Before I became a nutritionist and complete nerd about food awareness, every time I drank a protein shake, within 20 minutes I would come down with this crazy migraine and always just feel, off. I always listened to my body and would never consume those products again but I wondered, what is giving me these headaches?
I get asked about protein powders ALL the time. There’s something about that quick on-the-go meal that people love. Don’t get me wrong, I do love a good smoothie but I will always tell you to eat natural foods before grabbing that quick shake. These reasons are for a different post......However! If you’re going to consume protein powders be sure you know what each ingredient is and the health benefits (if any) they provide.
I think it’s fair to say that the protein powder (and bar) industry is incredibly saturated, am I wrong? There are so many products, so many brands that it is nearly impossible to keep up. They mostly all market themselves to be “the healthiest of them all”. Do I ever believe this, not really….! If you’re selling a “health” product, naturally you’re going to market it as being the BEST. I will allow you all to decide which product is best FOR YOU. However, here is a list of common ingredients that are found in protein powders and products that you should be aware of (side note: if any product contains an unnatural ingredient, I can promise you it’s not the HEALTHIEST.)
Whey Protein Isolate: Whey protein isolate is the denaturation of protein that involves breaking down the structure of the milk protein. As it breaks down, the protein loses the peptide bonds which reduces the effects of the protein. In the process of denaturalization, the natural fat, lactose and the carbohydrates are removed. Therefore, making this ingredient an unnatural, processed and highly manufactured ingredient.
Xanthum Gum: This ingredient is one of the SCARIEST of them all! It is used as the binder in most products but what it REALLY is, is bacteria known as Xanthomonas Campestris which in the world of Botany, is responsible for producing “Black Rot’. To sum up what Black Rot is, it’s a fungus disease that kills vegetables, fruits and plants. This bacteria is a slimy gel that is applied to some sort of starch (wheat, corn, soy) and ferments to produce a slimy, indigestible polysaccharide (a string of multiple glucose molecules) substance. They also add this ingredient in cosmetics, medicines, toothpastes, lotions, etc. Do I need to continue??? In conclusion, avoid ALL the GUMS: Guar Gum, Gum Arabic, etc.
Maltodextrin: Is also a polysaccharide (type of carbohydrate aka sugar) that is used as a food addictive. In short, this is a fake sugar that is highly manufactured and carries NO nutrient benefits.
Stevia: Stevia is a green leafy plant that is found in South America. It is used as a sugar replacement in many products. However, the stevia sold in the market are processed and manufactured so they do not often resemble the natural properties of the stevia plant. *TAKE CAUTION* (This ingredient also provides a gnarly after taste.)
Isomalto-Oligosaccarides (IMO): Is a short-chain carbohydrate that is promoted as a dietary fiber as well as used as a sweetener. The starch that is found in corn and wheat are enzymatically synthesized from the natural starch and in this process converts the starch into long-chain glucose molecules. This product is advertised to be a natural starch, source of fiber and sweetener. However, in order to make the product of IMO, it needs to be chemically and mechanically formed making this an unnatural ingredient.
Natural Flavors: The term natural flavor, is created by the breakdown of the essential oil in products by heating or roasting the product. The use is for flavoring of food but serves no nutritional value. (Also take caution with artifical sweeteners - the name says it all!)
I can continue with this list, but these are the major ones to take caution!!
So, what do I drink now, Katie? It’s simple! KNOW your ingredients. I constantly preach “just one” meaning, 1 ingredient! If your protein powders/bars have 5+ ingredients in them, it’s most likely not the best choice! Be aware of your natural inflammatory foods and READ your labels! Educate yourself on what exactly is going into your body! Remember, your body only needs certain ingredients (water, vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats) to function properly – IF the products you are consuming DOES NOT contain these natural ingredients, then take caution and make the right decision for your health!
Click here to see how I make my favorite shake! You can also find the recipe, here!
If you're still feeling stuck with this topic and want to discuss over a FREE 20 minute consultation, contact me!