Protein shakes are a popular choice if you’re looking for a quick and convenient way to get more protein into your diet without the hassle of prepping a full blown sit-down meal. You’ll frequently see bodybuilders, gym junkies, smoothie lovers, vegans, and those looking to lose weight incorporating protein shakes into their diet and for good reason too. Protein provides your body with sustained energy and helps to regulate your appetite. It’s also essential to maintaining lean muscle and can aid in weight loss by controlling blood sugar levels. Not enough protein in your diet can result in nutrient deficiencies, in particular, vital amino acids that supports a healthy immune system and detoxification.
Not all protein shakes are created equal
Depending on where you source your protein shakes, there are some important things to consider and look out for. In this instance, quality is important and those cheap protein powders with a long list of ingredients taking up half the packaging, often contain ingredients you’d rather not consume once you find out why. These are cheap fillers that add bulk and calories to the product, with little to no nutritional benefit for you. So more often than not, if the price is too good to be true, then it’s most likely that it is.
Here are some of those common sneaky ingredients to look out for in protein shakes.
Powdered milk is a cheaper substitute for concentrated whey protein powder because it eliminates the extra processing step of separating the whey from the rest of the milk product. There are some downsides to this depending on your goals. Milk powder contains the whole milk product which means it also contains lactose and casein. For those with lactose intolerance or who do not digest casein well, it’s an automatic no-go. On the other hand, whey protein concentrate can, in some instances, be better tolerated as the lactose has mostly been removed. Milk powder will also contain carbohydrates and fat so if it’s just the protein you’re after, then a whey protein concentrate is the better option.
Unfortunately there are few good things to say about soy. You don’t have to suffer from a soy allergy to find a reason to steer clear of it. Most soy products are derived from genetically modified soybeans. Soy products are infamous for causing digestive problems, disrupting the endocrine system, and causing inflammation in the body. The most off-putting part about soy lecithin is that it’s a by-product from the soybean oil manufacturing process and chemical solvents (like hexane, a constituent of gasoline) are used in this process to isolate the soy lecithin. Soy lecithin’s main purpose in manufactured foods is to prevent water and fats from separating and to prolong shelf life. Thankfully there are more health-friendly options, like sunflower lecithin, which can be used as a substitute to prevent clumping in protein shakes.
Glucose syrups/corn syrups
A cheap and easy way for manufacturers to add sweeteners to protein shakes is in the form of glucose and corn syrups. Unfortunately, high fructose corn syrup is one of the worst forms of sweeteners you can consume. Not only is a majority of corn genetically modified these days, corn syrup causes an immediate spike in blood sugar levels. Research has also linked corn syrup to higher rates of obesity.
Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide that’s typically derived from corn. In some instances, it’s derived from barley, and even though it’s deemed as gluten-free because of the processing the starch goes through, it’s something many who avoid gluten in their diet should still heed caution to. Even if it’s processed from corn, there’s a high chance it’s manufactured from genetically modified corn.
It’s commonly used as a thickener in processed foods, to prolong shelf life and as a cheap filler. As a processed starch, it’s also high on the glycemic index which can produce a sharp blood sugar spike.
Dextrose is the chemically identical twin to glucose. It’s a simple sugar that is absorbed directly into the blood stream causing an instant rise in insulin levels. This can be problematic for people with insulin sensitivity. It’s commonly used in protein shakes as a sweetener but it also adds calories without any nutritional benefits.
Just looking at these common sneaky ingredients a little closer, you can begin understand that not all protein shakes are created equal. It pays to closely inspect labels and give more attention to researching suspect ingredients. But all hope is not lost. There are plenty of healthy protein shakes available. Look for the purest ingredients with as few additives as possible and you’ll still be able to enjoy those delicious smoothies and shakes with the added boost of protein.