Your Protein Powder is Ka Ka: Find Out How To Buy The Right One

Your Protein Powder is Ka Ka: Find Out How To Buy The Right One

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Who remembers that abominable snowman, Hugo, from Bugs Bunny? He is this massive snowman that means well, but doesn’t realize he is doing harm when he thinks he is doing good. “I will hug him, and pet him and squeeze him” until Hugo has squashed and nearly killed whatever it was that he was holding.


Our food manufacturers (a figurative “Hugo”) have taken the idea of powdered food supplementation a little too far. What started out as a body builder’s method of getting a little extra protein in the 1950s, has now blown up to, shelf upon shelf, of bucket-sized vats of protein with questionable ingredients and contaminants.

“I will hug it (and add crappy preservatives), and pet it, (binders and fillers) and squeeze it (queue chemical sweeteners.)” Like many other processed foods on the shelves, protein powders and supplements fell right into the abominable snowman’s clutches.

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HIGHLY PROCESSED: I am going to make this very simple. The more you process, the more heat is typically applied. Protein doesn’t like heat. It denatures which means its natural characteristics are destroyed rendering it less effective or absorbable. “It’s biologic activity is diminished or eliminated altogether.” ( 

PRESERVATIVES: Maltodextrin, Soy Lecithin, and Xanthan Gum are just a few preservatives used in most protein powders. Soy, or soy lecithin, is just generally bad because of the processing it takes to produce it. Picture soy floating in a bath in Hexane. Yum! The other two preservatives mentioned cause digestive issues like gas and bloating and may contribute to leaky gut.

GMO: Yes, unfortunately, many protein powders have GMO ingredients. Why you do not want to eat GMO food is a discussion for another time, but trust that it is not good for you. Think organ damage, GI disturbance, Immune disorders, accelerated aging and infertility to name a few issues that can come from exposure to GMOs. When researching GMOs in protein powders I found this guy. He did a great write up on “The Best and Worst Whey Protein Powders To Buy.” Check it out

ALLERGINS: Many protein powders are made from egg, soy, whey or wheat products. It is likely that if you suffer food allergies one of these four is on your list. The issue is that this product is processed and concentrated exposing you to more potential allergen than if you were just eating real food. In addition, statistics reveal that most protein powder users ingest more than the recommended serving. Bam. That’s like mainlining something your allergic too. Your body “no likey.” Teen boys are the worst offenders. They are impressionable, hormonal and still growing and because they want to look all buff they are taking 3-5 times the suggested serving size of these powders thereby massively increasing their risk to allergens, and the toxins and heavy metals listed below.

ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS: Aspartame is bad. If that is news to you, I welcome you to our planet. Often, so manufacturers can tout being “low or no sugar”, they add artificial sweeteners so you will consume more of their product and end up back at super supplements quicker than you can say “whey smoothie.”

UNREGULATED: This one is my biggest complaints. Do you realize that once labeled protein powder is never required to be tested for content again? No one is checking to see if what that label says is in the product, actually is in the product. Worse, if there are any additional ingredients like toxins or metals that may have slipped in unnoticed during processing, no one will know. I always recommend “pharmaceutical grade” supplements which means a supplement is batch and lot tested regularly and held to a much higher standard. Protein powders have no such regulation and trust me, the producers are ecstatic to have no one looking over their shoulder. Pavle Jovanovic, an Olympic bobsledder, sued a protein powder company for containing undisclosed substances. He had tested positive for a banned substance he had not taken. When he realized he had switched out protein powders a couple of months before being blood tested, he had the new product independently reviewed.  The banned substance showed up. What else is in there, I wonder?

HEAVY METALS: Not kidding. Several independent studies have been done to demonstrate that, sadly, many over the counter protein powders contain heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. The testers stated that we would come in contact with occasional trace amounts of metals with our normal food intake, but these recorded levels were not “trace”, and were not acceptable. If you want to read more on that study, click this LINK

[Tweet “You really don’t want to eat that. “]





VEGA PROTEIN – ALL IN ONE NUTRITIONAL SHAKE: This is a readily available option that comes in tons of flavors and is vegan. It is also non-GMO and comes in great little travel pack size if you need it. It is gluten-free and sugar-free and has a good price point. I can taste it in my smoothie (unlike Vital proteins), but it is not unpleasant like the chemical laden powders mentioned above. 20 Grams per serving. VEGAN, NOT PALEO

SUN WARRIOR – WARRIOR BLEND: This is a delicious protein powder packed full of tons of nutrients and has a great taste. It is organic and made from coconut, goji berry, and pea protein, so it is also vegan and gluten free. 20 grams per serving. VEGAN, NOT PALEO.  

PUMPKIN SEED PROTEIN – OMEGA NUTRITION: One of my absolute favorites. The ingredients list is a little long, but here it is… PUMPKIN SEEDS…yup. It is why I love it so much. Simplicity at its best. It is also organic, no sugar, no gluten (obviously) and it is PALEO. 9 grams per serving (servings are very small comparatively) and VEGAN and PALEO 

COLLAGEN PEPTIDES – VITAL PROTEINS: Definitely my favorite. I love a product that gets as close to the whole food as possible with the least amount of processing. This product is just pasture raised, grass fed, happy moo cow. It is made up of short-chain amino acids that are easy to digest and absorb. I also love that this stuff is so completely tasteless. You can add it to anything, and it will not change the flavor. This is a doubly beneficial supplement to be taking because many of us are collagen deficient (see below). Also, WHOLE30 declared Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides “in the club” so if you are whole thirty here is your protein powder. 18 grams per serving and PALEO.

Why are we deficient in collagen? We used to eat “whole animal”. That means we got more of the skin, tendon, and bone. Not to be gross. But now we insist on a boneless breast of chicken and perfect steak filets. Guess what? No collagen. Very important to be seeking ways to add this back into your diet. 

CLICK THE LINKS ABOVE TO PURCHASE: Please help support my continued blog writing efforts by using the links within this post to buy product and services. The price never changes for you (in fact often I can pass on a discount) but your click allows me to continue putting out great and relevant content. Thank you for your support.

[Tweet “Did you know your protein powder might have arsenic??”]

So my good friend, Hugo, from the beginning of our story has squished any goodness out of most of the protein powders that are on the shelf. The best way to find a quality product is to look for whole food, non-GMO, organic,  and fewer ingredients in your protein supplement and consider one of the above links to get started.

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20 Responses

  1. This is such a great article! I totally agree with you, most protein powders are crap. I use SFH and I love it. No crappy ingredients! I’m also about to order from vital proteins, so I’m glad you added that. Great info, thanks!

  2. I was relieved to see that my protein powder is on your not ka-ka list, although I figured it would be. I use Vega, and just today I tried a flavor that I hadn’t had before: coconut almond. Love it and all their products!

    1. That is one thing I really like about them. They have some delicious flavours. I would alternate it with the “less ingredients” ones (Pumpkin or vital proteins) just to give your body a change now and then.

    1. Now you do Agne. I hope you enjoy one of the ones that I suggested. Let me know what you think. 🙂

  3. It’s so crazy how many yucky ingredients are in stuff that’s supposed to be good for you. I’ve tried the Vega, and I like it, but I’d love to try some of the others. Thanks for the suggestions!

  4. When I was in high school and working our every day, I would take a little bit of protein after practice. I don’t honestly remember the brand, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had a lot of the harmful additives you talked about. It’s crazy to think of what you could be ingesting if you don’t read the labels! I love how short the Pumpkin Seed powder is, hahah. Short and sweet and natural 🙂

    1. Isn’t that funny. I know. I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the ingredients. They are a really nice company too!

    1. I love them! But being Paleo I have to watch out for Pea Protein which is in almost everyone. that and rice protein. That is why I like the pumpkin and the Vital Proteins one. 🙂

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About Dr. Denniston

Dr. Denniston is a wellness strategist for elite leaders and their teams, bridging the connection between personal well-being and professional success. She provides custom solutions for burnout and stress and facilitates cohesive habit-training strategies that maximize vitality, productivity, and resilience.

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