as well! But if your goal is to lose weight and body fat, and you’re going to replace a meal with something like a protein shake, then avoid the extra sugar while we’re at it.
If you’re not eating whey and if you don’t want to overload on sugar,
what are the other choices?
1. Here’s a quick list of some options we have used and recommend:
SunWarrior: All organic pea protein blend, vanilla or chocolate, can be found on Amazon (<1 gram sugar). Approx. $40-45.
Click HERE to view nutrition facts!
Vega Clean Protein/Protein and Greens blend: Vegan based, non-organic, comes in a lot of different flavors (<1g sugar). Approx. $40-55
Click HERE to view nutrition facts!
Raw Protein: All organic, made with sprouted brown rice and pea protein (<1g sugar). Approx. $25-30
Click HERE to view nutrition facts!
Another note from Bret- "The first organic, non-dairy protein powder we were introduced to was from a company called Arbonne. We LOVED both the chocolate and vanilla flavors. They tasted delicious, and the ingredients were good. The one true downside, we came to realize, was its sugar content. It had 9 grams of sugar per scoop, and that is compared to 0-1 grams of the above three products.
Another popular brand we are asked about regularly is Shakeology. Shakeology unfortunately falls victim to the same problem: it's sweetened by real sugar, and has more sugar per serving (11 grams!) as Arbonne's products, which contain 9 grams per serving (which is still a lot!).
Understanding what your goal is will definitely dictate your selection. If you are trying to lose weight and body fat, decreasing sugar content in your diet is a must. This is why we no longer use Arbonne, nor do we recommend these products to people, because sugar is the bane of fat loss!"
2. How do you interpret the ingredients?
If you cannot pronounce it, it's probably not good for you. The most important thing to keep in mind while reading the ingredient list is the first ingredient listed. If it is made out of "pea-protein" this is a great alternative to dairy, but if it says "enriched" steer clear! This is an obvious way of knowing that they've altered the original ingredient and have changed it by stripping the nutrients to increase the overall taste approval.
3. How much protein should you take in one serving?
Keep in mind that any protein that you consume that is not immediately able to be utilized will become stored as body fat. Consuming mass quantities of protein at one time will often leave a person feeling bloated and lethargic, partially due to this reason. Listen to your body on this one. If you use a full scoop of a particular brand, pay attention to how you feel and adjust the portion size to best fit how you feel. This may or may not mean you use a full scoop.
4. When and how often should I take a protein supplement?
The best times to take protein are right after your workout, as a post-workout supplement/recovery, or in the morning as your breakfast (as a meal replacement), this way you guarantee you get the vegetables/fats that you might not normally get in your usual morning breakfast entree.
5. When looking for a protein powder, consider for the following:
-Plant based, non-soy
-Low sugar content
-Moderate price point (just because it's expensive does not mean it's better for you, as evidenced by Arbonne and Shakeology).
-All can be combined with fruit, vegetables and seeds to increase taste, nutritional value, etc.
6. Things to REMEMBER!
-If you’re replacing a meal, make sure your shake has everything you need in a healthy balanced meal (include fat in the form of nuts, seeds, avocado, or oil like coconut oil, but not all of them at once! Experiment, find what you like).
-Don't overdo the fruit. Just because you got a protein powder that is low in sugar doesn’t give you an excuse to overload it with fruit, which contain sugars too. Just a small handful will suffice! We recommend berries, as they are high in fiber and good-for-you antioxidants, and tend to be lowest in sugar!
-If you’re hoping to avoid whey, in an effort to have less dairy, take a moment to think about what kind of milk you’re adding to your shake. Try using a coconut milk, almond milk or even a combination instead. Use ice for a nice refreshing froth.
-Shakes are best served fresh, if you must wait to enjoy it try using a shaker bottle to help mix it back up!
-Feel free to add spices or extracts to change up your own recipes, Bret has enjoyed using Cilantro, Ginger and Dark Unsweetened Cocoa powder! (But not all once obviously!)
Still need help?
Here are just a few of my own favorite shake RECIPES!
-SunWarrior Vanilla 1 scoop, 1TB hemp hearts (found at Costco), 1 BIG handful spinach, handful of frozen blueberries, a dash of cinnamon, a dash of vanilla extract, about 8oz. Of coconut/almond milk (found at Fred Meyer’s) and ice! Blend it up, stick a straw in it & enjoy!
-SunWarrior Chocolate 1 scoop, 1 TB Adam’s chunky peanut butter, 1 BIG handful spinach, ½ banana, dash of cinnamon, 8oz. coconut/almond milk & ice! Blend it up & enjoy (occasionally!)
-SunWarrior Vanilla 1 scoop, 1 TB hemp hearts, 1 BIG handful spinach, handful of frozen mango chunks, ¼ cup pineapple juice, 8oz. coconut/almond milk & ice! Blend and enjoy!
(Can you tell we love SunWarrior Protein? No we are NOT a sponsor, we just love the product!)
Co-Owner Constant Forward Progress
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