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10 Ingredients That Should Never Be In Your Protein Powder

The 10 Best Protein Powders, According to Registered Dietitians

If you’ve ever considered adding a protein powder to your daily routine but aren’t sure what the best protein powder is, then we’ll give you the inside scoop (pun intended). From vegan to whey, flavored to natural, or gritty to soft, the protein powder world is complicated enough to make anyone’s head spin. SELF spoke to registered dietitians to determine the best tips on how to choose the right protein powder.

Do you really need a protein powder?

First off, how much protein do you really need? It really depends on the person, their activity levels, and any other health concerns that they might have. “The majority of people get enough protein in their diet, but some individuals may need help in getting more protein, especially if they have specific dietary needs or a health condition,” says Valerie Agyamen, RD. “For example, vegans and vegetarians may find it difficult to get enough protein in their diet, so a protein powder may be helpful. Also, if you have had recent surgery, exercise a lot, or are postpartum, you’ll likely have increased nutrient needs where a protein powder might be helpful.” Plus, certain exercise goals—say, if you’re trying to build muscle mass—might require additional protein too.

The current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. An easier way to think about it? Carolyn Brown, MS, RD says a general rule of thumb is looking at 20 to 30 grams of protein per meal. Most protein powders come with about 18 to 20 grams per serving.

What to look for in a protein powder

There are many different types of protein powders, from vegan to whey protein, and how they work for you depends on your dietary preferences and intolerances. “Essentially, one isn’t much better than the other, but it all depends on your goals and what you’re looking for,” Brown says. “Ideally, the simpler the better.” She recommends the following types:

Grass-fed collagen protein powder: If you’re looking to soothe your digestive tract or joint pain, or if you want to improve your skin, you may want to look for grass-fed collagen protein powder.

Grass-fed whey protein powder: Whey protein works especially great after a workout to repair and build muscle.

Plant-based protein powder: These protein powders are made with a combination of organic brown rice, pea protein, and hemp protein. They’re great options if you’re looking to go more plant-based or simply don’t like the taste of animal-based protein powders.

What to avoid in a protein powder

When thinking about which protein powder ingredients to avoid, there’s no one clear answer. Like many things in the nutrition world, the answer to this question is very individualized and depends a lot on which ingredients may not make you feel your best—or ones that simply don’t make a protein shake taste great to you. Here are some things to keep in mind when looking at the ingredient list.

Are protein shakes healthy?

Your protein needs are going to change throughout your life. Similarly, your protein needs will look different than your neighbor or friend’s protein needs. Protein needs vary depending on your activity and if your trying to build muscle. The following are guidelines for daily protein intake. It is always best to check in with your doctor or nutritionist if you have questions about how much protein you need per day. Recommended dietary intake for protein per day:

Women need 46 grams protein daily (about .8 grams/kg)

Men need 56 grams protein daily (about .8 grams/kg)

You get protein from foods such as eggs, yogurt, meat, and even some plants. If you choose to supplement with protein powder, it’s essential to remember that you don’t need that much protein powder to make up your daily needs.

10 Ingredients That Should Never Be In Your Protein Powder

Here’s what you DON’T want in a protein powder:

1. Casein + WPC

These are also known as whey protein concentrate and sodium caseinate. WPC’s and casein protein sources are high in lactose and more difficult to absorb, which can often cause bloating, flatulence, and gastrointestinal distress. It is quite ironic that these powders actually started off as a weight gainer in medical institutions!

2. Gluten

Food sensitivities to gluten can elevate inflammation in some people and cause a range of health problems including hormonal imbalances, skin conditions, fatigue, mood swings, and headaches.

3. Dextrins/Maltodextrin

These ingredients can raise glycemic load, which may contribute to fat storage. Most are processed with GMO corn and they can also cause gastrointestinal distress in some people. They are mostly added to protein powders as fillers to bulk it out or make the protein mix easier.

4. Artificial sweeteners

Common artificial sweeteners used are Sucralose (Splenda, E955), Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, E951), and Saccharin (E954). Some people may experience negative reactions to artificial sweeteners and side effects may include headaches, migraines, gastric distress, depression and weight gain.

5. Skim milk powders/milk solids

Skim milk powders and milk solids are often used as a cheap bulking agent in lower quality powders.

They are high in lactose sugars, which can cause bloating, gastrointestinal distress, constipation, and loose stools.

6. Soy protein

Some soy proteins come from genetically-modified sources with high pesticide use. They contain chemical compounds which may cause hormonal disturbances in some people.

7. Vegetable oils and fats

These ingredients are often added to many weight loss and protein powders to increase richness and make them taste creamy. However, these fats are often derived from hydrogenated sources that contain trans fats, which are known to be more harmful than saturated fats. Trans fats raise levels of bad cholesterol and lower levels of good cholesterol.

8. Thickeners and gums

Thickeners and gums, including xanthan gum, are manufactured from soy or corn and can cause bloating, constipation and gas. They are little like glue in my digestive system.

9. Fillers

Fillers are often added to bulk up the protein and save money for the manufacturer.

Some fillers include ingredients such as coconut flour, psyllium, sugar, which can cause gastric distress such as bloating, constipation and reflux in people who are susceptible to digestive issues.

10. Added fibres

Added fibres in protein powders are often included as a filler or weight management tool. For me personally, it causes gastric distress, constipation and bloating as I have a particularly sensitive digestive system. The cleaner your protein powder, the better and the best fibres are obtained from plant-based leafy greens, vegetables and fruits.

A quality protein drink made from wholefood ingredients can benefit your health in a number of ways. Adequate intake of protein in your diet can balance hormones, assist in weight loss, support detoxification and digestion, boost your immune system, and even support your nutritional needs during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Protein is also the key nutrient that helps you get ageless, glowing skin and lean, toned muscles. The Healthy Chef Protein range offers pure, premium + delicious blends suitable for everyone.

The key nutrient for fat loss and body shaping is protein as it is essential to regulate the appetite, boost metabolism and encourage significant weight loss, while supporting lean muscle - but not all protein is created equal. Protein is essential because your body requires adequate amino acids for the construction of enzymes that are integral to the detoxification pathways. A quality protein drink made from whole food ingredients can benefit your health in a number of ways.

“For me, protein works effectively in regulating my appetite and stabilising my blood sugar. For weight loss it is recommended you get between 80 – 120g of protein per day to aid satiety and muscle recovery.” - Teresa Cutter

Protein is also the key nutrient that helps you get ageless glowing skin and lean toned muscles. I’ve been in the fitness and health industry since my early 20s and have tasted many kinds of protein on the market. Some made me gain weight, some constipated me for days, and some made me feel bloated. This was the main reason I decided to design my own.

It’s important you choose the right protein powder that suits your needs and that supports your health in every way . It’s important they are un-denatured and free from chemicals and additives.

Grass-fed Pure Native Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) is designed to help you build, repair, and maintain healthy, lean muscle, boost your immune system, and manage weight. Below is a graphic explaining how Healthy Chef Pure Native WPI differs to others on the market, making it the more superior choice of whey protein available.

Organic Pea Protein is your number one choice for gut-friendly, plant-based certified organic protein powder. Our unique high protein, vegan, low-fat blend with all 9 essential amino acids is scented with vanilla and is easily digested and readily absorbed by the body.

Healthy Chef Body Shaping Shake is the perfect plant-based meal replacement. A delicious combination of organic plant protein combined with all nine essential amino acids, antioxidants, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and Vitamin D to support a healthy metabolism and boost your wellbeing.

Eric Carter