Your Protein Powder — What Ingredients To Look For
We really are what we eat (and digest!) and we should all be eating plenty of protein.
That’s because proteins are the building blocks for our entire bodies! Eating sufficient amounts of this essential nutrient is key for optimal health. After all, protein supports and fuels your immune system, your muscles, and your connective tissue, just to name a few areas. In fact, it is responsible for most of what happens in your cells.
However, many of the more common protein powders are actually highly inflammatory. They can even be loaded with sugar, artificial sweeteners, or other toxic ingredients! This can be particularly alarming for those of us with autoimmune issues. In fact, let’s face it—they’re not good for anyone!To help you discover the right Paleo protein powder for you, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about protein. I’ll also discuss which ingredients to avoid in your protein powder, and how to find a clean, high-quality source. Hint: you’ll want to check out my new Cookies and Cream Paleo Protein powder and my Collagen Protein Powder.
What is Protein?
Proteins are long chains of amino acids. There are over 20 different types of amino acids that can be combined to form a protein molecule. The specific sequence of these amino acids determines the protein’s structure and function. Your muscles and all your organs including your heart, eyes, stomach, and even your skin are constructed from these different sequences.
What Do Proteins Do in Your Body?
Proteins serve as your antibodies that fight viruses and bacteria. They also function as enzymes that carry out most of your body’s chemical reactions. They also assist in the formation of new molecules.
Protein molecules also have a role as messengers, transmitting vital signals throughout our bodies. They help coordinate different processes between cells, tissues, and organs. Finally, protein molecules form our body’s very structure and provide support, allowing us to move!
Our bodies require complete proteins to build and repair every single structure at the cellular level. You need protein daily to correctly and efficiently perform these tasks. Our bodies cannot generate the nine essential amino acids that make up a complete protein. We must get them from the food we eat.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is one type of protein. It is not a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids. Instead, collagen protein is 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. Most people don’t get enough collagen in their diet. A high-quality collagen protein powder can make all the difference in maintaining optimal health.
Beef-Based Protein vs.Vegan Proteins
It’s so important to supplement our diets with Paleo protein powders and collagen protein powders if we cannot guarantee a daily intake of clean, grass-fed, or wild-caught protein. Protein is what we’re made of! 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 big role in why I developed an autoimmune condition. Since then, I have done extensive research and made a big shift in my own diet. Now I recommend that everyone adds animal protein, including Paleo protein powder, and collagen protein powder in your diet.
What to Avoid in Your Protein Powder
While all protein powders tout health benefits, the hidden toxins and inflammatory ingredients in many protein powders can overshadow them. Many protein powders and collagen protein powders are low-quality and processed with solvents and harmful chemicals. Frankly, problems abound with most products on the market today.
Whey and Casein
Whey and casein, both of which are derived from dairy, are among the most common types of protein powders. Dairy and 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 problem with dairy lies in the sugar, or lactose, and the proteins casein and whey. Our bodies cannot break down the lactose in milk if we do not have the lactase enzyme. Casein is a protein with a very similar molecular structure to gluten. About 50% of people who are gluten intolerant are casein intolerant as well.
Gluten & Grains
Gluten is one of the top two foods to avoid. Not all protein powders are gluten-free. Gluten contributes to a leaky gut which then leads you down the path to autoimmune disease. It can even prompt your immune system to attack your own tissues.
Grains can cause leaky gut. Therefore, they are also on the list of foods to avoid if you have an autoimmune condition. While rice protein powder is a common vegetarian substitute, it is not a Paleo protein powder.
Egg or egg white protein can be a problem 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. The enzyme, called lysozyme, is inflammatory to people with autoimmune conditions, so eggs are on the list of foods to toss.
Soy is a common source for protein powder. In the US, 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.
Hemp is a vegan or plant-based choice. Hemp is not considered a complete protein because it has very low levels of the amino acids lysine and leucine. And it doesn’t make for a Paleo friendly protein powder!
Peas and Legumes
Like soy protein powders, pea protein powders are derived from legumes, which contribute to leaky gut — a major culprit in autoimmunity. 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 source for building muscle and muscle recovery.
Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners
Hidden sugars in many protein powders or collagen protein powders cause a spike in blood sugar and contribute to inflammation. They also unnecessarily increase caloric intake. Many protein powders and collagen protein powders on the market contain sweetener substitutes that we know we should avoid.
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 some plastic containers and food can liners. On average, plant-based protein powder contains twice as much lead than Paleo protein powders. It also contains measurably higher amounts of other contaminants.
What to Look for in a High-Quality Protein Powder
Make sure your protein powder meets the following criteria:
- Sourced from grass-fed, GMO-, hormone-, and antibiotic-free animals
- Free of inflammatory ingredients including gluten, dairy, whey, corn, soy, grains, legumes
- Free of sugar or artificial sweeteners
- Free of additives, preservatives, dyes, or other toxic ingredients
- Free of dangerous heavy metals
The Perfect Way to Supplement with Collagen Protein Powder
The benefits of collagen protein extend to your skin, hair, nails, gut barrier, bones, connective tissue, cartilage, and joints. Yet not every collagen protein powder is created equal.
To get the most of your collagen supplement, use a collagen protein powder that is pure type I and III collagen. These types of collagen are the most abundant in the body. They specifically support your gut, intestinal barrier, skin, bones, hair, nails, and connective tissue.
Collagen protein is not a complete protein. Therefore, you’ll also want a complete protein supplement that provides the benefits of muscle-building and repairing from essential amino acids.
The Perfect Way to Supplement with Paleo Protein Powder
To optimize protein synthesis, and muscle growth and repair, ensure your protein intake from branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). The BCAAs valine, leucine, and isoleucine are essential amino acids. These have been reported to help support intestinal development and immune response.
The best source of BCAAs are animal proteins. I recommend including a variety of organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed meat in your diet in addition to Paleo protein powder. Paleo, hydrolyzed beef protein powder is dairy-free, gluten-free, and an excellent supplemental source of protein and BCAAs.
I created my own Paleo protein powder, sourced from non-GMO, hormone- and antibiotic-free, grass-fed beef. It is completely free of inflammatory ingredients including gluten, dairy, and nuts, and it’s 3rd-party tested for heavy metals. My Paleo protein powder is perfect for everyone, especially those following an autoimmune, high-protein or Paleo diet.
The Myers Way® Paleo protein powders contain 21-26 grams of protein per serving. There’s a variety of flavors including Double Chocolate, Vanilla Bean, Mocha Latte, Salted Caramel, and the new Cookies and Cream! This Paleo protein powder makes a delicious morning protein shake or smoothie.
Now you can confidently enjoy healthy, clean Paleo protein powder and collagen protein powder. Enjoy the peace of mind that comes from including gluten-free, dairy-free, and low-carb varieties of protein in your routine!