Clean eating is a way of life. So it naturally follows that, when endeavoring to consume consciously, it matters whether or not your protein powder is clean, too.
But what does it mean for a protein powder to be clean? Has it gone through the washer? Is it just a little bit less vulgar than it's other protein peers? More worrisome yet, does that mean that some proteins are dirty? (Kind of - read on.)
The Scoop on Clean Protein
The easiest way to discover whether or not your protein is clean is to flip that sucker around and read the label. Yep - the whole thing. If there are things you can't pronounce (or have never heard of), lots of hyphens, or a host of words ending in "-ose" you may want to slowly back away.
An easy way to make protein powder affordable is to fill it with fake food: think chemical additives, contaminants, and artificial sweeteners (the "-oses"!). Yiiikes.
These artificial ingredients result in protein powders that are high in heavy metals and sugar. Some proteins have even been found to contain more than the maximum daily limit of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury when consumed regularly.
If your protein tastes like a milkshake keep an eye out for an overload of sweeteners. Things like corn syrup solids, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium, or maltodextrin, fructose, and sucralose. Any and all of the above are prime offenders in "dirty" protein. With some proteins boasting as much as 20g of sugar per serving, they could give froyo a run for its money (one serving of frozen yogurt typically contains only 17g of sugar.)
If you, like many, exercise to better your health and wellbeing - including the health of your heart - tune in here. Cardio, among other things, strengthens the heart's ability to pump blood effectively through the body. Partially hydrogenated fats, conversely, raise cholesterol levels, lead to clogged arteries, and contribute to the risk of heart attack and stroke. Hitting the gym and following it with a protein recovery shake containing trans fats, therefore, is counterproductive.
The reason protein powders often contain these fats in the form of hydrogenated coconut oil or whey protein is that the process of hydrogenation extends shelf life. #realfoodspoils
Antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides
Actual ingredients aside, there's also the source of the protein to consider. Whey protein, being a derivative of dairy, does often contain the growth hormones given to cows to increase milk production. Dairy, unless organic, can also contain antibiotics commonly administered to livestock.
If the protein you're eyeing is plant-based (kudos!) it's still important to be aware that, unless certified organic, the ingredients in the protein were grown using pesticides.
Keeping it clean
If this info seems a little daunting - don't worry! It doesn't have to be. Here's a quick and easy checklist on how to keep your protein powder as clean as possible.
- Go for plant-based
- Read the label
- Check for sugar content
- Look up ingredients you don't recognize
- Avoid products that contain "lab food" aka something you couldn't go and buy at the store
Don't feel like doing the research? That's cool, too. We did our homework so that you don't have to. With 100% clean, vegan, and filler-free protein available in vanilla, chocolate, or vanilla chai there's a flavor bound to please even the pickiest of protein-ers.