Series: The best protein powders (Top 10 things to know)
By: Rick Cohen, M.D.
In this all-angles series, I cover the top 10 things you need to know about protein power. Read every lesson to arm yourself with the protein powder knowledge you need to make the right buying decision! Or just jump to our PURECLEAN PROTIEN product page to learn about the new protein powder gold standard. This is a very in-depth series (upon review, it's actually more like a mini e-book), that is why I have included a review lesson at the very bottom of this page.
Lesson #1: Allergens
What's the key message?
The majority of protein powders contain at least one major allergen. The most common are soy, egg, legumes, and dairy. While 50% of the population knows they are allergic to something, there are many different types of allergies and allergic reactions. This means you have a good chance of being allergic to something and still not know it! In short, the healthiest types of protein powders are always free of allergens, so look for the term hypoallergenic on the label.
What are allergens and allergies?
An allergen is a foreign substance that causes the body’s immune system to be abnormally active and attempt to fight off a perceived threat that would otherwise be completely harmless. An allergy is the name for the specific substance that causes an abnormal immune system response.
While rare, some allergic responses are immediate and life threatening, like what happens to someone with severe peanut allergies.
The typical allergic response causes inflammatory conditions and uncomfortable symptoms. Someone who is allergic to soy could experience GI distress, fatigue and a headache (or even sneezing) after drinking soy protein powder.
There are also allergens that can cause sluggishness, weight gain, hormonal imbalances, irritability, itchiness, joint pain, and weakness. The problem is that these allergens don’t necessarily cause quickly presenting side-effects, but rather progressively worsening symptoms overtime that are sneaky and hard to spot.
When all is said and done, unfortunately, many protein powders contain at least one common type of allergen. Therefore, look for the term HYPOALLERGENIC on the label to be 100% sure you’re avoiding these three most common protein powder allergens:
Soy: In addition to being a hormone balance disrupter (due to its estrogenic effect), soy can cause stomach pain, hives, and nausea.
Dairy (Casein, Whey, Milk Protein): causes skin irritation, joint pain, sinus issues, and digestive distress (especially for those with lactose intolerance).
Eggs: Common symptoms include hives and rashes; sneezing, wheezing, and stomach cramps.
OTHER: Peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and fish.
CONCLUSION: Listen to your body and notice how you feel after consuming a particular protein powder. For example, does your skin become itchy? Do you experience gas, bloating, or symptoms of poor digestion? Do you become more prone to developing acne or dark circles under your eyes? Is your sleep, body composition, or mood negatively affected with continued use?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, your health and performance may benefit from a switch to a hypoallergenic protein powder.
Lesson #2: Recovery
What's the key message?
Protein powders can help you recover from stress, physical excursion, athletic competition, and training. However, the powder must have collagen AND the appropriate amount of animos acids in one scoop for a balanced, complete recovery. Which products, then, are the best for recovery? It’s not whey, milk, casein, egg, plant, bone broth, collagen, soy, pea, or rice protein.
The answer is:Hydrolyzed animal protein isolates! If you answer yes to one (or more) of the below questions, then you should continue to read on:
1. Do you believe that either a whey, collagen, bone broth, or vegan/plant protein powder is enough for recovery in addition to a healthy diet?
2. Do you consume only one of these types of protein powders: whey, egg, collagen, vegan/plant, or bone broth?
3. Are you not sure exactly how protein serves the body’s recovery pathway?
4. Do you say yes to chocolate milk for recovery?
It’s a common misconception that protein powders are about the same when it comes to recovery. But, what most do not know is that, despite their protein and nutrition content, the majority of protein powders won’t do for a complete and balanced recovery!
THE FOLLOWING PROTEIN SOURCES WILL NOT WORK FOR FULL RECOVERY:
Whey, Egg, Bone Broth, & Milk/Casein
CONTAIN: Full spectrum aminos acids and they are more bioavailable than plant protein (unless you're allergic).
DO NOT CONTAIN: Collagen, which is desperately needed for building your bones, tendons, and ligaments.
DOES NOT CONTAIN: Full spectrum amino acids. It is a very poor choice for nourishing and building your muscles!
Plant (hemp, rice, pea, soy, pumpkin, etc.):
CONTAIN: Some low levels of amino acids. They work better for those who are vegan and/or allergic to dairy, milk, and eggs.
DO NOT CONTAIN: They are always poor sources for amino acids and have ZERO collagen!
Most protein powders lack collagen and/or aminos acids. This is not good because the combined power of collagen and full spectrum amino acids is what your body craves for nourishment, building, and healing. If you're currently taking a protein powder that is lacking collagen and/or amino acids, you need to make sure you’re not developing nutritional imbalances.
CONCLUSION: Whey, egg, plant, soy, milk, and bone broth proteins are always missing collagen and/or enough amino acids; therefore, they CANNOT be considered ideal for recovery! Don’t rely on these incomplete sources of protein. There is only one protein powder that has everything you need: the hydrolyzed animal protein isolate. For sure, it’s intense. But, it’s okay! We sell it and you can buy it at a ridiculously good price.
Lesson #3: GI Friendliness
What's the key message?
The GI system essentially turns food into fuel. The bad news is that a lot of protein powders are harmful to the GI system; many inflame the body, kill healthy bacteria, are hard to digest, and can even stress your inner organs! Look for a protein powder that is low in sugar, dairy and egg-free, hydrolyzed, hypoallergenic, and lectin-free (lectin is commonly found in plant protein powders) to ensure it’s GI friendly!
The GI system is massive (30ft!) and travels throughout your entire body! This means there are lots of places where things can go wrong when consuming, processing, and eliminating your food, especially if what you are eating (or drinking) is known to disrupt, damage and/or inflame your GI system.
The sad truth you need to know is that most protein powders are NOT GI friendly.
A GI Unfriendly Protein Powder Contains:
1. Sugar: Especially unhealthy sugars because they kill healthy GI microbes and promote both unhealthy digestion and gut imbalances. Sugar also promotes GI inflammation and gassiness.
2. Dairy: Many people are actually dairy sensitive, allergic, or lactose intolerant. Even worse, if you’re constantly downing whey protein powders, science recommends you stop due to the increased risk of developing IBS, acne, lactose intolerance and sinus issues. Dairy frequently causes bloating, gas, indigestion and diarrhea, too.
3. Eggs: Especially when consumed frequently, eggs have been shown to contribute to gas, bloating, burping, diarrhea, stomach pain and itchiness.
4. Hard to Digest Ingredients: Some protein powders just feel like (and taste like) drinking shredded cardboard. Plant proteins are the biggest culprits when it comes to this.
5. Allergens: Many protein powders contain allergens (remember part 1?) and can inflame your GI pathway. Did you know that most GI distress symptoms occur from exposure to a food-based allergen?
6. WARNING, THIS IS A MAJOR ISSUE!Lectin: Lectin frequently sneaks under the radar, but it’s VERY GI unfriendly. Frequently found in plant proteins, lectin is known as the “anti-nutrient” because (simply put) it prevents your body from absorbing nutrients! Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, heartburn and weakness.
A GI Friendly Protein Powder Contains:
1. None of the above.
2. Hydrolyzed Peptides: Through the processes of hydrolysis, protein molecules can be broken down into very small molecules that support digestion and nutritional absorption.
CONCLUSION: The last thing we all want is to feel sick after consuming protein powder. Please, for the sake of all 30ft of your GI pathway, do not purchase one that contains plant lectins, common allergens, hard to digest ingredients, eggs, dairy and/or sugar!
Lesson #4: Cost
What's the key message?
To figure out a protein powder’s true cost and true value, you need to know the product’s: total cost, protein content (grams protein per serving × total servings), protein by volume or PBV (grams of only protein per serving ÷ total grams per serving), and protein quality (i.e. source, nutrition content, bioavailability, etc.).
Using real examples on Amazon.com, let's break each one down to find out which one is the best cost:
A commercial, 5lb whey tub costs about .75c per ounce ($60 total). A collagen protein costs $2.47 per ounce ($24 total) with a plant protein powder costing $2.83 per ounce ($60 total). A HydroBeef™ protein competitor charges $3.00 per ounce ($89 total) whereas our PureClean Protein™ (also HydroBeef™ based) costs $1.64 per ounce ($29 total).
The 5lb whey tub contains 25G protein per serving (1,704G total) with a 60% PBV (grams protein per serving × total servings). The collagen protein contains 9G protein per serving (216G total) with a 90% PBV. The plant protein contains 10G protein per serving (200G total) with 30% PBV. The HydroBeef™ direct competitor contains 21G protein per serving (630G total) with 97% PBV. Our PureClean Protein™ contains 25G protein per serving (500G total) with 97% PBV.
At this point, it should already be clear that the 5lb whey tub and PureClean Protein™ are the two best cost options because they have the lowest cost per ounce with the most grams protein per serving.
But, which one should we buy?
1. Figure out the TRUE COST (i.e. grams protein per $1). The whey protein’s TRUE cost is 1,704/$60 (total protein/total cost). This means that the whey protein has about 28G protein per $1. PureClean Protein™’s TRUE protein cost is 500/$29, about 17G protein per $1.
*notice how these numbers are much different than the total grams protein per serving numbers.
2. Figure out the TRUE VALUE (i.e. protein quality, nutritional content, source, digestibility, functionability, etc.).
The whey protein does contain a healthy amount of amino acids and protein per serving, so does PureClean Protein™. But the whey protein lacks collagen and is most likely sourced from crowded, contaminated, indoor feedlots. PureClean Protein™ is sourced from happy cattle raised in the open grassy fields of Sweden and contains 15G collagen per serving.
The whey is further thickened with an additive (pointing to inferior quality ingredients), contains 40% non-protein filler ingredients and is not isolated, but concentrated; this is the cheapest, least nutritious whey protein type. PureClean Protein™ contains organic (super absorbable) hydrolyzed peptides and is a non-gmo, hypoallergenic, 97% PBV beef protein isolate.
When all is said and done, the 5lb whey tub has the most protein per $1 and the best cost. But, is it the best buy? If all we care is price, then YES. However, at PureClean Performance, we do not sacrifice quality, performance, and health for the sake of a few dollars.
CONCLUSION: The TRUE protein per dollar cost is very important, but not everything. You need to consider the protein powder’s TRUE value before you buy. Ask, for example, what the quality, source, nutrition/amino acids content, GI friendliness rating, and absorption efficacy is!
Lesson #5: Sustainability
What's the key message?
Vote with your dollar! Every time you buy a product, you're not just financially supporting the brand, you're also supporting how it was produced and what it was produced with. Unfortunately, there’s way more to consider than one might think when it comes to figuring out exactly which protein powder is the most sustainable option.
However, unsustainable ones usually have these red flags in common:
1. Products with GMO, non-organic, highly-processed and/or cheap filler ingredients.
2. Products that come from monocultures, destructive farming practices, large corporations, or crowded feed-lots.
3. Products or brands that do not mention anything about their sustainability practices or sourcing.
What is the average sustainability of some common protein powder varieties?
PLANT: While it’s hard to argue against plants for the environment, an ugly head rears itself when it comes to commercially grown plants. This is because commercial farming practices are destroying our soil microbiome, contaminating our rivers and oceans with toxins and fertilizers, and making the earth weaker by the day
Yes, surprise, the way most plants are grown today is actually unsustainable. Scientists predict, due to modern farming practices, that the entire world will run out of ALL farmable land by the year 2081! However, it is not true to say all plant protein is unsustainable. It just depends on how it’s produced and grown. By the way, sustainable plant production is much more expensive--look for this to reflect on the price tag.
WHEY: Even though animals are required in the making of whey protein, it may be more sustainable than you think. Whey is a healthy “leftover” of the cheese making process (as well as some other dairy products). If whey were classified as a hazardous environmental waste, it would be 175 times worse than human waste. Therefore, whey protein is sustainable because it is essentially a recycled material for a good cause.
However, to determine if a whey protein powder is truly sustainable, you need to know if the cows it came from were raised sustainably. To do this, figure out if the cows it came from are or are not commercial, fed non-sustainably raised food, from crowded feedlots, non-organic, hormone free, from waste producing farms, and so on. When you start looking, you’ll see that most whey protein powders are unsustainable in this matter.
ANIMAL: This type of protein is usually sourced from the muscles of an animal (sometimes it's only from end and odd bits). Once again, it’s important to not make hasty generalizations. Indeed, the way most animals are raised is not only unsustainable, but inhumane. But, there is another side to the coin because raising animals CAN BE one of the most sustainable things on the planet!
When animals are allowed to be themselves (i.e. graze grass, be outside unfenced, pick at bugs, roll in the mud, etc.), they have been shown to dramatically improve soil quality, grassland health, and wildlife habitat. In fact, sustainably raised animals have the power to fight desertification and help stop climate change.
While livestock are about around 12% to blame for climate change, if fed healthy diets and managed with renewable resources, their contribution to the problem could be easily, quickly, and significantly reduced.
CONCLUSION: You need to evaluate a protein powder’s sustainability on a case-by-case basis. It’s not correct to make generalizations and say, for example, that plant protein is more sustainable than whey; you now know it can actually be the other way around! In the end, marketers are going to promote everything they possibly can to convince you to buy their product. What could it mean if they mention zilch about the product’s sustainability practices?
Lesson #6: Toxins
It's sad, but the modern man has made the world a very toxic place! So toxic, in fact, (brace yourself) that doctors are now discovering microplastics inside newborn children and umbilical cords!
What's the key message?
Because many protein powders on the market contains toxins, it is critical to choose higher-quality (thus, higher-priced) products that use ingredients from honest, sustainable, organic, “smaller-batch”, and pure sources.
Stay away from products that are cheap, are not sustainable (*see previous lesson), use artificial flavors and colorings, are not guaranteed pure (especially plant and whey proteins), and are from conventional sources.
Toxins are everywhere!
Believe it or not, there are actually too many man-made toxic materials and substances to have an exact count. The best guess is around 144,000 different compounds!
This backward logic has allowed thousands of harmful, toxic materials to make their way into the products we use everyday, including protein powder!
Let's take a look at some types of protein powders and their chances of being toxic:
PLANT: Plant protein has the highest chance of toxicity because our soil, water, and farming practices are all extremely toxic. Expect to be consuming lead, arsenic (in rice protein), petroleum (many plants are watered with fracking waste), cadmium (a metal), and BPA in products that are not verified toxin-free. “Any product that is not verified to be glyphosate-free (a chemical that causes cancer) can be a problem. Non-organic soy is especially bad because it is genetically modified and sprayed with roundup”, says Cohen.
WHEY: rBGH is the biggest whey protein toxin in America; it’s actually banned in Canada and Europe along with thousands of other toxins America still allows. For those who don't know, rBGH is a hormone that is commercially injected into cows (pun intended) to milk more milk out of them. In cows, it is known to cause premature death, birth defects, and infertility. In humans, it’s known to disrupt hormones and cause behavioral, developmental, and fertility problems (among many).
Even worse, whey protein powder is likely to contain some of the same toxins as plant protein powders given that many conventionally raised cows eat toxic, plant-based feed.
ANIMAL: Animal protein powders can be just as toxic as whey and plant protein powders. However, animal protein powders might be the least toxic on average. This is because all fat cells (along with all the toxins inside them) are filtered out in their protein extraction process resulting in a less toxic and higher concentrated protein. Still, when it comes to growth hormone, heavy metal, and chemical toxicities, stay away from conventionally raised meat as these toxins won’t be filtered out.
CONCLUSION: Similarly to the last lesson on sustainability, we have to judge a protein powder’s toxicity on a case-by-case basis; however, you should now know which ingredient sources (and thus protein powders) are most likely to be toxic. Toxins are sneaky because they are frequently in places you wouldn’t expect it to be, especially when it comes to supplements. But, with careful examination and some basic understanding of the problem, you can easily limit your exposure to toxins and meet your health goals.
P.S. Did you know that some protein powder packaging contains toxic chemicals that can leach into the product? Did you also know that artificial flavors and colors are, in themselves, actually toxic chemicals?
EASTER EGG: LESSON X
A top-brand protein powder label: Product X
What is product X made of?
1. It has 40g per scoop with 15 servings per container, you will see this at the very top under supplement facts.
2. Now look on the second section of this label and notice the protein blend. Every single ingredient is plant-based so we can safely say this is a plant protein, which automatically means it is an incomplete source of protein (no collagen). We can also see a a few mgs of mushrooms, too.
3. Please scan down and see if something odd catches your eye. No? Well, there are 12g of carbs and 6g of fat per serving. Hmmm...take note of this.
What is the protein content of product X?
1. 18g per serving in each 40g. Using the PBV ratio (grams protein per serving/grams per serving), this equals is a wimpy 45% protein content per serving, or 65% non-protein ingredients. Remember how we noticed 12 g carbs per serving? Plant proteins have a high carb content due to their low PBV ratio, not good since we are looking for a 90% PBV. The extra fat content is actually really high for a any protein powder, this is due to the coconut protein.
2. In total when we do the math, there are 15g times 18g protein in the whole jar. This equates to 270g protein out of the 600g in the entire jar.
Will product X be effective?
1. It is organic, which is good on its own and because that means it probably contains more non-GMO ingredients.
2. The real issue is that, if you look below, it costs $50 per jar. Since the product contains 270g protein total at $50, you're paying $1 for 5.4g of incomplete plant protein per serving! As a comparison, a good deal is $1 for 12g+ of a COMPLETE protein.
3. While most other products sold from the state of California have the same warning label, don't ignore the fact that plant protein powders are the most toxic and that there indeed might be truth in the statement, "consuming this product can expose you to chemicals including lead...".
The final say on product X?
1. Always ask yourself why you're buying. In this case, is it worth overpaying for low amounts of an incomplete, potentially toxic protein with some herbal mushrooms and wicked high levels of carbs and fat?
2. Please read the ingredient label before looking at the attractive product pictures and headlines. It's hard, we know. Just don't forget that the nutrition facts label contains the most important information for you to consider.
LESSON #7: Bioavailability
The dictionary definition of bioavailability is: the proportion of a drug or other substance which enters the circulation when introduced into the body and so is able to have an active effect.
This confusing sentence essentially means that bioavailability is not just judged on the basis of the “substance's” nutrition content and absorption percentage and rate, but also on the total effectiveness at achieving a desired outcome.
What's the key message?
Some protein powders are difficult to assimilate and are a waste of money while others are quickly absorbed and very powerful. When it comes to the human body on average, plant proteins are the worst bioavailable sources and whey and animal proteins are the best bioavailable sources. Make sure to analyze the protein powder’s percent protein by volume (PBV) to determine the protein to filler ratio, too. Finally, look for a protein powder with hydrolyzed collagen peptides, these peptides are super quickly absorbed and very effective at meeting the body’s requirements for protein.
What is the bioavailability of three common protein powder types?
PLANT: For a few reasons, vegan/plant-based athletes are at a serious disadvantage when it comes to protein because plant protein is the worst bioavailable protein source. If the label says 25g plant protein, your body will not assimilate all 25g; more like 15g-20g. Things get even worse when we see that most plant protein powders range from 30%-60% protein by volume (PBV), meaning 40%-70% of the product is filler, like sugar and carbs! :(
If you want to maximize your dollar and nutrition, stay away from most plant proteins.
WHEY: Whey protein is bioavailable because it has many amino acids and a higher PBV ratio. When it comes to the difference between whey concentrates and whey isolates, for optimal bioavailability, choose whey protein isolates.
However, despite the good, there are many shocking downsides that affect whey protein powder’s bioavailability:
It does not contain the highest possible PBV ratio (60%-75% on average), it is a common allergen, it is not GI friendly and can inflame the gut, and (despite popular opinion) it is not a complete protein source because it lacks collagen. :(
ANIMAL: When we compare a whey protein isolate to an animal protein isolate, the whey protein wins in terms of both bioavailability and PBV; it also contains more leucine.
But, don’t count animal protein out just yet! Compared to whey, hydrolyzed animal protein powders with functional collagen peptides are the most bioavailable because they:
Are a more complete protein and nutrition source (they have collagen, amino acids, vitamins and minerals), are better absorbed (due to the small, functional peptides) and have a maximal PBV ratio (97% in high-quality products)! :)
CONCLUSION: We learned that protein powder bioavailability equates to the product's total effectiveness! Plant protein is not very bioavailable due to the tough structure of a plant’s cell wall and low PBV. Whey protein is way better absorbed than plant protein; but, it’s effectiveness is unfortunately hindered due to it being a common allergen, not GI friendly, and not a complete source of protein.
The best bioavailable (and effective) option is the animal isolate protein powder with hydrolyzed, functional peptides as it contains the highest overall nutrition, no allergens, the highest PBV and the highest absorption rate and percentage.
And that's where we drop the mic.
LESSON #8: Satiety
What's the key message?
Protein is great for feeling full and curbing hunger, it also contains the same amount of energy has carbs which makes it a great addition to any weight management program. Regarding protein powders, choose the highest-quality, most nutrition packed, and strongest PBV ratio (see last lesson) for optimal satiety and appetite suppressing results. Remember that consuming more calories won’t always make you more full and protein powders with a higher caloric content generally have more carbs and fillers. Also, while the label might make it look tasty, it's essential to stay away from products with more sugar.
Not all caloric sources are created equal, especially when it comes to satiety. For example, did you know that carbs are the worst at controlling appetite and can actually make you more hungry? It’s best to consume lots of protein (and fat) to stop your stomach from rumbling; but, never from cheap meat and plants as these sources are inferior nutritionally and less bioavailable. To make a potentially long story short, the point is: fullness naturally occurs from consuming sources of balanced and potent nutrition and more calories doesn't always equal less hunger.
With this, it’s easy to understand why the best appetite suppressing protein powder is a high-quality product with the most nutrition and the fewest calories from carbs (and the most from the protein itself). It’s also better to choose a product with a protein by volume (PBV) close to 100%; this ensures you’ll consume as much hunger blunting protein as possible without any of the fillers, sugar, fat or carbs that will make you hungrier (or help you gain weight).
SIDE NOTE: Please take into consideration that you need ideally .8g-1g of protein per pound of body weight per day for optimal satiety. This is basically impossible from dietary sources alone, so consider supplementing your protein powder with a full-spectrum amino acids blend for the best results.
CONCLUSION: When all the above is considered, you’re going to have the best luck at being satiated with a hydrolyzed animal muscle protein powder isolate because it has the most nutrition, least carb calories, and highest protein content by volume. The next best options are whey, egg and then plant protein powders. Still, the only way to know for sure which product will be the most filling for you is to try a few! Mix a different one everyday in water over consecutive days and compare the results.
P.S. There are many herbs, oils, and tinctures that help you control appetite. But if you want to fuel yourself with nutrition and feel full at the same time, then always choose protein.
LESSON #9: Taste
What's the key message?
Many protein powders still use carbs, sweeteners, fake flavors and/or unhealthy ingredients to enhance both the consistency and taste of their inferior quality product. Avoid protein powders that taste either quite sweet or use artificial, chemical, and/or unnatural ingredients because these varieties can cause troublesome short and long-term health side-effects! Stick to unflavored, organic protein powders that taste good JUST mixed with water.
Let's pretend your name is PaleoPat and there’s a piece of meat just around a grassy bend. You see it. You're hungry. You then walk up to it and smell it, touch it, lick it (do you kick it?), bite and chew it, listen to how it sounds, and then maybe swallow if all is good.
In other words, taste is a very complex nutrient and food viability identification process that man has relied on for thousands of years to stay alive and thrive. It takes every single sense that you have to figure out what something is, what you expect it to be, and how good it will end up working for you.
Nowadays, you'll still see brands use artificial flavors, chemical sweeteners, unhealthy consistency additives and a bunch of other crap to hide from your senses that their product, without them, is something you wouldn’t choose to drink. Unfortunately, many get used to fake flavors as a new normal; they have a very hard time switching to non-artificial products. Colorful, shiny, and exciting labels also trick your eyes and brain into visualizing delectable flavors.
High quality and fresh ingredients just taste better. Therefore, it should be no surprise that the true sign of a high-quality protein powder product is one that has an unflavored version AND one that tastes great JUST mixed with water! It is only then can one let their senses analyze the smell, consistency, and essence (like a fine wine) without flavor bias.
We are not saying boosting taste is bad; on the contrary, it makes your protein powder consumption experience fresh and new. Just limit the ingredient list to fewer natural flavors and consistency enhancers.
FYI: Beef isolate protein powders tend to taste the best due to their very high nutritional content and their naturally sweet and creamy consistency.
CONCLUSION: Let the ingredients speak for themselves! Do not inundate your body with toxic flavor enhancers. Stick to unflavored or naturally flavored and/or sweetened protein powders from high quality, organic, and sustainable protein sources.
LESSON #10: Muscle Growth
You need a protein powder that has it all for building muscle:
high absorbability and digestibility
high protein content by volume (PBV)
high amount of BOTH essential and branched-chain amino acids
high nutritional content
lower caloric content
high nitrogen score
high ability to fight inflammation.
Not only this, but you'll also have to intake about .8g-1g of protein per pound of body weight. This means, if you don’t want to be forcing powders down your throat all day, it’s a good idea to supplement your protein intake with a full-spectrum amino acids blend.
Let’s break it down:
High absorbability and digestibility: If you saw the lesson on bioavailability, then you already know that whey and animal protein powders are the best bioavailable proteins. But, when it comes to digestibility, hydrolyzed animal protein powder isolates are the best choice due to their high functional peptide content (very small, absorbable proteins), gut friendliness and absence of common allergens, like dairy.
High protein content by volume (PBV): To calculate a protein powder’s percent protein by volume (PBV), divide the total grams per serving by the total grams protein per serving. On average, plant proteins are the worst, next best is whey, and the best are hydrolyzed animal protein isolate powders (greater than 95% PBV) due to their 100% natural, pressurized protein extraction and filtration processes.
Did you know that many whey protein powders use chemicals in their protein extraction processes?
High amino acids content: Amino acids are the building blocks of protein; they are what protein is broken down into by your body and the #1 thing that your muscles need to grow and become strong. Choose protein powders with both essential amino acids (EAAs) and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs); the EAAs support muscle building and the BCCAs help maximize protein synthesis. Did you know that plant and whey protein powders are not complete sources of protein because they lack either collagen and/or an appropriate amount of amino acids?
High nutritional content: Other than protein and amino acids, it’s important to fuel your muscles with vitamins, minerals, and collagen for the best size and growth results. Healthy muscles stay big muscles!
High nitrogen score: This relates to PBV and bioavailability because a nitrogen score indicates how usable a protein source is inside your body. A good score is over 100.
Low caloric content: If you’re going to be consuming 1g of protein powder per lb. of bodyweight, then you better make sure it’s low in calories for preventing fat gain and a whole host of other issues related to consuming too many carbs.
Did you know that plant protein powders generally have the highest caloric content? This is because plant-based ingredients have a terrible PBV.
Ability to fight inflammation: It's a bonus if the powder also helps reduce muscle soreness and pain post-workout for quicker recovery. Avoid whey protein if you are dairy sensitive and want to reduce inflammation.
CONCLUSION: Protein powders are not an end all be all in the muscle building realm! Many of are not complete sources of protein, difficult to digest and assimilate, and expensive when considering the amount of protein needed to support muscle growth. Find a protein powder that meets most of the above criteria AND make sure to also supplement with full spectrum amino acids.
ALLERGENS: You learned to look for the term HYPOALLERGENIC so you know you're avoiding the most common allergy culprits: soy, eggs & dairy.
RECOVERY: Do you still remember that a protein powder must have BOTH collagen and amino acids for a balanced recovery? Whey, eggs, bone broth, milk/casein, collagen, plant, and soy protein powders are not complete sources of protein. Animal-based protein isolates with collagen are, however.
GI FRIENDLY: Always look for a protein powder that is low in sugar, dairy and egg-free, hydrolyzed, hypoallergenic, and lectin-free (lectin is commonly found in plant protein powders) to ensure it’s GI friendly!
COST: The TRUE protein per dollar cost is very important (total protein in the product/total cost of the product), but not everything. We talked about the importance of considering the protein powder’s TRUE value as well. Ask (among many questions) what the quality, source, nutritional and amino acids content, GI friendliness rating, and absorption efficacy is!
SUSTAINABILITY: Stay away from products with GMO, non-organic, industrial and/or cheap ingredients and do not buy if they have anything to do with monocultures, destructive farming practices, large corporations, or crowded feed-lots. Also avoid products that: highly process their ingredients, do not mention anything about their sustainability practices, and use petroleum-based packing.
TOXINS: You learned that plant protein has the highest chance of toxicity because our soil, water, and farming practices are all extremely toxic. The biggest toxin in whey protein is rBGH which is known to disrupt hormones and cause behavioral, developmental, and fertility problems. Grass-fed, organic animal or whey isolate protein powders are the safest choices.
BIOAVAILABILITY: When it comes to the human body, plant proteins are the worst bioavailable sources and whey and animal proteins are the best bioavailable sources. However, despite the good, there are many shocking downsides that affect whey protein powder’s bioavailability. Hydrolyzed animal protein powders with functional collagen peptides contain the highest overall nutrition, no allergens, the highest PBV (protein per serving/total grams per serving) and the highest absorption rate and percentage.
SATIETY: For optimal appetite suppressing results, choose the highest-quality, most nutrition packed, and strongest PBV ratio product. You learned that consuming more calories won’t always make you more full and that you should stay away from products with the most sugar, carbs, and fillers.
TASTE: Don't forget to stick to unflavored, organic protein powders that taste good JUST mixed with water. Or, those that only use natural flavors and enhancers (the fewer the better).
BUILDING MUSCLE: Do you still remember that a protein powder must have a high absorbability and digestibility, a high PBV, a high amount of BOTH essential and branched-chain amino acids, a high nutritional content, a lower caloric content, and a high nitrogen score to help you build muscle? We also learned that (because you need .8g-1g per lb. of body weight per day) it's a good idea to supplement your protein intake with a full-spectrum amino acids blend.
And there you have it! Thanks to everyone who helped make this series possible.