Protein powders have been a staple for bodybuilders, athletes and those looking for greater muscle strength and development. So it’s no surprise that the average Jane is using protein powders for the same purpose. Whey protein, the most popular of the protein powders, is said to aid muscle growth after weight or resistance training. The BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) found in whey stimulates protein synthesis so your muscles recover faster when they get these nutrients.
Protein powders now come in a variety of flavors—from chocolate and vanilla to banana cream and peanut butter. Whey also comes in three forms—concentrate, isolate and hydrolysate. Concentrates have low levels of fat, but are higher in carbohydrates. They are typically between twenty-nine and eighty-nine percent protein by weight. Isolates are ninety percent or greater of protein by weight, have less fat and less lactose. Hydrolysate whey protein is less allergenic than the other two which is why it also costs more. This type of whey goes through a process that makes it easier to metabolize.
With the current movement towards eating healthier, manufacturers are now offering something that had never been considered before—organic protein powders. This is welcome news to those who want to stick to an organic diet which includes their supplements. But are organic protein powders better or less effective than conventional protein powders?
When a food, drink or supplement is labeled organic it should have a USDA Organic label on it to verify that it truly is what it claims. In terms of protein powders being sold as organic, this means that the cows from which the protein comes from was fed an organic diet (which is free of pesticides) and organically processed feeds. They are not given any hormones, chemicals or antibiotics to spur their growth. Many of these organic protein powders also stress the fact that their cows are treated ethically and are raised on small family farms that use only processes that are earth-friendly so even the water that the cows drink is pure and healthy. The final powder is sugar-free, gluten-free and lower in carbohydrates than most commercial protein powders.
While this all sounds good, do you still get the same nutritional value and important BCAAs that you find in traditional protein powders? The answer is yes. Cows that are fed an organic diet are not going to provide a lesser quality protein. In fact, many people who use organic protein powders notice that it tastes a lot better than many traditional ones that tend to have a chalky or bitter taste due to the excess amounts of fake sugars that they have in them. Organic protein powders still have the amino acids and vitamins that the other big-named protein powders have so you are not sacrificing quality. (photo credit here)
With that said, something you may want to consider is if the protein powder is grass-fed whey protein. Why? If the product is simply labeled organic, that means that the cow was fed organic grains and other feeds that are not necessarily natural for a cow. So while the feed itself may be organic, you are getting a protein that is not complete since this type of diet can often disturb a cow’s ability to provide the best quality amino acids. And since you are basically ingesting what the cow ingested, you may want to consider that. You are what you eat, but you are also whatever the cow ate too.
Finally, there is another option when it comes to protein powders that have nothing to do with cows—raw protein powders. These types of protein powders are plant-based, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, soy-free and vegan. They are also much easier to digest and because they do not go through any processing or heating, most of the protein is preserved whereas you can lose up to twenty percent of the protein in other types of powders once they have gone through all stages of processing and manufacturing. Raw proteins are often sweetened with the natural sweetener, stevia, and contain no artificial flavors. It is what it claims to be—raw and natural.
Keep in mind that the organic and raw varieties usually cost more than traditional protein powders and may not come in as many choices of flavors (many are limited to vanilla, chocolate and strawberry). However, if you suffer from food allergies, have gluten intolerance or simply want something completely natural, organic and raw protein powders are a good way to get your protein without worrying about adverse effects. These proteins are also available just about everywhere so they are easy to find. When it comes to protein powders, there are more choices today than ever before and it is up to you to decide which one suits your individual needs.