With over 80,000 chemicals bombarding us in our everyday environment, it’s more important than ever to choose clean, healthy supplements for daily use.
Shakes and smoothies made with protein powders are becoming a more popular meal replacement for life on-the-go as we become more health-conscious and want to lose weight while maintaining our hectic lifestyles. Learning which protein fits your body’s needs and determining the quality of that protein powder is vitally important if you want to take inches off your waist and see the pounds go down on the scale, while nourishing your cells.
Protein powders are in the news, thanks to the Clean Label Project. This non-profit organization tested the purity of 134 of amazon.com’s most popular protein powders and the results are alarming. They screened for everything from heavy metals and BPA (plastic) to pesticides and mycotoxins, for a total of over 130 contaminants linked to cancer and a variety of other health conditions. Of the products tested, 70 percent contained measurable levels of lead, 74 percent contained cadmium, and 55 percent had high levels of BPA, which is known to cause cancer and birth defects. One protein powder had 25 times the allowed maximum for BPA in only one serving!
Do You Need Protein Powder?
Protein is essential to every cell in your body. Your body uses protein to make enzymes, hormones, and to build and repair tissues. Unlike fats and carbohydrates, your body doesn’t store protein, so it needs a consistent supply from good food sources to keep your cells healthy. Too little protein will affect your weight, your exercise recovery, your energy levels, and your overall health. If you’re feeling weak or tired and sluggish, pay attention to your protein intake – it could be the missing piece to your health puzzle.
A good quality protein contains all 20 amino acids in ratios that promote health. Animal proteins are more complete than plant proteins, but plant proteins can be combined to provide the full amino acid spectrum. So why use a protein powder when you can just eat real food?
- Convenience. The average adult needs 46-56 grams of protein per day. With our hectic lifestyles we don’t always have time to start our days with a big breakfast, so protein powders are a good way to get nutrients and calories in quickly, without having to take the time to sit down for a full meal. One egg contains 6 grams of protein, while an equal number of grams of broccoli is roughly 2 heaping cups. A good protein powder contains at least 20 grams per scoop, which is almost half of what’s required daily for your cells to function at their best, and a lot more convenient than carrying around several cups of vegetables.
- Weight Loss. Increasing the amount of protein in your diet boosts your fat-burning metabolism and preserves your lean muscle mass. Protein helps you feel full longer and increases levels of appetite suppressing hormones while lowering the level of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Decreased hunger and increased satiety from using a protein powder daily means inches off your waist and pounds off the scale, along with sculpting your body to have more lean muscle. One study found 20 grams of protein powder gives the same appetite suppressing effects as 80 grams, so more isn’t better in this case.
Which Protein is Right for You?
Not all proteins – and protein powders – are created equal. Different types of animal and plant proteins have different effects on the body. The most popular protein powders on the market now are whey, hemp, and rice/pea protein combinations. All of these proteins rev up your fat-burning metabolism while preserving or increasing lean muscle mass, but each also has its own unique strengths.
- Whey protein is often touted as the superior protein powder. It is quickly absorbed, boosts stores of the potent antioxidant glutathione, balances brain chemistry through increases in neurotransmitters like serotonin, promotes better gut health, and increases immunity. But whey protein can be inflammatory, especially in people who are sensitive to dairy proteins or have an autoimmune disease. If you try whey protein and find you gain weight rather than lose, become bloated and experience cramping, you likely have an intolerance and need to stop taking it.
- Rice and pea protein powders are excellent vegan alternatives to whey protein. Peas contain high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an Omega 3 essential fat, as well as high levels of healthy Omega 6 fats. Peas are high in protein, easily digestible and rarely cause allergic reactions. Because peas are missing the amino acids cysteine and methionine, and rice is missing the amino acid lysine, these two proteins are often successfully combined together in one protein powder to provide the complete complement of amino acids.
- Hemp protein powder is also low in lysine, though is considered the most complete plant-based protein, with high levels of healthy Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fats, ample fiber, and bioavailable iron. It’s also naturally a clean protein source, because it can be grown without needing pesticides, herbicides and copper-based fungicides. Hemp is considered hypoallergenic, but does cause gas and bloating in some individuals.
Checklist for a Clean Protein Powder
When you’re looking for a cleaner, healthier lifestyle and choosing to supplement with protein powder, the last thing you want is to add to your toxic load. Here are 5 questions to ask when shopping for a clean protein powder:
- Does it contain additives? Artificial sweeteners, colors, preservatives, flavors, and synthetic fillers do not belong in a health food. When you read the label, look for it to contain just a few simple ingredients you recognize and can pronounce. Choose natural ingredients
- Is it high in carbs? Protein powders should not be high in carbs like sugar and flour. These carbs will increase body fat, not help you lose it. The only carb that should be in a protein powder is inulin, a prebiotic starch that encourages healthy bacteria in your GI tract to thrive.
- Where did the protein come from? If you are looking for a strictly vegan protein, make sure you know the source of all the proteins in your product. Sadly, most protein powders originate from China, which has a toxic environment that contaminates the protein powder. UNI KEY’s plant-based proteins originate from Belgium, while our whey protein comes from New Zealand and Argentina, the purest sources.
- Is the finished product tested by an independent 3rd party for purity? It’s important to know your protein powder is tested for heavy metals, pesticide residues, bacteria, or other contaminants that will do more harm to your health than good. When your manufacturer takes the time to source out quality ingredients and takes the initiative to have it tested on their own before they sell it to you, it might be a little more of an investment but it will pay out in long-term health benefits.
- How does it taste? Your protein powder can be the healthiest, cleanest product with the best looking ingredients on the label, but if it doesn’t taste good, you’re not going to use it. If possible, buy small quantities of the powder you’re interested in, then mix it in water to make sure you like how it tastes before you invest in bulk.
When it comes to protein powders, we all want the same thing – quality, purity, taste, and a short, simple list of ingredients. It empowers us, as consumers, to make the healthiest choices possible and learn to ask the right questions when groups like the Clean Label Project and renegades like the Health Ranger step out and do the testing to make sure we are getting what we pay for.
But some companies, like UNI KEY Health, are more proactive and take the testing into our own hands so watchdog initiatives like these aren’t needed. We third-party test all of our products for purity and strength and we set the bar high, because we want the best for our customers and our families.
If you’re looking for a whey protein powder, check out our Fat Flush Whey Protein, and if you’d prefer a vegetarian protein source, our Body Protein is a good tasting source of complete plant proteins from pea and rice.