Let's talk about protein powder. In this blog, we'll help you choose the best protein powder for you as well as discuss why it is the best protein powder for you!
There are no alternatives to proper nutrition for health and performance. However, establishing good nutrition is easier said than done, and even with decent nutrition we may still fail to meet all our needs. Although not a replacement for proper diet, supplements are a useful tool for addressing any nutrient deficiencies, and support improved performance. One of the most common supplements today, particularly in the fitness world, is protein powder. It is used to make bars, added to shakes, used on it’s own, and even used in recipes. However it’s consumed, protein powder is a quick and convenient way to get adequate protein intake; way more practical than tossing a chicken breast into your gym bag for a post workout snack.
But which protein powder is best for you? As challenging as it may be to pick an item amongst the plethora of choices from the shelf at your grocery store, it can be even harder to pick protein powder. You have to compare price, size, and ingredients that many aren’t familiar with. This article aims to provide some tips and guidelines for choosing protein powder. Surprisingly, what you will likely pay more for and look for isn’t what is in the supplement, but what is NOT there. Protein powder is a processed food which takes…well, a process. This process often adds or uses ingredients to improve the appearance or taste, but that also adds unnecessary and even unhealthy substances. The following are a list of things you do NOT want in your protein powder:
1. Sugar and artificial sweeteners
Yes they may make the protein more palatable, but at what cost? Sugar in addition to adding empty calories has two other side effects. First, consuming sugar affects your hormones to favor fat storage over fat burning as your body primes to utilize simple carbohydrates. Second, both sugar and artificial sweeteners have been shown to increase hunger. Plus, there is no nutritional value added from including these. Instead, look for products that substitute stevia as a natural calorie free sweetener.
Protein is already hard to digest. This can be great to boost metabolism or feel full for longer, but can also stress your GI tract. A common concern with protein powders and protein supplements is upset stomach/flatulence. You may need to experiment and try a few products to determine which is best if you experience this issue, but you can save a lot of time by avoiding supplements that use common allergens. Check your labels for gluten, eggs, and nut-based ingredients. This may be tough for some with sensitivity/allergies to milk, but there are vegan and vegetarian options too.
3. Hydrogenated Oil
Fats are often added to make protein supplements richer and make them taste creamy. However, these fats may come from hydrogenated sources that contain trans fats, which can hurt your cholesterol levels. Instead look for a common healthier substitute lecithin.
4. Banned Substances
This is extremely important if you are a serious athlete who competes. You don’t want to risk wasting all of your time and energy training by being disqualified for a supplement. Furthermore, most of the banned substances aren’t banned for any potential competitive edge they may provide, but because they are potentially dangerous. Research takes time, and many of these new products with amazing claims haven’t been tested enough to validate such claims or demonstrate that they aren’t harmful. When purchasing protein powders or any sports supplements look for the NSF Certified for Sport endorsement.
There is a growing body of evidence that “connects GMOs with health problems, environmental damage, and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights”[i]. Many countries, including all of the European Union, require GMOs to be labeled, and there are hundreds of regions that outright ban the growing of GMOs. Unfortunately, that is not the case in the United States. It can help to look for products that are certified Non-GMO, but since there aren’t labels for products with GMOs you should keep an eye out for certain ingredients. Corn, soy, and canola are often GMOs, and packed foods with ingredients like corn syrup and soy protein will likely be from GMO crops.
This can seem a bit overwhelming especially with so many protein powders available and the numerous ingredients that most have. With that in mind, sometimes it is simpler to start by finding a trusted brand, then find which specific product is right for you. Here at TrainSMART we recommend, use, and sell Thorne products. They are the most clinically researched, ensuring that their products work, and Thorne also spends more on quality control to guarantee that their strict production standards create the best product. This is why they have never had a recall, and have partnerships with several U.S. national governing bodies: the Mayo Clinic, EXOS and more. Even before they begin their high standards of production, Thorne begins by designing products with a “No List” of ingredients.
“Simply put, our “No List” is a list of the substances that Thorne refuses to include in our nutritional supplement products. Unnecessary fillers, additives, and allergens are all included on our No List. In addition,
- Ingredients that don’t have the necessary potency are NOs.
- Ingredients that contain any contaminants are NOs.
- Ingredients that can’t meet our stability testing standards are NOs.”[ii]
In general, nothing goes into their products without a purpose, and nothing they will compromise by using ingredients or production methods that don’t meet a high set of standards.
There are certainly other brands that make a great effort to meet similar standards. Look for a few other suggestions in a upcoming blog that will cover protein sources and the various methods of protein extraction to help you determine which is the best protein powder for you.
Written by: Tim Lambert CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist)
Call 716-650-0535 to order protein or to set up a free strategy session!