Many whey protein powders comprise of a cocktail of artificial sweeteners, colours, soy products and whey that is harvested from cows fed less than the optimal nutrition to produce health giving milk.
Since a whey protein product consists of much more than just protein, here are some reasons as to why they are some quite rigid guidelines I follow when choosing a whey protein powder to supplement my diet.
“Which Whey Should I Choose?”
I am often asked this question; by bodybuilders wanting to find the best whey protein for muscle growth, personal training clients and participants in my classes wishing to increase their intake of protein purely for health reasons.
There are many varieties on the shelves these days, but they are not all equal. The most common formulas will consist of Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Isolate or a mixture of the two.
Some will be made from pasteurised milk, some from raw milk, you will find formulas loaded with artificial sweeteners and some with a little natural Stevia to sweeten the mix.
I tend to follow Ori Hofmekler’s advice when choosing a whey protein powder. This is the man who created the Warrior Diet and is an expert on building muscle and health improvement with nutrition, supporting these principles with high quality own brand products such as Warrior Whey available from Defence Nutrition.
If you keep reading you will see why it is made with only Whey Protein Concentrate, derived from the milk of organic grass fed cows and is free from artificial sweeteners.
Whey Protein Isolate
This product is not recommended by Ori Hofmekler as it is made by removing the fat. Within the fat are important elements such as phospholipids, phosphatidylserine and cortisol which boost immunity so this is better left in the whey. Whey Protein Isolate tends to be made from putrid protein; rancid protein is bad but putrid protein is even worse.
It doesn’t dissolve well in water, so many brands add surfactants and soy lecithin to help it disperse, which may cause other complications.
Pasteurised milk forms the base of most Whey Protein Isolate, but since the milk is heat and acid treated, this renders the product virtually useless. Many important and fragile milk proteins are destroyed by the treatment process and the friendly bacteria that form the balance in your gut are killed in the processing.
This is partially why Ori Hofmekler and Dr Mercola too insist that we use ideally raw milk based whey for our nutrition.
Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey protein concentrate contains glycomacropeptides (GMP) that are essential for your gut flora so you can help to maintain the balance and health of your digestive system.
This is by far the best type of whey protein for you, the milk is whole and contains the essential fat that is removed in whey protein isolate processing . Choose a raw milk, organic grass fed cow’s milk base and you will be making a good decision by your body.
They are not too hard to find, Dr Mercola has a comprehensive range and Ori Hofmekler’s Warrior Whey is from raw milk. It is hormone free, easy to mix and digest, tastes creamy and contain no artificial sweeteners.
There are many people who do know about the dangers of aspartame, but there are other sweeteners that may carry other health risks. Sucralose for instance. It is very important to know why artificial sweeteners are to be avoided, therefore I have decided to research the main culprits and share my findings:
Some of the sweeteners found in many mainstream brands of whey protein powder, are aspartame, sucralose and fructose and I avoid these products for the following reasons:
“But Fructose is a natural fruit sugar, how can that be harmful to the body?”
If you consumed your fructose via fruits and vegetables, you will find that any adverse metabolic effects are diluted as fructose will be mingling with many beneficial nutrients, fibres, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. The fact is that fructose can be present in many other products and the huge doses of it through sweetened drinks and in whey protein powder for instance, can be detrimental to our health.
Glucose on the other hand is metabolised in a different way by the body. 20% of the job falls to the liver and much of it is used by the brain. 100% of fructose is metabolised by the liver. This process turns the fructose into free fatty acids (FFAs), VLDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides which the body stores as fat; including belly fat…
What is more alarming is that fat droplets from the fatty acids flooding the body after it is metabolised build up in your skeletal muscle tissues and liver, causing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and insulin resistance. If insulin resistance is developed, this can lead to to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Do not panic though, it is only the concentrated forms of fructose such as High Fructose Corn Syrup that plays havoc with your metabolism, as our bodies were not designed to deal with such excessive amounts. 25 grams or less is fine, but being a cheap product, it is added to many foods. So you may be ingesting it without realising it. Be careful and read the labels on any processed foods; look out for “HFCS” and Agave nectar/syrup and try to avoid them.
This toxic artificial sweetener has been around for many years, hiding under attractive labels such as “Nutrasweet” “Canderel” and “Equal”. I could fill a whole book with the dangers of aspartame, but for further reading please check this article by Dr Mercola. In a nutshell it is made up of 3 components:
- phenylalanine – which makes up 50% of aspartame by weight
- aspartic acid – 40%
- methanol (wood alcohol) – 10%
It is the waste products of the components of aspartame that cause the problems, as they are stored on the shelf, transported or metabolised by the body.
There is an ester link between the phenylalanine and aspartic acid, that is broken down by the body to produce free amino acids. The body only needs a tiny amount of these amino acids to function properly. But when they are manipulated and present in quantities that are out of balance to other amino acids then problems can manifest. When they are found in high concentrations, neurotoxic effects from the free form chemicals can result in dizziness, headaches, confusion and even seizures.
Aspartame floods these chemicals within your central nervous system and your brain can suffer – firing excessive neurons and cells can possibly die. In a word this is called excitotoxicity. This comes from the effects of aspartic acid, where the cells are literally excited to death…
You might think that the FDA will be keen to ban the use of this additive; as it is found that this chemical is found in abnormally high levels in people who suffer from seizures and strokes. Aspartic acid in high concentrations can even cause brain damage. But the FDA refuse to accept that there is a correlation between excitotoxicity and free form amino acids like aspartic acid (and MSG) and refuse to implement any ban of its use by food suppliers.
Aspartame is absorbed entirely by the body. Methanol (wood alcohol) comprises of 10% of the total absorbed product. This can suddenly transform into formaldehyde, this is bad news as it is a dangerous toxin which can accumulate in the cells of the body causing health problems.
Methanol in its natural form never binds to amino acids (as it does in aspartame), but you may find it bound to pectin instead – a fibre – that allows the expulsion of methanol naturally without converting into formaldehyde.
The danger of the methanol found in aspartame is that since there is no binder to allow the safe passage out of the body, practically all of it turns into formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde is commonly used by embalmists as a preservative. It is found in paint removers and nail polish and is poisonous to a level that is 1000’s of times more potent than ethyl alcohol. It can cause cancer in humans, a statement made by the EPA, increasing specifically the risk of prostate and breast cancer.
A chilling fact is the claim that both types of cancer have been increasing and this correlates closely with the rapid spread of aspartame from country to country.
There is no “safe” level of formaldehyde in the body according to the EPA, but the risk of health consequences relates to the amount and duration of exposure.
Formate is the waste product of formaldehyde. If there is a concentration in the body, metabolic acidosis can result: excessive acidity. This condition can cause methanol poisoning that can result in blindness, organ system failure, blindness and death.
Phenylalanine is converted by the body into neurotransmitters that regulate the chemistry of the brain. However, if you have too much aspartame, that contains this chemical, then the result can be too many neurotransmitters that disturb the balance in the physiology of your brain. This can result in many unpleasant symptoms such as panic attacks, headaches, tremors and seizures.
In addition, phenylalanine can turn into diketopiperazine, a known carcinogen if it is subjected to warm temperatures or a prolonged shelf life.
This product is a more stable version of aspartame, this is why it may be likely that it could carry similar health risks.
- Acesulfame K
Although the safety fears have been dismissed by the US FDA and the equivalent authorities in Europe, some potential side effects have been shown in animal tests. Acesulfame K has been shown to stimulate dose-dependent insulin secretion in rats. There are recommendations for further research to be made on its effects to the body.
This chemical, widely available in the stores as Splenda is promoted as being “made from sugar so it tastes like sugar”. Nice slogan, but if you look at the website: truthaboutsplenda.com you will find many health complaints made by consumers. Health complaints such as:
- Allergic reactions
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Blood sugar increases
- Weight gain
- Blurred vision
Sucralose begins life as a sucrose molecule. However, the 2 sugars that bind together to create it – fructose and glucose – are added to in the lab, with 3 chlorine molecules in a 5 step process (patented). This process converts the sugar molecule to a fructo-galactose molecule.
Nature does not produce this type of sugar molecule and therefore the body does not know what to do with it.
The US FDA approved the use of Splenda in 1998 as a tabletop and all purpose sweetener. This approval was based on more than 110 animal and human safety studies, but, of the 110 studies made, only two were human, made up of a total of 36 people and of that figure, only 26 actually ingested sucralose. One of these human studies was based on sucralose in relation to tooth decay, not tolerance by the body – and this was the longest study!
The animal tests of the 110+ studies showed many problems including:
- Interference with sperm production and vitality, resulting in higher male infertility
- Brain lesions at high doses
- Decreased red blood cells at levels above 1,500 mg/kg/day
- In almost half of the rabbits given sucralose, they suffered spontaneous abortions. This is compared to no abortions in the control population.
- 23% death rate of rabbits given sucralose. 6% death rate of rabbits in the control group.
There are many conflicting claims: McNeil Nutritionals that states that since Splenda is not metabolised or ingested by the body, it possesses zero calories.
But, if you look at this research, you will notice that on average 15% of Splenda is absorbed into the digestive system, then stored. They also found unmistakable evidence that Splenda is absorbed by fat, contrary to previous claims. It affects the gut flora in a negative way, potentially reducing the number of beneficial bugs by half. This will undoubtedly affect your health adversely.
There is also a link between increased weight gain and low levels of good bacteria in the gut; I will expand on this in a special report I will be bringing to you shortly.
At last, some good news.
Stevia is plant based and is derived from a herb found in Central and South America. It is approved in several countries, for instance Japan, China and Brazil, as a sweetener for food use. It has been used in Paraguay for centuries and in Japan for decades so you might agree that it is safe.
It is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar and truly has virtually no calories.
But the US can only market Stevia as a dietary supplement, as the US FDA has not approved it safe for food use. The US FDA has however, approved at least two Stevia derived sweeteners containing rebaudioside A- an extract of the whole plant, one of the sweetest parts.
These are Truvia and Pure Via.
There is some controversy around whether using this element in isolation away from the other components of Stevia, can cause problems. As if one meddles and extracts select compounds that combine synergistically in the plant, there maybe unknown health consequences. I for one would like to see more research made to prove that these brands are safe.
So for now, if you see “Stevia” on the label of your whey protein, know that it is most likely to be the safest alternative to natural sugar available. BioTrust Low Carb formula has Stevia as a sweetener and is also hormone free.
Another alternative which is very versatile is [easyazon_link identifier=”B00APPF0LE” locale=”US” tag=”mmxaz-20″]Raw Organic Whey – USDA Certified Organic Whey Protein[/easyazon_link] – it only contains “100% pure organic whey protein from the milk of grass-fed Jersey cows that graze on open pastures over 300 days a year”. So, you could sweeten your shakes with natural banana, or use stevia with cocoa powder for a chocolate shake without any hidden nasties. See below for reviews on this particular protein:
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