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The Real Deal with Protein Powders

The Real Deal with Protein Powders

It's a new year and as we make resolutions to eat a more healthy diet, there's no doubt that Protein Shakes will be incorporated into many of our diets. But beware, Protein powders may sound and look healthy, but one thing’s for sure: not all protein powders are created equally. In this article, we’ll be breaking down the nutritional makeup in protein powder, some concerns about protein powder, and what to look for when shopping for protein powders. 


Protein powders can either be made from an animal source or plant source. Typical animal sources include eggs, or whey or casein protein from dairy. Plant-based sources include split peas, soy, brown rice, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, and hemp. 

One serving of protein powder generally packs in 20-25 grams of protein, and most protein powders are low in carbs and fat. Protein powders are great to have by themselves or to boost a low-protein meal. 

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein for a healthy adult with a minimal physical activity level is currently 0.8 grams of protein per 2.2 pounds of body weight per day. If you weigh 150 pounds, that would amount to 55 grams of protein per day. In that case, a serving of protein powder would take care of over 1/3 of your protein needs. However, protein requirements should be adjusted based on your activity level and age. If you strength train or are an athlete, you may want to consider upping your protein at 1.4 to 2 grams per 2.2 pounds of body weight; if you’re over 65 years old, 1 to 1.2 grams per 2.2 pounds of body weight is recommended. 


Like anything you buy in the grocery story, reading the ingredient list is a must. As it turns out, with protein powders, it’s oftentimes a long one. Protein powders often include artificial sweeteners, vegetable oils, and additives.  

  • Artificial sweeteners: aspartame, saccharin, sucralose
    •  Can cause migraines, increase risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome
  • Vegetable oils: canola oil, safflower oil, grapeseed oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil 
    • These oils are high in Omega-6 fats which can contribute to inflammation 
  • Additives: artificial colors, monosodium glutamate (MSG), Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), caffeine, creatine 

Particularly in regards to sugar, certain protein powders contain as much as 23 grams per scoop.  For reference, the American Heart Association recommends a limit of 24 grams of added sugar per day for women and 36 grams for men. 

Unlisted “ingredients” are equally important. A test by the Clean Label Project in 2018 found that 75% of the 134 protein powders contained measurable levels of lead, cadmium, and bishpenol-A (BPA), with one product having over 25 times the allowed limit. Lead and cadmium can cause permanent health concerns such as kidney and brain damage, while BPA is a known endocrine disruptor. 

Lastly, too much of something is not good for optimal health. So make sure to treat protein powder as a supplement to a healthy diet, not a replacement for one. 


Different people may feel better on different types of protein powders, whether it be hemp, rice, or whey. It’s important to experiment with trusted brands and take notice of how they make you feel. If you’re bloated or gassy after having it, it may not be the best source for you. 

Choose a protein powder that has as few ingredients as possible, with protein listed as the first ingredient. Our favorite protein powder brand is Truvani, which has only five plant-based ingredients and comes in six flavors: Vanilla, Banana Cinnamon, Chocolate, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Protein + Energy, and Protein + Greens. Their vanilla protein powder only has 2 grams of sugar per serving, with the sugar source being monk fruit sweetener, which is derived from the juice of monk fruit. Truvani was started by Vani Hari (also known as “Food Babe”), who has been fighting for transparency in the food industry. Truvani tests each ingredient – before it even gets to the facility. Then, their formula is tested in-house and later sent out for 3rd-party testing. 

Below is a chart comparing typical protein powder to Truvani (from the Truvani website). 



If you’re incorporating protein powder in your diet, here are a couple ideas:

  • Protein Smoothie. Blend together: 1 cup milk of choice, 1 frozen banana, 1 ½ cups spinach, 1 scoop protein powder, 1-2 tbsp nut butter or chia seeds, handful of ice. 
  • Protein Pancakes. In your favorite pancake recipe, simply add a scoop of your protein powder. You may have to add a little more liquid to adjust. Cook per instructions.
  • Cookie Dough Protein Balls. In a bowl, mix 2 scoops of protein powder, 1 cup almond meal, ½ cup nut butter, ¼ cup maple syrup. You can also add some chocolate chips, cinnamon, chia seeds. Scoop dough into palms of your hands and roll into balls. 

If you choose to protein up, we hope this article helped give some insight as to what to look out for!