Nutrition Man preparing his post workout protein shake taking a scoop of c

Published on August 18th, 2014 | by Healthy Gay Lifestyles

Are Protein Powder Supplements Safe?

by Terry Shanahan

Protein powders and meal replacement supplements are the most popular nutritional supplements on the market! Our society is fixated on looking for shortcuts to health, wellness, beauty and any possible way to achieve a better body with less work.

Through the media and billions of dollars in advertising, we have accepted protein powders as a “healthy” alternative to eating real food and an acceptable supplemental method to get the nutrients that we need.

There is hard science to validate the consumption of protein and amino acids immediately following a workout. Unfortunately, there are very few protein powders that are truly safe and that should be considered healthy!

At the end of the day protein powders are processed foods and have many of the same negative attributes as other processed foods in the Standard American Diet.

Here are some of the major concerns with consuming protein powders:

Antagonistic to the Immune System:

  • Soy Protein: many protein drinks are full of soy. Soy is indigestible and allergenic due to the fact that it is one of the least digestible of all legumes. Also, most of the soy produced today is genetically modified (GMO) and also has undergone pesticide applications.

Antagonistic to the Endocrine System:

  • Non-organic dairy has rbGH in it (growth hormone), and this synthetic form of growth hormone can be antagonistic to hormone-dependent cancers like prostate, breast, and colon cancers. There has been very definitive information published about the dangers of synthetic growth hormones in the animal products that we consume. Whey protein powders often fall into this category.

Overloads the Body With Unnecessary Toxins:

  • Heavy metals: some popular and best selling protein powders have been shown to be contaminated with cadmium, lead, and arsenic, all of which are extremely toxic to your body.
  • Non-organic means “GMO” and also contaminated with other toxic pesticides: It is pretty well accepted that eating pesticide residues is unhealthy. But what about GMOs? Are they really unsafe? The answer is that many high-quality animal/GMO studies suggest that they cause allergic reactions and even infertility. So they are definitely a problem for animals. What about for people? Do the results from the animal studies translate to a problem for people? We will find out… they did not do long-term safety studies on GMO plants and products before they started growing them and putting them into most of the food products people purchase! Apparently WE are the long-term test subjects in a potentially very ugly, certainly unethical, uncontrolled experiment. A decade or two from now we will have a much better idea as to exactly how bad GMOs are for us.
  • GMO’s further explained: The problem with GMOs is that there is no “clean-up” afterwards or way to go back to a pre-genetically modified agro-ecosystem. Once these genes are in the environment they cross-pollinate and perpetuate themselves. If you are interested in learning more about GMOs and their safety (or lack thereof) go to www.responsibletechnology.org to see what the sciences says. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (a group of high-quality functional medical doctors) have come out as against the use of GMOs due to the lack of long-term risk assessment and the so far bad results that have been seen in animal studies.

Filler Ingredients:

  • Maltodextrin and other refined sugars: These often come from GMO corn and are hard on your liver and can rapidly change or negatively impact blood sugar.
  • Potentially toxic sugar substitutes: For those powders that are sweet but low in carbs we run into the problem of toxic artificial sweeteners like, Aspartame, Acesulfame Potassium and Acesulfame K.
  • Artificial colors: At best they attract people to eat more and more processed food – that is why they are in there – they are attractive to children and adults alike! At worst they have been linked to hyperactivity in children and some of the artificial colors are linked to cancer.

There are More Acceptable Options

With all this being said, you are probably wondering if there any protein powders that are safe and healthy? The short answer is “yes”, but they are never as good for you as real food. Your first choice for sufficient protein and nutrients needs to come from properly raised animal proteins, vegetables, and fruit.

If you have to use a protein powder supplement, look for the protein powders that don’t have the bad stuff listed above. Look for powders that are organic, come from grass fed cows, and raw milk that is unprocessed. It is also crucial to look for products with the least amount of ingredients such as minimum of fillers, colors, preservatives, and other junk. Look for quality control that guarantees no GMOs, heavy metals, and such.

One product that is among the best options that I have found is Right Whey Protein by DaVinci Laboratories of Vermont.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and none of the information in this blog should be construed as medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease, ailment, or medical condition.

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Terry Shanahan is a Functional Diagnostic Nutritionist student, Certified Metabolic Typing Advisor, Certified CrossFit Coach, Entrepreneur, Paleo Nutrition advocate & coach. He has a passion for wellness, performance, & personal development. Check out his website at www.theshanahanplan.com.


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