Whenever I step foot into a gym these days, I always see people religiously downing protein shakes.

Protein supplements are so ingrained in the 21st century gym culture, that it truly is difficult to justify ending a workout without consuming some type of shake or protein supplement.

Chances are however that you may not necessarily know a huge amount about your protein supplement ingredients, how you can use the supplement to maximize your results in the gym or even if you bought the right one.

By the time you are through, you will become the protein powder expert in your social circle; shocking your friends and salespeople, next time you visit the sport nutrition store. 

1. Your protein powder might be masquerading as a weight gainer 

Protein powders are not created equally.

Certain concoctions of powders in the supplement world are known as mass gainers. A mass gainer is essentially a powder that includes proteins, carbs and fats. 

When picking a protein powder, a person should be diligent to never accidental purchase a mass gainer instead. 

The reason is that mass gainers contain a shocking amount of unnecessary calories. These extra calories, over time can turn into a spare tire around your waist. 

When buying a protein powder make sure it is low fat (1-3 grams is acceptable), low carb (1-8 grams is acceptable) and has a higher protein count (20-30 grams per serving).

2. The total amino profile is very important 

There are two different categories of amino acids that you should look for when buying a protein product. They are BCAA and EAA. BCAA stands for Branch Chain Amino Acids, and EAA stands for Essential Amino Acids. 

BCAA’s are your muscle building amino acids. These include Leucine, Valine and Isoleucine. Leucine is vital for stimulating protein synthesis (aka muscle growth and recovery). 

Because of how expensive leucine is, protein powders with added leucine – like this one by Legion Athletics – are even better choices. 

3. Grass fed whey is not worth the extra penny 

Milk protein from livestock treated with antibiotics and drugs may not be as bad as some people claim. There is scientific evidence however pointing to the fact that it may increase the risk of disease in humans (9).

Studies have proven that the more grass cows eat (instead of other types of crap they are given), the more nutritious their milk and beef is (10).

The filtration process of whey does a good job of eliminating a lot of crap. That being said, if your budget allows, I would urge you to opt whey that comes from cows that have been grass fed and raised without antibiotics or the use of hormones.

4. Where Protein falls on the ingredient list is vitally important 

The majority of protein powders in stores, contain more than one type of whey. 

They’re usually a blend of whey protein isolate (WPI), whey protein concentrate (WPC) and whey protein hydrolysate (WPH).

Top tier whey protein powders must list WPI or WPH as their first ingredient.

If a product lists whey protein concentrate first on the ingredients list, followed by whey protein isolate and/or whey protein hydrolysate, or even has those 2 further down the list, it could potentially be a major rip off.

5. Filler percentages need to be low 

Filler can best be thought of as: any substance that is non-protein. Therefore, flavouring ingredients or additional carbs and fats would fall into this category. 

With any protein powder, a little filler must be present. However there is a range. 

Crappy products lean toward the >50% filler range, while better ones are filtered and manufactured in a way so as to minimize filler (<5%).

If a product has a high yield percentage and an excellent BCAA to EAA ratio, it is makes mathematical sense that the filler must constitute only a small portion percentage of the overall protein powder mass. 

6. Whey protein isolate (WPI) is the best bang for your buck 

Whey protein isolate is more expensive than whey protein concentrate because it is purer, contains more protein, less fat and lactose, per serving.
High quality isolates comprise 90+% protein while whey concentrates comprise about 65-85% protein. And just think… if a protein is only 50% protein by weight, what does the remaining 50% consist of?
Unfortunately, it sometimes remains a mystery, as unhealthy fillers are startlingly present in the supplement industry.
Whey protein isolate provides the least amount of fillers and most amount of high quality protein, which is what makes it the obvious and clear winner.

7. Cross flow micro-filtered is the absolute best way to manufacture protein

The CFM processing method uses a low temperature microfiltration technique that allows for the creation of extremely high protein contents (>88%), very low fat and lactose levels, the retention of vital nutrients, with virtually 0 levels of un-denatured proteins.

This process results in a more expensive product that is extremely high quality. If your budget allows it, I recommend finding an WPI powder with this mechanism of separation and preparation.

The best way to find it is too look on the ingredients label where it will have in brackets CFM.

8. Your protein powder should be free of, or contain, limited amounts of artificial sweeteners 

There is some evidence to suggest that the regular consumption of artificial sweeteners may be harmful to your health.

You would do best to stay with naturally sweetened protein powders if your budget allows for it.

9. Your protein powder should taste delicious (or at the very least, good)

Often times, when venturing into the treacherous landscape known as supplement stores, one will see a massive, mini fridge sized tubs of protein powder (usually on sale) that proclaim “mouth watering taste” or “deliciously good!”.
However after indulging your first sip, your first thought becomes: deliciously good compared to what? Sometimes the product in question is so inedible and repulsive that it tastes somewhat expired.
If you miss a meal simply because your protein powder tastes like vomit, you are getting zero value from your protein powder – no matter how cheap it was. So make sure that you purchase something you can stand; because in the long run your body, tongue and wallet will thank you many times over.

10. Beware the MSG lurking in your protein

MSG is often used to hide the natural bitter flavor of whey. The safety of MSG consumption is the subject of continuous scientific debate and research.

That being said, recent research demonstrates that some people can experience intolerable symptoms upon ingesting it. Furthermore when ingested in higher dosages MSG has the potential to be neuroactive in the brain.

My advice: Stay clear of MSG products.

My Recommendation

After going through probably 150+ brands of protein powder I can honestly say I have only found one that has met all my guidelines – Whey+ by Legion Athletics.
It’s 100% whey isolate, with no fillers, and comes from a private farm in Ireland to ensure purity. It’s also created using CFM techniques to keep the protein stable, and tastes delicious wthout artifical flavors.
If you are going to pick up any protein powder, it should be this one.

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