August 29, 2012
“Protein Shakes: Are They Safe?”
Written By: Sandra
We are in the age of protein shakes! It used to be just a protein powder. But now it’s powders with vitamin additives, chemical preservatives, and fillers. Protein shakes come in all types of forms such as whey, casein, soy, egg, and hemp powders. So what’s the difference?
Whey is a fast-absorbing protein that is best consumed after a workout. Casein is a slow-absorbing protein that is best consumed before you go to bed, or in the morning when you wake up. Soy protein is for vegetarians, since it is made from a plant. Egg protein is highly digestible and absorbable and can be consumed before or after a workout (preferably after because it’s high absorbency can help repair muscle and bone tissue quickly). Hemp protein is another plant protein from the husked seeds of the hemp plant. Just like soy protein, it contains all of the amino acids that the body needs for growth and development. Hemp protein is high-quality.
Although these protein powders are labeled “safe”, we must be smart about this because “safe” does not mean it has been tested and proven by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA ONLY investigates food fraud when a claim about a product is submitted.
So are these protein powders safe? The FDA allows a certain amount of chemicals in all food products, but that amount is “per serving”. This can be risky because consuming more than one serving of any chemical can be harmful to our health. Consumer Reports released a report identifying several dangerous contaminants in protein powders. These contaminants are used to preserve the powders. They are cadmium (a poison), arsenic (a poison), lead, and mercury. These shakes contain a moderate amount of these contaminants per serving. But those who consume more than one serving a day (like body-builders), are at risk of intoxication. These contaminants get into your blood stream, go through your liver, and your kidneys. The United States Pharmacoeia (USP) states that two servings a day of protein powder that contains these contaminants is too much (USP.org, 2012). Muscle Milk and EAS Myoplex contains the highest amounts of cadmium and arsenic.
Another concern about protein shakes are the additives. And I don’t mean good additives like fruit and yogurt. I mean the additives like antioxidants, omega’s, syrups, herbal extracts, energy boosters like caffeine, whipped cream, extra vitamins, extra minerals, and sugar. First of all, no one should be adding vitamins and minerals to protein shakes because they already contain them. We do not want to consume toxic amounts of vitamins and minerals. Other additives like whipped creams, syrups, and sugar just add calories and fat, and make you bloated. As antioxidants, herbs, and omega’s are good for you to begin with, think about all the other food you eat during the day that already contain them. If you are consuming them already, you don’t need to add them to your protein shake. Again, too much of anything can be toxic.
What about allergies? Protein powder may not be safe if you suffer from certain allergies. For example, whey and casein contain lactose, which may cause an allergic reaction if you’re lactose- intolerant. Soy and hemp seed protein may cause skin rashes, hives, or trouble breathing if you have certain allergies. If you have any allergies, discuss with your doctor before trying any protein powder.
Is too much protein harmful? Consuming too much protein powder can lead to an increase in body fat. Your body can only handle small amounts of protein at one time, therefore, the excess protein is either excreted from the body or converted into body fat. For example, whey protein is absorbed at the rate of 8-10 grams per hour. So any more than that can potentially be stored as body fat. Keep in mind that one gram of protein equals 4 calories. So if your protein shake contains 50 grams of protein, then it will automatically contain 200 calories. Your body can handle a maximum of 0.91 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
Those with gastrointestinal issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, Crohn’s Disease, Celiac’s Disease, and H-pylori are at risk of digestion issues, abdominal pain and bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea with the consumption of protein powders. Please discuss with your doctor before trying any protein powders.
Ok, so here are my professional thoughts on consuming protein shakes. There are so many other foods out there that contain toxins, contaminants, and chemicals such as meats, vegetables, fruits, and even water. So my personal opinion is to consume these shakes in moderation, being that we already live in a world where processed food (and even fresh-grown food) is preserved and sprayed with chemicals. So consuming protein shakes, along with everything else we eat daily, can increase the chemical content in our body. Therefore, limit your shakes to every other day, and limit meat to once a day. Trying to live “clean” is very hard these days. Food production has changed a lot over the past 50 years. Today, food production is processed in mass amounts, so a lot of preservatives are needed in order to increase shelf life. Choosing protein powders and foods that contain the least amounts of chemicals and preservatives is my professional health suggestion.
Also, check out my website for “smoothie” recipes that contain protein and all natural ingredients.
As for protein powders, I suggest the following brands that contain the least amount of additives, chemicals, contaminants, and fillers:
• Jay Robb’s Whey Protein: lactose-free, no sugar, no aspartame, no artificial colors, no MSG, no casein, and made with Stevia (a plant-based natural sweetener)
• Warrior Whey Protein: Organic, low-glycemic, hormone free, pesticide free, no sugar alcohols, and no chemicals
• Pure Pea Protein: lactose-free
• Superfood Egg Protein Powder: all natural ingredients, no chemicals
• Natural Oats & Whey: no additives, no aspartame, and no chemicals
• Juice Master’s Protein Powder: no chemicals, plant-based protein (hemp) only, no gluten, no lactose, and no artificial sweeteners.
If you have a protein powder at home and you would like for me to analyze the ingredients, please take a picture of the ingredients and send it to email@example.com. I would be very happy to explain the ingredients to you.
Once again, thank you for reading my weekly articles and please send me any article suggestion you may have!
(no author). Contaminants: Dietary Supplements. Retrieved April 27, 2012 from
Eades, Michael R. and Eades, Mary D (2000). The Protein Powder Life Plan. New York, NY: Warner Bros.