Paleo protein powders…where do I begin? Just the phrase “paleo protein powder” seems to contradict itself, considering the fact that processed foods are not considered paleo in the slightest. So what gives? Recently, many of these new companies and products have been popping up and increasing in popularity, but I have to ask: should they deserve the recognition of being ‘paleo friendly’? Let’s find out.
Most protein powders are made from whey or casein, which is no new information to anyone who has used protein drinks and powder supplements before (especially since it says it right on the packaging). Another bit of information that is common knowledge in the health and fitness community is that both of these ingredients (whey and casein), are made from milk. Out of all the protein in cow’s milk, 20% is whey protein and 80% is casein protein, just in case you were curious.
In general, the paleo diet excludes all dairy. In short, this is because lactose (the sugar found in dairy) causes extreme spikes in insulin levels that increases inflammation, dairy contains active cow hormones which alter human hormone levels when ingested, and it can cause a leaky gut, just to name a few (for more information on why dairy is excluded in a paleo diet, check out this post on ThePaleoMom.com.) A percentage of people involved in the paleo movement do allow grass-fed organic butter in their diets, because they feel that the fat found in dairy is extremely nutrient dense, and the positive nutritional aspect outweighs any negatives associated with the lipids in dairy (my favorite paleo guru who endorses grass-fed butter consumption is Stacy from PaleoParents.com).
With all that said, why would anyone who makes an effort to follow such a nutritious diet as the paleo diet willingly spend ridiculous sums of money on protein powder, especially those derived from whey or casein??
Protein powders and other similar “dietary supplements” are a joke…they are a way to squeeze unreasonable amounts of money out of people for a completely unnecessary product. They claim to be the fastest-absorbing protein, which is why body builders and athletes flock to the protein-shelves at their gyms, but in reality the protein in these supplements can take 1-3 hours to absorb on an empty stomach, which is not much faster than egg or chicken protein absportion. There are plenty of quick and easy sources of protein in whole-food form. If you want an easy and fast absorbing form of protein for immediately after your workout, hard boil a couple of eggs and throw them in a lunch box with an ice pack, and they will be waiting for you in the car for after your “gym sesh”…bam! Just as easy as making a protein shake and it tastes way better anyways. Real food is always better than man-made alternatives.
But, if you are driven by unyielding curiosity about “paleo protein powder,” check out this post on the Paleo Hacks website written by Casey Thaler. I’ve listed below some of the products he mentioned in the post.
Paleo Protein®: The new kid on the block is actually mainly sourced from egg protein, not dairy. While in theory this sounds better, you have to begin to think about where those eggs are coming from, and how they are processed. Are they pasture raised? Not likely.
Are they processed through damaging high heat methods? Likely. As you will come to see in almost all protein powders, an artificial sweetener, in this case, Stevia, is present.
Stevia is has been scientifically proven to augment insulin release from islets incubated in the presence of 7.0 mM D-glucose. So – despite the fact that you aren’t consuming sugar, your body still somewhat reacts like you are. Not a good thing. Overall though, if you have to select a protein powder, this is a solid choice.
MHP’s Paleo Protein®: Another somewhat new product is MHP’s. An interesting wrinkle in this product is the use of ‘hydrolyzed beef protein isolate‘ as the main protein source.
Now was this beef grass fed? Where did it come from? How was it processed?
The answers to these questions are not likely going to be favorable. We are also getting maltodextrin (processed corn starch), emulsifiers (a small truckload) and an artificial sweetener (Stevia). Whole9 has an excellent write up on why these ingredients are bogus. Thumbs down on this one.
Reserve Age® Organic Grass Fed Whey: This is the next one our list, and if you’re looking for a whey protein powder, this is actually an excellent source. Real food is still better, but their protein is minimally processed, undenatured, and grass fed. There also almost no other ingredients. Don’t forget the problems with dairy, but choose this if you want the effects (and detriments) of whey.
Mark Sisson’s Primal Fuel®: This is another interesting product. Going with coconut milk as an interesting addition to the typical protein powder formula, the rest of the mix is less favorable, loaded with sugar, maltodextrin and guar gum. Original formula, if not entirely ideal. Worse choices for sure, but why not just have a can of coconut milk and a piece of chicken?
Progenex®: This is a very popular ‘recovery’ powder. Despite it’s widespread popularity in the CrossFit® community, Progenex is probably the worst formula available, since it contains fructose, sucrose and soy. The epitome of why eating some chicken and a sweet potato are preferable, post-WOD.
Casey is a NASM certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, as well holding a bachelor of arts degree in the field of film production. He runs a nutrition and fitness consulting company called Eat Clean, Train Clean.
In summary: skip the protein powder and stick to whole-food sources of protein. Eggs, chicken, fish, meat…batch cook up some chicken breasts and keep them in the fridge for post-workout. Easy and much cheaper than buying these unnecessary protein products!