Protein Powders

Protein Powders – Which one is right for you?

You’ve decided to go to the gym more seriously. Or maybe you’re adding resistance training – aka “weights” – to your workout? Whatever the case may be, adding some protein powder to sports nutrition regime may be beneficial for you.  Remember to shop at a health food store as they usually carry higher quality products that your big box stores and beware of the ‘fitness shops’. Protein is not sugar (sugar is a carbohydrate).  If the protein powder tastes amazing – like double chocolate fudge flavour – perhaps it’s not a high quality protein.


Ingredients to avoid

  • Artificial flavours
  • Artificial colours
  • Artificial sweetners – this include sucralose/Splenda, aspartame/Equal/Nutrasweet, acesulfame-K or acesulfame-potassium
  • Carbohydrates, sugars


While artificial sweetners are considered to have “zero calories”, many have been linked to serious health problems.  For example, once in the body aspartame is broken down into formaldehyde. Small amounts are considered safe, eventhough it may upset the balance of neurotransmitters possibly causing mood changes.  The FDA in the USA has approved the use of aspartame based on an upper consumption limit of 34 mg/kg which is equivalent to 60 packets of Equal for 132 lb person. This is the same as 11 diet soft drinks. Maybe that sounds like a lot of pop, but consider all the possible sources of aspartame: soft drinks, protein powders, chewing gum, frozen desserts, yoghurt.

Acesulfame-K causes breast tumour in lab rats. You may feel like a rat running on your gym treadmill, but don’t subject yourself to possible carcinogens.


What to look for?

Protein! This could be in many forms: whey, pea, casein, brown rice, soy, egg white, cricket


When to take protein powders?

As a rule of thumb: take whey powder before workouts and casein powders between meals or before bed. However both of these proteins are derived from milk and may cause digestive upset for those with dairy sensitivities.

Soy, pea, brown rice are all non-allergenic, dairy-free options. However, the research on the exact timing for consumption of these protein is sparse. A few words of caution. Soy protein is not recommended for men that have naturally elevated estrogen levels/low testosterone levels because of andropause. You can have your levels checked by your naturopath.


What’s the difference in Concentrates vs Isolates vs Hydrolysates?

You may see these terms on the label or the marketing of milk-based protein powders. These terms vaguely describe processing methods.  Concentrates contain a low level of fat and cholesterol. Isolates have removed the fat, and lactose, and have lower carbs as they are 90%+ protein by weight. Hydrolysates are pre-digested and partially hydrolyzed for the purpose of easier metabolizing, their cost is generally higher & this filtration is less allergenic.


Drug-Free Sport?

If you’re competing at a high level of sport and may be drug-tested look for products certified to be free of banned substances as detailed by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency).  To do so, look for NSF Certified for Sport, HFL certified, or NSF Certified with written manufacturer guarantee of no banned substances.

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