Well, it’s January and you know what that means. John and I (along with everybody else) have re-commited to exercise. We regularly take walks outside and stay pretty active, but recently we made a goal to invest a little more time at the gym. With all this activity, the question of using protein powder has come up a time or two.
Why use protein powder?
Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like tons of people are using protein powder these days. It gets added to smoothies and is found in meal-replacement drinks and health-food bars. Whether it’s used for beefing up at the gym or to get a little extra “nutrition on the run”, protein powders have worked there way into many a Vitamix.
It makes sense though. Proteins are the building blocks of life for humans and animals. Almost 50,000 different proteins have been identified in the human body, utilized to form organs, nerves, muscle, enzymes and other various tissues.
Protein is needed for growth and the regulation of hormones, so why not add an extra scoop to your post-workout shake? It seems like a good idea, yet I’m not sold on all forms of protein powder and I’m not sold on making it a daily habit. Here’s why…
1. Protein isolates may be useless.
Protein isolates found in some powders are manufactured by a high-temperature process that denatures the proteins. This basically makes protein powders useless. Some protein powder manufacturers are now processing powders with new filtration and drying technology that (they say) keeps proteins in tact. These powders are often very expensive, unfortunately. If you choose to use protein powder, look for one that isn’t processed at high heat.
2. Protein powders are often full of fake sweeteners and other junk.
On different labels, I’ve seen corn syrup, artificial dyes and colors and fake sweeteners. MSG may also be found in some protein powders. (When protein is separated from its food source during the manufacturing process, the result can sometimes lead to the creation of MSG.) Other powders are better though. I’ve seen some that offer whey made from grass-fed cow’s milk and contain no artificial ingredients. This would be better than your run-of-the-mill powder. Avoid protein powders that contain any fake stuff or are heated at a high temperature.
3. Protein powder may deplete Vitamin A.
If you choose to follow a low-fat diet, high intake of protein powder isn’t recommended. Consuming high amounts of protein on a low-fat diet (over an extended period of time) may deplete stores of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is needed for the body to utilize protein and to produce testosterone and other growth factors. When depleted, thyroid issues, autoimmune disease, heart arrythmias, and kidney problems may arise.
Protein is intended to be consumed along with fat. When it’s out of balance, problems such as vitamin depletion can arise. Think about it…an egg is made up a yolk and whites. The yolk is full of fat whereas the whites are mainly protein. Yolks aren’t meant to be separated from whites. Fats aren’t meant to be separated from proteins. Fats and proteins go together like peas and carrots. If protein powder is consumed, make sure to eat a diet full of healthy fats (including saturated fat!).
4. Protein Powder may contain anti-nutrients and block mineral absorption.
Legume protein isolates contain ANF like protease inhibitors, lecitins, tannins, saponins and phytates. These negatively affect protein digestibility and can block absorption of minerals. Some research shows varying reductions in the amounts of the anti-nutrients depending on heating methods. If possible, it’s best to avoid legume protein powders.
5. Protein powder may be associated with negative calcium balance.
High amounts of protein in the diet with very little fat to balance it out can lead to a negative calcium balance. A negative calcium balance can lead to osteoporosis. Just like the possiblity of Vitamin A depletion, consuming lots of protein powder while on a low-fat diet can be detrimental to your body. Unfortunately, the standard American diet is often very low in healthy fats. Like I said above, it’s important to consume lots of healthy fat (ie. grass-fed butter, olive oil, etc.) if you do use protein powders regularly.
If you do want to increase protein in your diet, eat a steak. Seriously. Or try organ meats. Liver, for instance, is high in vitamin A and is naturally balanced for protein/fat intake. Yum. Whole-fat yogurt, eggs or fresh whey added to smoothies are also beneficial.
Try Nutritional Yeast. Nutritional yeast has 8 grams of protein per serving and also provides vitamins and fiber. Find a brand without additives and dried at a low heat here.
Gelatin is also a good source of protein. It can be added to sauces or used in desserts like ice cream, custard and jell-o. It’s also good for your digestive tract! Make your own bone broths to increase gelatin intake or find a quality brand here.
If you find a quality protein powder that is not heated at a high temperature and contains no fake fillers, make sure that you are getting enough healthy fats in your diet as well.