Protein Powder: Do’s and Dont’s

Protein Powder Do’s and Don’ts:

A few weeks ago I wrote about some of my favorite protein powders and supplements. Whether or not you decide that one of these protein powders is for you, please take the time to read some of the do’s and don’ts below so you can be sure to pick a protein powder that will be a benefit to you. So often we think we are enjoying this “healthy product” but in some instances it may be doing more harm than good, and none of us want that!

The Do’s:
  • Check the ingredients. If the protein powder (or drink) has more than 10-12 ingredients, you may want to question whether or not it’s the powder for you. This goes for all foods. In general, the less ingredients, the better.
  • Check the ingredients again. Notice a pattern? This time see how many of the ingredients you can actually read and understand. Now, there may be some ingredients you read and you don’t really know what they are. But the key is, you can actually pronounce them. For example, monk fruit extract versus acesulfame potassium or carrageenan. See the difference?
  • Choose variety. I am a firm believer that you will never go wrong if you live by the principles of balance, variety, and moderation. Right now I’ve got at least three different brands of protein powders in my cupboards, some of them in multiple different flavors. Some days I choose a plant-based protein powder, and other days I use whey. I mix different fruits with different flavors. Variety prevents you from getting sick of something or bored, but it’s also great for your digestive system and health in general. By mixing things up, you’re always getting a slightly different formula.
The Dont’s:
  • Avoid sugar and sugar alcohols. I don’t believe you need to deprive yourself of all sugar 100% of the time to be “healthy.” However, my protein powder is not where I want my sugar intake to be coming from. Oftentimes brands will highlight the fact they have “zero grams” of sugar. Zero grams of table sugar, yes this may be true, but many still contain sugar alcohols, such as erythritol, sorbitol, xylitol (they all end in “-ol”). Now it definitely depends on the sugar alcohol, but some may cause abdominal discomfort, bloating, etc. and while the research tends to lean to the side of “better than table sugar,” in general, I still try to avoid them. Especially in my protein powders! If I’m going to be eating sugar, I want to enjoy it in the form of a cookie or brownie. 😉
  • Avoid “mystery” ingredients. If you can’t pronounce it and you’ve got no clue what it is, I would say avoid putting it in your body. If this is the case for more than half of the ingredients, it’s an even bigger “stay away” red flag.
  • Avoid long lists of ingredients. Again, I try to stick with 10-12 ingredients with very few exceptions. Usually the rule of thumb is, the longer the ingredient list, the more processed the food is.
  • Be careful of consuming “too much”. Different protein powders are marketed towards different people. It’s possible to pick a protein supplement that has too much (or too little) protein for your needs. Around 20 grams/serving is optimal for the average exerciser/athlete. Also watch out for added vitamins or minerals. If you are already taking other supplements and add a protein supplement that contains those same vitamins and minerals, know the safe upper limit. It’s possible to have “too much” of a good thing and end up with serious health problems. This isn’t usually an issue, but it’s still something to keep in mind.

When in doubt? Ask questions! Turn to credible sources and don’t be afraid to seek out advice from those with credible backgrounds. Be weary of the Internet–you can usually find whatever it is you’re looking for, whether it be affirmative or negative. There’s great stuff, and there’s not so great stuff out there, so always check your sources.

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