Did you know that you are likely not getting enough protein from your daily diet? It’s true! Protein is essential for muscle-building, but it also provides your body so much more. Proteins are the building blocks for your entire body!
Protein helps to support the structure of your skin, organs, and muscles, and makes up most of your hormones.1 Just as important, protein supports and fuels your immune system. The health of many of your essential systems is dependent on how much protein you eat in a day, which is why it’s so important to ensure you’re getting optimal amounts.
Adding a high-quality Paleo protein powder to your diet is one of the easiest ways to increase your protein intake, yet not all protein powders, including some labeled Paleo protein, are created equal.
Many of the more common paleo protein powders contain inflammatory ingredients such as whey and casein. They are also loaded with sugar, artificial sweeteners, or other toxic ingredients which can be absolutely devastating to those of us with autoimmune or thyroid conditions.
In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know when choosing a paleo protein powder, including what ingredients to look out for and how to find a clean, high-quality source of protein. Let’s begin with what protein actually is and how it benefits your body.
What Is Protein and Why Do You Need It?
Protein is a molecule that consists of hundreds of thousands of amino acids linked together in “chains.” There are 20 different types of amino acids that can be combined in a number of different sequences to form a protein molecule. The sequence of these amino acids determines the protein’s structure and function. Your muscles and all of your organs including your heart, eyes, stomach, and even your skin are constructed from these different sequences.
One of the most important amino acid sequences forms the building blocks for protein molecules called antibodies. As you likely know, antibodies are essential to help your immune system fight off invasive bacteria and viruses. Another sequence creates protein enzymes, which carry out chemical reactions within your cells, along with assisting in the formation of new molecules and helping you digest your food.
Some types of hormones and messenger proteins can even coordinate biological processes in your tissues and organs. These are just a few of the different ways protein functions in your body.
Benefits of Protein
Protein is critical to sustaining human life. Your body is constantly breaking down and rebuilding all manner of structures and systems. You need the amino acids in complete proteins to help build and repair every single structure in your body. This requires a great deal of dietary protein every day to be done correctly and efficiently. Here are some specific ways protein benefits your body:
- Reduces appetite and hunger levels: Studies show that protein reduces the hunger hormone ghrelin and boosts levels of peptide YY, a hormone that makes you feel full.2
- Increases muscle mass and strength: Protein is a building block of your muscles. It is essential to increase lean muscle mass.
- It’s good for bone health: Research indicates that protein, especially animal protein, helps maintain bone mass as you age.3
- Reduces sugar cravings: Increasing your protein intake curbs sugar cravings.
- Boosts metabolism and increases fat burning: Protein can help you boost your fat metabolism by making you burn more calories during the day.
- Supports weight loss: Because protein boosts metabolism and suppresses your appetite, it naturally supports healthy weight loss.
- Helps your body recover after injury: Remember, protein is the building blocks of your cells. Getting high protein amounts can help you recover faster after an injury.4
As I mentioned earlier, amino acids are the building blocks of protein molecules, and your body requires all 20 for optimal health. There are 9 of the essential amino acids we need to complete crucial sequences that are not produced by your body and must be consumed in the food you eat.
Foods such as eggs or grass-fed beef are great sources of protein, however, it can be difficult to reach optimal levels through diet alone. That’s why adding a Paleo protein powder to your diet can ensure that your body is getting all the nutrients it needs to produce protein molecules and perform at optimal levels.
Before I discuss what ingredients to look for when shopping for the right protein powder, let me tell you why you should get your protein from animal sources instead of plant-based proteins.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is one type of protein. It is not a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids. Instead, collagen protein powders are made of nonessential amino acids that many of us are lacking including glycine, proline, alanine, and hydroxyproline.
Think of collagen as the “glue” that holds your body together. Your skin, hair, nails, and bones all depend on ample amounts of collagen to stay healthy, strong, and flexible. The same is true for your gut barrier, bones, connective tissue, cartilage, and joints
Supplementing with collagen protein powder is incredibly beneficial because your body begins to produce collagen protein less effectively as you age. By age 40, collagen begins to deplete faster than your body can reproduce it, and by age 60, over half of your body’s collagen has been depleted
Beef-Based Protein vs. Vegan Proteins
It’s important to supplement our diets with protein powder if we cannot guarantee a daily intake of clean, grass-fed, or wild-caught protein. However, nut and legume-based protein powders (and even protein sources such as peanut butter) can be problematic.
I was a vegetarian for more than 20 years. I ultimately discovered that this diet played a large role in why I developed an autoimmune condition. Since then, I have done extensive research and made incremental shifts in my diet. Now I recommend that everyone adds animal protein, including Paleo protein powder in your diet. So let’s talk about what ingredients you want to avoid in your Paleo protein powder.
What to Avoid in Your Paleo Protein Powder
While all protein powders tout health benefits, the hidden toxins and inflammatory ingredients in many protein powders can overshadow those benefits. The truth is most protein products on the market simply do not work. Many protein powders are not from high-quality protein sources and contain GMOs, antibiotics, inflammatory ingredients, and toxins. Let me tell you about the ingredients you want to avoid in your Paleo protein powder.
Whey and Casein
Casein and whey, both of which are proteins found in cow’s dairy, are among the most common types of protein powders. Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. Dairy products such as whey protein powder are highly inflammatory for a large percentage of the population. They can cause digestive issues such as bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea.
The other problem with dairy is that cow’s dairy products are loaded with sugar, or lactose, and the proteins casein and whey. Your body cannot break down the lactose in milk if you do not have the lactase enzyme. Most people are lactose intolerant or have lactose sensitivity and do not know it.
What’s more, casein has a very similar molecular structure to gluten, which is highly inflammatory for most people and can lead to autoimmune disease. About 50% of people who are gluten intolerant are casein intolerant as well.
Gluten & Grains
Speaking of gluten, not all protein powders are gluten-free. Gluten is a protein found in wheat that’s made up of the peptides gliadin and glutenin. It is also found in many other grains such as semolina, spelt, kamut, rye, and barley. However, it can be lurking in several products you buy and may not realize it contains, including your protein powder.
In gluten-sensitive people, gluten can cause the gut cells to release zonulin, a protein that can break the tight junctions in your intestinal wall apart. Once these tight junctions get broken apart, you’re considered to have a leaky gut. When your gut is leaky, toxins, microbes, and undigested food particles — among other substances — escape from your intestines and travel throughout your body via your bloodstream. Antibodies produced by your body can escape through and attack the gliadin.
Some protein powders are made from rice as a common vegetarian substitute. These contain gluten and are not a high-quality, paleo protein powder.
Egg or egg white protein can be problematic because eggs can be inflammatory. Just as a seed (a plant embryo) protects itself with chemical defenses, so do other embryos, such as eggs. Just like a seed, eggs contain a protective enzyme called lysozyme. Unfortunately, lysozyme can be inflammatory in people with autoimmune diseases. I recommend trying an elimination diet and reintroducing eggs to see if they are causing symptoms.
Soy is a common source of vegetarian and vegan protein powder. In the U.S., soy protein is nearly always sourced from genetically modified soybeans. GMOs can cause an inflammatory response in the body. Soy is also a legume, like peas and nuts, that can cause inflammation.
Another issue with soy is that it contains chemical compounds called “isoflavones” that mimic estrogen. Too much estrogen causes reproductive difficulty in both men and women and has been implicated in cancer development in some studies.
The estrogen-like compounds in soy have been shown to increase tumor growth in animals, leading researchers to speculate that they may have a harmful effect on a developing human as well. Avoid giving an infant soy-based formula, as they are rapidly developing and are especially sensitive to hormones and hormone-like compounds.
Hemp is a vegan or plant-based choice for protein. It is not considered a complete protein because it has very low levels of the amino acids lysine and leucine which are needed to build protein in your body. Even if you eat hemp protein for every meal, you will not get the optimal amounts that you can find in a Paleo protein powder sourced from grass-fed animals.
Peas and Legumes
Just like soy protein powders, pea protein powders are often a vegetarian or vegan choice for protein. These protein powders are derived from legumes, which contribute to leaky gut. Plant proteins are digested more slowly than animal proteins, due in part to their high fiber content. This can limit the number of amino acids available for immediate use after exercise. Thus, they are less than ideal protein sources for building muscle and muscle recovery.
Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
Hidden sugars in many protein powders cause a spike in blood glucose levels and contribute to inflammation. If you have diabetes, you should avoid any protein powders that have added sugars and artificial sweeteners. Even if you don’t have diabetes, processed sugars and artificial sweeteners are toxic foods and can put you on the path toward autoimmunity. If you must have sugar, try using natural sweeteners such as stevia, coconut sugar, or monk fruit.
Heavy Metals and Toxins in Protein Powder
Many top-selling protein powders and drinks contain dangerous amounts of heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, mercury, and lead. They also contain toxins such as bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in a lot of plastic containers and food can liners. On average, plant-based protein powder contains twice as much lead than high-quality paleo protein powders.
How to Supplement with Collagen Protein Powder
The benefits of collagen protein powder extend to your skin, hair, nails, gut barrier, bones, connective tissue, cartilage, and joints. Yet not every collagen protein powder is created equal.
Collagen accounts for ⅓ of your body’s protein for a good reason – it’s vital to our body’s function.5 Collagen gives strength and elasticity to skin and provides structure and supports our muscles, tendons, bones, and blood vessels. There are 16 different strains of collagen, however the majority of the collagen found in our bodies comes from just five types – Type I, II, III, V, and X.6
Type I and III are the most abundant in the body. They specifically support your gut, intestinal barrier, skin, bones, hair, nails, and connective tissue. The others support cartilage formation and joint health.
Most collagen products on the market do not contain all five types of essential collagen. It’s why I spent the last year creating the first-ever multi-collagen protein powder formulated by a medical doctor.
It’s important to keep in mind that collagen protein is not a complete protein. Therefore, you’ll also want a complete Paleo protein powder that contains all the essential amino acids your body needs to build protein.
What to Look for in a High-Quality Paleo Protein Powder
One-third of adults over age 50 fail to meet their daily recommended allowance for protein.7 That’s frustrating because it’s so easy to ensure you are getting optimal amounts of protein each day. One convenient way to consume more protein in your diet is by replacing a meal or snack with a smoothie containing a high-quality, paleo protein powder. There are several options out there so it can be overwhelming to choose the right one.
Here is a checklist to ensure you’re getting a high-quality, paleo protein powder:
- Sourced from grass-fed, non-GMO, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free animals.
- Free of inflammatory ingredients including gluten, dairy, whey, corn, soy, grains, and legumes.
- Does not have added sugars or artificial sweeteners.
- There are no additives, preservatives, dyes, or other toxic ingredients.
- It is free of dangerous heavy metals.
The Best High-Quality Paleo Protein Powder
While all protein powders tout health benefits, the hidden toxins and inflammatory ingredients in many protein powders such as whey and casein (dairy), gluten, soy, legumes, and sugar can be counterintuitive to feeling the full benefit of the protein.
I went five years without using a protein powder because I couldn’t find one that met my dietary needs. I finally decided enough was enough and formulated The Myers Way® Paleo Protein powders!
This Paleo Protein is one of the only truly clean protein powders on the market and is sourced from grass-fed cattle. It’s already available in four delicious favors,
As with all of my Paleo Protein powders, Vanilla Bean Paleo Protein does not contain gluten, dairy, sugar, or artificial sweeteners. There are no additives, preservatives, dyes, or other toxic ingredients. All nine essential amino acids are included in Vanilla Bean Paleo Protein. Each easy-to-take serving of all the delicious flavors packs more than 21 grams of high-quality, hydrolyzed bovine collagen protein.
Protein is crucial to your overall health! It’s more than important – your body needs it! Protein is what your body is built with. What’s more, your body doesn’t make protein on its own, therefore it’s essential that you consume optimal amounts of a high-quality paleo protein powder that is free of harmful ingredients.
- 9 Important Functions of Protein in Your Body. Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD . Healthline. 2018.
- Critical Role for Peptide YY in Protein-Mediated Satiation and Body-Weight Regulation. Rachel L Batterham. Cell Metabolism, vol. 4. 2006.
- Dietary Protein and Bone Health. René Rizzoli. The American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. 2009.
- The Importance of Patients' Nutritional Status in Wound Healing. L. Russell. British Journal of Nursing, vol. 10. 2001.
- What is Collagen, and Why Do People Use It?. James McIntosh. Medical News Today. 2017.
- The 5 Most Common Types of Collagen Explained. Jessica Bippen, MS, RD. THe Wellnest. 2019.
- Protein and Healthy Aging. Douglass Paddon-Jones. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015.