In today’s #AskDrDuizer I will be answering a question submitted recently about protein powder choices. This is such an important question because so many struggle to know if they should be consuming protein powder and if so, which one of the thousands to choose from.
I have been using protein powder since I first hit the weight room at 14 years old. I was an athletic kid and needed the extra calories and complete amnio acid profile to supplement my workouts, basketball games and intense training sessions. I only wish I knew now about the different types of protein, the different quality of products available and the different additives found in so many protein supplements.
Now, as a Naturopathic Physician working with many high level athletes, people embarking on a weight loss journey, cancer patients, chronic fatigue patients, etc, I have developed an entire new understanding of the value of a high quality protein supplement.
Have you considered using protein powder to supplement your workouts? I’m sure you’ve heard it is a good idea, right?
Well, today I will answer that question, provide some recommendations about my favourite protein powders out there and clear up any misconceptions about which one to take and when.
This week’s #AskDrDuizer comes from a concerned mother looking for safety information, protein powder recommendations and dosing for her 18 year old son who is a university basketball player.
Here is her question:
Hi Dr. Duizer, Hope all is well with you. I have a question for you. Our oldest son is now 18 and in university. He is quite health conscious, lifts weights, does cardio exercises and is on the university basketball team. He has been asking about a whey protein supplement product called (brand name removed – but details about the product can be found in my response). I am not keen on him taking supplements but told him I would ask your opinion on this product, are you familiar with it?
How to Choose a Protein Powder – Dr. David Duizer ND
I understand her concern. The weight lifting/weight loss supplement industry is huge, has major marketing power and is very good at selling. It is hard to know what information is true, what products are effective and absolutely safe.
As a kid I was only trying to get stronger, bigger and faster. I wanted to be the best basketball player, track star and cross country runner my school had ever seen. I began plotting how I would improve my performance very young. Protein powder was going to be a huge part of my routine.
When I was ready to begin I just walked into GNC and asked them for their best one, believed they knew what they were talking about and went about my life. Like most people do.
From that point on I was hooked on protein powder. I thought it was 100% essential as part of my everyday routine. I made muscle gains quicker and was less sore after workouts. As I got older I would have a scoop before my workout and one after.
I had no idea what I was putting in my body. I didn’t consider the type of protein I was consuming, the source, the additives, how many grams I needed per day, etc.
I am excited to share with you what I know now in hopes that it will help you make better choices about healthy protein sources.
Here is my response to this week’s #AskDrDuizer:
I think your son is right about needing a protein supplement. The university basketball schedule can be pretty tough on the body especially with the extra weights and cardio sessions they have to do.
I was having protein shakes before I started my university basketball career but had to make sure I was having them everyday (with protein bars as well that were supplied by the team – Note: these are usually loaded with all sorts of junk) when I got started in first year. They are essential for speeding recovery (along with a few other things that I wish I had have known at the time – vitamin C, zinc and BCAA).
The brand you have named is similar to the one I was having when I was his age. Now that I know better I would choose a different one.
The reason is because of the type of protein they are using and the artificial sweeteners they have added in.
This specific brand (and many others) are using sucralose and ace-K as artificial sweeteners to reduce their sugar content without making their protein powder taste horrible.
Sucralose is simply Splenda which has been shown to not be harmful at very low doses but I still wouldn’t recommend it. There are studies showing that it can alter gut microflora and glucose and insulin levels in rats. Acesulfame potassium (or ace-K) has some research showing harmful effects on DNA in mice at high doses.
The only sweetener I would recommend as an additive is stevia. Stevia extract is a plant based natural sweetener that has been used for thousands of years with no adverse effects reported. If you can’t find a protein powder that uses stevia as a sweetener I recommend adding liquid stevia to your mixed shake starting with 2-3 drops and testing the sweetness. Some people find it has a bitter after taste at high doses but if you are adding it yourself you can reduce the amount you use to suit your taste.
The supplement in question uses whey protein (as most do) as their protein which can be difficult to digest, cause systemic inflammation and isn’t organic. They don’t say what the source is (and most don’t). Often whey protein will come from a GMO source which is also a concern for many.
Instead I would choose a brown rise or hemp protein for him. My favorite is NutraBiotic Organic Rice Protein (he would need two tbsp per serving to get the required dose of 20g per day). Based on his height, weight and age he should be getting about 100g of protein per day including from his food. This will help in recovery, muscle building and muscle energy stores.
He can make the protein powder taste better by mixing with fresh fruit, cocoa powder, coconut water, almond milk or coconut milk, etc. If he needs more sweetness make sure to choose only brands using stevia (a natural herbal sweetener) for taste.
I hope this helps. Hope all is well,
Dr. David Duizer ND
When to Use a Protein Powder Supplement:
The most important times to use a protein powder are when extra calories are needed or muscle breakdown is occurring. This can be due to intense exercise (with minimal recovery times), because a person is malnourished, is a high level athlete, or in more advanced cases suffering from cachexia as a symptom in cancer.
Protein powders can also be used in weight loss to shift the macronutrient percentages away from carbohydrates and fat and more towards protein.
How to Choose a Protein Powder Supplement:
In choosing a protein powder supplement is it wise to go with the most natural, non-dairy, unmodified, non-GMO source with the least number of additives.
The two types I recommend the most are hemp and brown rice. To speed healing and recovery adding extra Branch Chain Amino Acids, zinc and vitamin C may be indicated is specific circumstances.
How Much Protein Should I be Having:
When deciding whether a protein powder supplement is right for you it is important to know how much protein you actually need. The common calculation to to multiply 0.8 by your weight in Kg to know the amount of grams of protein you should be having.
As a former athlete and Naturopathic Doctor I have found that multiplying 1 or 1.2 by your weight in Kg to see the value of protein in grams has been more helpful for athletes looking to increase muscle recovery, muscle building and energy. For a person who weights 185lbs that would mean consuming 83-100g of protein per day.
The goal of this article is provide insight into protein powder choices. As with any supplementation one size does not fit all. Please consult your MD, ND or nutritionist before beginning any supplementation regimen.
If you have had success with protein powder in the past please feel free to share your story below!