6 Toxic Ingredients You Will Want To Avoid When Buying Protein Powder
There is a common misconception that protein powders are synonymous with “health” foods. Protein supplements are often great additions to a diet if you are lacking in protein intake or calories. They are also great for quick meals on the go when there is simply not enough time to make a quality meal.
However, remember that if you have time and access to high quality meals with whole foods, that is always a better option that protein powder.
This article is about picking the best protein powder with the least amount of harmful ingredients. Not all protein powders are created equal.
When I was younger, I would add a maltodextrin powder to add calories to my protein shakes. Maltodextrin is often used in protein powders as a “healthy” addition as it is, by structure, a complex carbohydrate. Unfortunately, this is not the way our body responds to maltodextrin.
Maltodextrin spikes your blood sugar and has a glycemic index of 105, which is one of the highest glycemic indexes you will find. Maltodextrin is worse than sugar in regards to blood sugar levels. If you are to continue consuming maltodextrin, make sure to be performing a lot of physical activity at the time of ingestion, to give the sugar somewhere to go.
Maltodextrin is a highly processed, synthetic powder derived primarily from hydrolyzed wheat or corn that should be avoided if possible.
Artificial sweeteners are often used to sweeten protein powders. Examples of artificial sweeteners include aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin.
The harmful effects of artificial sweeteners can be an article in and of itself. Some problems associated with artificial sweeteners include that they often disrupt the body’s natural hunger signals. The taste buds taste something sweet, sending messages to the body that something high calorie is on the way, only to realize it has zero calories.
This throws off the hunger mechanism of the body, and it has been shown that those who consume artificial sweeteners tend to gain weight more than those who do not. This is ironic considering most people consume artificial sweeteners to reduce calories.
Artificial sweeteners have also been shown to have numerous other harmful effects as well, and it would be your best bet to avoid these if possible.
Artificial food coloring is often used to make processed foods look more appealing. Possible side effects of these substances, backed up by numerous studies, show that artificial food coloring causes tumors and hyper-allergenic reactions. They may also cause hyperactivity in children.
I highly recommend avoiding artificial food coloring, if possible.
Consumer Reports tested 15 protein drinks for high levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, and found that many of the protein powders had levels of these heavy metals higher than the USP limit for a safe amount of consumption.
The brands associated with the highest amount of heavy metals included Muscle Milk and EAS Myoplex.
Cadmium and arsenic appear to be the most dangerous of the metals. Cadmium is known as a human carcinogen, while arsenic causes a variety of harmful symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and abnormal heart rhythms.
To avoid these toxic metals, try to consume whey protein that is derived from grass-fed, non-hormone treated cows. On this note, also try to avoid protein powders from cows treated with rBGH.
rBGH is a hormone used to increase milk production in cows, that has been linked to a wide variety of harmful side effects. rBGH causes the secretion of IGF-1, which has been linked to a variety of cancers. IGF-1 appears to be resistant to pasteurization and, as a result, can be found in the milk that we are drinking.
To ensure you are not consuming this hormone, look on the label for a sign that says that the cows were not treated with the hormone. Chances are if they do not have a label mentioning the hormone’s lack of use, the protein powder will probably contain that hormone.
Many protein powders are packed with a lot of sugar for a taste enhancement. Make sure to find protein supplements that are relatively low in sugar. Especially avoid high fructose corn syrup, as it is processed much differently than cane sugar.
Possible side effects of high fructose corn syrup are energy depletion, insulin spikes, lipogenesis (or “fatty liver”), inflammation, heart disease, and many more.
A good alternative to artificial sweeteners and sugar is stevia, which is a plant that is often used to sweeten protein supplements.
Look in the ingredients for the words “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” as this is a sign of trans fats. Also oils such as soybean, canola, corn, or cottonseed are refined and should also be avoided.
Trans fats and refined oils can increase inflammation in the body, increase LDL (bad) cholesterol, and block the utilization of essential fatty acids.
When you are choosing your protein powder remember to choose protein powders with minimal ingredients, a low amount of sugar, and as few of the harmful ingredients listed above. Look for ingredients that seem like real food and not like chemicals.
Ideally your protein powder should have one or two ingredients, such as “Whey protein isolate” and “cocoa powder.” I know it is more expensive, but I really believe it is best to buy organic, grass-fed, hormone free products. These are truly better for your health and worth the extra few bucks.
Some alternative protein powders that are considered “complete” are hemp, soy (although many have mixed feelings on this one), and a plant protein powder mix. Garden of Life and Sun Warrior Protein are two good options.
About Danny Maman My name is Danny Maman. I have a real passion for health and fitness and enjoy having a life that revolves around this. I have my bachelor's degree in exercise science with a minor in allied health. I am also a certified personal trainer with ACE and am a former college basketball player.