You take protein powder because you care about your health. That’s a pretty safe assumption. As an athlete, you train hard and need to make sure that your body has everything it needs to be able to recovery well – always moving toward your goals. And protein powder is a pretty common strategy when it comes to sports nutrition.
After all, protein keeps your muscles growing and working, while generally supporting overall health. The problem, though, is that many protein powders probably aren’t doing you any favors. Why not? More importantly, what is the healthiest protein powder?
All The Junk
If you look at the ingredients on the average tub of protein powder, you’re likely going to see a surprisingly long list, filled with unrecognizable and unpronounceable substances. Now, to be fair, some of these ingredients are just complicated-sounding chemical names for everyday stuff.
These benign-yet-intimidating additives, though, are in the minority. Most of the time, the artificial dyes, sweeteners, and flavorings tossed into the standard protein power do more harm than good.
Artificially produced food coloring, for example, has been linked with all sorts of health concerns – including behavioral disorders in children.
When it comes to sweeteners, the problems are just as surprising. On paper, these sugar-alternatives seem pretty awesome. For one thing, most of them have little-to-no caloric value – meaning that they shouldn’t impact your weight or have any influence on your blood sugar. Additionally, most artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar, allowing manufacturers to use significantly less to get the same results. In truth, however, these chemicals don’t actually live up to the expectations. Studies have found that, statistically speaking, people who routinely ingest artificial sweeteners are still at a high risk of developing diabetes, obesity, heart disease and all the associated complications. But, if these additives are calorie-free how is that possible? Emerging research suggests that these sweeteners change the balance of microbes at work in the gut in such a way that favors obesity. Essentially, artificial sweeteners increase the growth of a specific type of bacteria that makes us better at extracting calories from our food. While efficiency is normally a great thing, this means that you may be taking in more calories than you realize and, therefore, gain more weight in return. Other research – although controversial – has also linked artificial sweeteners with certain types of cancer.
The situation with flavorings, thankfully, isn’t as frightening. But ingredients can be very unusual and unappetizing. Things like ground up beetles, wood pulp, and various unpleasant animal excretions are sneaked in under the banner “natural and artificial flavorings.” Other flavor enhancers, however, have been linked with more serious concerns like cancer and hormone disruptions.
Poor Sourcing and Processing
But, of course, the point of a protein powder is the protein, right? The somewhat disconcerting fact is that most of the protein powder on the market actually comes from just a handful of manufacturers, who sell the raw powder to the companies that then blend it up with all the additives we just discussed to come up with their end product. That means that, despite any claims regarding the superiority of their protein powder to the competition, most companies are starting off with the same base materials.
And that’s not a great place to start. The vast majority of cows are fed grain – not a natural food for the bovines – and treated with a wide array of antibiotic and hormones to keep them productive. Ultimately, as we’ll discuss a little later, this produces a naturally inferior product.
But how can whey or casein be inferior? There is actually a number of ways. Most importantly, the amino acid profile can be lacking. Proteins, as you may be aware, are built out of amino acids. The whole purpose of a protein powder, then, is to make sure that you’re getting adequate levels of all the amino acids. This is not always the case with fed-lot cattle.
Combine this with the excessive processing that most protein powders go through, and you’re left with something that is nutritionally shallow compared to where it started. So, to get around this, many companies add amino acids back in – advertising this as though it’s an additional benefit of their product. In reality, a quality protein powder does not need this extra step and it should be seen for what it is: a hallmark of sloppy work.
The Good Stuff
So far, we’ve been focused pretty heavily on the negative aspects of this whole discussion. We’ve seen all the potential trickery that you’re subject to when selecting a protein powder. What hope is there then?
Throughout their catalogue, Gnarly Nutrition strives to produce only the healthiest protein powder. How and why is Gnarly different?
First off, remember all those artificial dyes, flavorings, and sweeteners we talked about earlier? They are nonexistent in Gnarly products. Any “additive” that you see listed on a Gnarly tub is a natural product – whether it’s a coloring, a sweetener, or a flavoring. These substances are carefully selected to be the healthiest options possible, not taking anything away from the awesome end-product. The sweeteners, for example, are all low-glycemic so that they have very little impact on your blood sugar and do not disrupt the nutritional value of the protein powder.
Most interesting, though, is the fact that Gnarly protein is derived from organic, grass-fed New Zealand whey that has never even seen a GMO-crop or been treated with any hormones or antibiotics. As mentioned, the milk – and therefore the whey – produced by grain-fed cattle is nutritionally inferior to it’s grass-fed counterpart. Studies have found that dairy from grass-fed animals is higher in healthy conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids.
Gnarly protein also comes bundled with pre- and probiotics. While this might just seem like a bonus, there’s a very real, functional reason for this inclusion. As you may have noticed when using other protein powders in the past, digestive comfort and protein supplements very seldom go hand in hand. The pre- and probiotics work together to help create an environment that can more easily breakdown that protein. Not only does this benefit you immediately when it comes to your protein, but it can help when it comes to general health. It’s important to note that this increases the bioavailability of your protein without harsh processing. What results, then, is a minimally processed, nutritionally superior, protein powder.
So, we at Gnarly Nutrition fully recognize that claiming to make the “healthiest” of all protein powders is a pretty bold move. But we’ve done our research and are confident that Gnarly Whey – and other products containing our protein – are the best out there.