Pure Food Is Certified Organic!

pure food certified organicBig news: both Pure Food flavors are now certified organic!

Why is USDA Organic certification a big deal?

It means each of our ingredients meets stringent USDA National Organic Program standards.

We now have credible third party verification that Pure Food 1.) Does not have chemical pesticides and herbicides like glyphosate ; 2.) Is produced without the use of bioengineering or ionizing radiation; and 3.) Only contains ingredients from farmers that use renewable resources and conserve soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations.

Did the formula change?

Nope. We always have and always will use organic ingredients. But now we can put the USDA Organic seal on the front of our package.

How do I get some?

Head over to our online shop for the best deal or get it on Amazon if you prefer.

Protein Brownies (Healthy, Low Sugar, Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free)

If you’re looking for a healthy brownie treat you don’t have to feel guilty about, you’ve come to the right place.

Now, my criteria for “healthy” is admittedly a bit more stringent than most.

So this is definitely not a sugar bomb like your typical brownie. But check out these impressive nutrition #s:

  • 247 calories
  • 10 g protein
  • 6 g fiber
  • 4 g sugar

And not only it is low in sugar, it’s free of dairy, gluten, and soy … perfect for vegan, vegetarians, and anyone with food intolerances!

Here’s the recipe:

Homemade Healthy High Protein Brownie Recipe

What’s In It:

1 cup applesauce
1 cup oat flour
~1 cup chocolate protein powder (I used 8 scoops of Pure Food Cacao Protein)
1 tsp. vanilla extract (or real vanilla bean powder if you can afford it)
1/4 tsp. salt
2 T coconut oil (divided into two 1 T servings)
optional: 1/4 crushed nuts like walnuts or pecans (I used 1/4 cup walnuts)
optional: dark chocolate chips (I chopped up 1/4 of an Alter Eco Blackout Bar for this recipe, which has 90% cacao content)**

How to Make It:

  1. To make your own applesauce, blend the 2 peeled and cored apples with 1.5 cups of water.
  2. Add the oat flour, protein, vanilla, salt, 1 T coconut oil (and nuts and dark chocolate if you go that route). Mix thoroughly.
  3. Grease an 8″ x 8″ pan with the remaining T of coconut oil. Spread the mixture evenly onto pan.
  4. Cook at 325 degrees F for 20-25 min.
  5. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours then cut into 9 bars.

Nutrition Facts (per brownie)*:

  • 247 calories
  • 9 g fat
  • 31 g carbs (6 g fiber, 4 g sugar**)
  • 10 g protein

**If you like yours a little sweeter, add a little honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, or stevia to the recipe.

Homemade Paleo Protein Bar Recipe (Vegan, Dairy Free, Gluten Free)

If you’re a clean eater, you know how hard it is to find a good healthy protein bar these days. Most contain some type of junk your body just doesn’t need: dairy, gluten, soy, sugar (in many cases, unfortunately, it’s all of the above).

My criteria for a “healthy” protein bar are quite simple. It should have:

1.) Only organic, real food ingredients, and

2.) No added sweeteners. Sugar should come from only real fruit sources like dried fruit … I don’t touch anything with over 10 grams.

If you want to make your own healthy protein bar, here’s one of my favorite recipes.

Homemade Healthy Protein Bar Recipe

What’s In It:

  • 1/4 cup organic quick cook rolled oats
  • 4 scoops raw cacao protein powder (make sure you choose a high quality vegan protein)
  • 1 cup organic nut butter (I used peanut but any nut butter will work)*
  • 1/4 cup organic pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup organic dates, chopped into small pieces.
  • 1.5 cups organic coconut cream (or 1.5 cups coconut milk powder and 3/4 cup warm water)**
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • Dark chocolate shavings (optional)***

*I recommend organic nut butters with a maximum of two ingredients: nuts and salt. If yours has other oils or added sugar, look for another brand.

**Most coconut creams have some type of gum or filler added. I prefer to buy organic coconut milk powder on Amazon and mix it with water. Native Forest coconut cream.

**I recommend an organic dark chocolate bar with 70% cacao content or higher, 5 grams of sugar or less, and no soy (you’d be surprised how many of them have it … check the ingredients list).

How to Make It:*

  1. Whip the coconut cream until smooth.
  2. Stir in the almond flour and let sit for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in almond/peanut butter, dates, salt, pumpkin seeds, and protein powder. Mix thoroughly by hand (or pulse in a food processor).
  4. Spread the mixture evenly into a pan or baking dish lined with parchment paper.
  5. Refrigerate overnight then cut into 8 bars.

*I used a mixer for steps 1-3 but you can do it by hand too.

Nutrition Facts (per bar)*:

  • 299 calories
  • 19 g fat
  • 18 g carbs (4 g fiber, 6 g sugar**)
  • 15 g protein

*I cut it into 8 bars. At ~300 calories a bar, you can cut it into 16 if you prefer something closer to 150 calories (it’s still filling too!)

**If you want to cut down the sugar content, cut back even more on the dates. To sweeten it up, add more dates or a dab of raw honey.

Low Sugar Dairy Free Protein Bar Recipe

If you’re sensitive to dairy and/or gluten, it’s darn near impossible to find a healthy, low sugar protein bar without a million additives and so-called “natural” ingredients you can’t pronounce.

But this dairy free protein bar meets all those criteria and more.

First, let’s talk about what’s not in it. These DIY protein bars are free of:

  • Dairy and animal milk ingredients
  • Gluten
  • Soy
  • Added sugar
  • Junk ingredients and additives like “flavors“, gums, and other fillers

Each bar is just over 250 calories, with 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and just 3 grams of sugar.

Try this low sugar, high fiber treat that’s perfect for people of all ages (including kids … my toddler definitely approves)!

Healthy Dairy Free Protein Bars

Ingredients

  • 2 cups oat flour
  • 1/2 cup cashew or almond butter
  • 1/2 cup cashew or almond milk
  • 5 dried dates
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 dark chocolate bar (we used Alter Eco Blackout Chocolate)
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 6 scoops all-natural plant-based protein powder (like Pure Food Raw Cacao)

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients except chocolate bar and coconut oil in a food processor. Process until mixed thoroughly, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Melt the chocolate and coconut oil together in a small sauce pan.
  3. Spread batter on a parchment lined baking sheet or pan.
  4. Top with chocolate/coconut and freeze for several hours before serving.

Nutrition (Per Bar)

*Note: This Recipe Makes ~10 Dairy Free Protein Bars

257 calories
15 g fat
10 g protein
22 g carbs (5 g fiber, 3 g sugar)

No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bites Recipe

no bake protein bites recipe

Chocolate + peanut butter. The two were definitely made for one another. And today I’m going to show you how to create something magical with those ingredients that’s actually good for you.

This healthy no bake protein bites recipe is:

  • Dairy free
  • Gluten free
  • High in fiber
  • High in protein
  • Low in sugar
  • Delicious!

It’s perfect for those of us who can’t tolerate (or choose not to eat) dairy and gluten. And best off: no cooking or baking skills required, which means it’s really simple and nutritious.

Let’s get to the recipe!

No Bake Protein Bites Recipe Ingredients

  1. 1 cup peanut butter (I used plain organic peanut butter with no salt added. Any nut butter will work though.)
  2. 3/4 cup oats
  3. 1 T hemp seeds
  4. 1 T chia seeds
  5. 1/2 dark chocolate bar (chopped into chocolate chip-sized pieces). I used Alter Eco Blackout Chocolate. In general, the higher the % of cacao is, the lower the sugar content will be.
  6. 4 scoops of Pure Food Raw Cacao Protein Powder
  7. 1 T honey (optional, depending on how sweet you like it)
  8. 1 cup water (or plant milk)
  9. 2 T shredded coconut (optional)

**Makes ~16 protein bites

How to Make the Protein Bites

  1. Put all ingredients in a food processor and turn it on for 30-60 seconds.
  2. Form the dough into balls (this recipe makes around 16 protein bites).
  3. Sprinkle with coconut, if desired.
  4. Refrigerate whatever protein bites you don’t eat right away. 😉

Nutrition Facts (Per Protein Bite)

134 calories

8 grams of fat

11 g carbs (3 g sugar, 3 g fiber)

6 g protein

chocolate protein balls

Get more healthy high protein recipes here.

How to Use Pure Food for Best Results (Healthy Smoothie and Food Recipes Included)

In this post, I’m going to show you how hundreds of others have used Pure Food to produce some pretty awesome results.

Whether you want to lose weight, put on some lean muscle, improve your energy levels, or most importantly, feel better, I’m confident the recipes and techniques I’m going to share below will help you.

There are lots of recipes in this post. I split them up between 1.) Smoothies and 2.) Food. I will continue to update it constantly, so bookmark it so you can come back if you need some inspiration!

Without further ado …

How to Use Pure Food Protein Powder in Smoothies

how to use Pure Food protein powderFirst off, use a blender for best results. The powder will mix okay on its own but it’ll taste smoother coming out of the blender.

Since Pure Food has only clean, healthy ingredients without the fillers, so-called natural flavors, and sweeteners other plant protein brands use, the taste is earthy and natural and your taste buds and gut may need to acclimate. Start with one scoop or less and work your way up from there.

Also, make sure the package is sealed between each use. We don’t use preservatives and although the product has a two-year shelf life, it’s real food, so the sooner you use it, the better it’ll taste. I keep mine in the refrigerator to preserve more nutrients (but you don’t have to).

GIVE PURE FOOD TIME TO WORK
Pure Food will help you feel better and you will experience noticeable improvements in your health if you give it time to work. 

I recommend at least 14 days to allow the probiotics time to colonize in your gut. The probiotic strain we use, by the way, has been clinically shown to boost immunity, improve gut health, and help your body digest plant proteins better.

Like any good health or fitness product (and it should go without saying), you need to make a commitment to yourself by eating cleaner and exercising if you really want to see results fast.

Pure Food Smoothie / Juice / Liquid Recipes

Here are some of my favorite smoothie and juice recipes using both Pure Food Cacao and Vanilla Protein:

Simple Chocolate Banana Smoothie

Cacao Chia Berry Blast

  • 1 scoop Pure Food Cacao Protein Powder
  • 1/2 cup frozen organic berries
  • 1 T organic chia seeds (flax, hemp, or pumpkin work too)
  • Handful of ice
  • 2 cups of water (or almond or coconut milk)

Chocolate Fat Burning Smoothie

Chocolate Meal Replacement Smoothie

  • 2 scoops Pure Food Cacao Protein Powder
  • 1/2 banana
  • 2 T organic oat flour
  • 1 T organic coconut oil
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups of water
  • Ice (start with a small handful and add more depending on how thick you like it)

Want 3 More Pure Food Meal Replacement Recipes? Grab These Free Recipe Cards

Vanilla Berry Blast

Tropical Superfood Smoothie

  • 1 scoop Pure Food Vanilla Protein Powder
  • 1/4 cup frozen mango
  • 1/4 cup frozen organic cherries
  • 1/4 cup pineapple
  • 1 tsp. fresh turmeric
  • 12 oz. water or almond milk

Strawberry Banana Green Smoothie

  • 1/2 scoop Pure Food Vanilla Protein Powder
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen organic strawberries
  • 1 handful organic greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc.)
  • 3-4 ice cubes
  • 12 oz. water or almond milk

See more Pure Food Smoothie recipes on Instagram

Food

Some of these recipes were sent to us by customers and others were created by yours truly. You’ll find tasty-yet-healthy overnight oats, protein balls, cookies, brownies … even bread for all you carb-lovers.

Some of these recipes require baking and some don’t. Cooking/high heat denatures some of the nutrients in any food, including Pure Food, so I cook with mine sparingly.

But these recipes are a nutritious way to satisfy your sweet tooth (disclaimer: they’re not going to taste the exact same as their “regular” sugar- and junk-filled counterpart). With that said, we think they’re pretty darn good.

Pure Food Solid Food Recipes

no bake protein barNo-bake Protein Balls

No-Bake Protein Bars

Protein Muffins

Protein Pudding (or Ice Cream)

Chocolate Chip Vegan Cookies

Protein Pancakes

Healthy “Brownies”

Protein Bread

If you have additional recipe ideas, questions, or comments about how you use Pure Food, please share them with me by  emailing me directly at Scott@purefoodcompany.com

Enjoy!

Scott Christ

Founder, Pure Food Co.

Best Clean Eats: Plant-based Clean Eating Food List for 2018

what is eating cleanWhen you claim to have created the world’s cleanest plant-based protein powder like I do, you better darn well know a thing or two about clean eats.

With that said, I can tell you with conviction that I have spent countless hours reading labels, doing online research, and dropping half my paychecks at Whole Foods in search of the healthiest “clean” products on the market that meet my dietary restrictions (I’m allergic to dairy and corn and avoid most products with gluten and soy too).

In this post, I will share my findings with you. You’ll discover:

1) What clean eating actually means.

2) How to spot and avoid brands posing as “clean.”

3) My 10 favorite clean eating packaged foods.

Plus as a bonus, I’ll share my clean eating grocery checklist with you.

[Get the printable clean eating grocery check list here]

Let’s start with #1 …

Clean Eating Basics

What does it mean to “eat clean”?

clean eatsI’ll be the first to admit that the term clean eating is ambiguous … enough to elicit some scathing reactions.

Like this response from one of the top writers on Quora:

It’s a vague term for faddish eating, mostly with an orthorexic bent. It has no scientific basis and, like pretty much all food fads, is rooted in a fear of modernity.

And this one from a registered dietitian published in the British Medical Journal:

The command to eat cleanly implies that everyone else is filthy, being careless with their bodies and lives. It comes with promises of energy boosts, glowing skin, spirituality, purity, and possibly immortality. But this nonsense is all based on a loose interpretation of facts and a desire to make the pursuit of wellbeing an obsessive, full time occupation.

Ouch.

I disagree with both and I’ll tell you why in a minute.

First, here’s my definition of clean eating:

A whole food, plant-focused diet that’s low in sugar and refined carbohydrates.

The body of evidence that supports the health benefits of eating this way is enormous. So maybe eating “clean” is just another label … but it’s one that I believe can be of real, tangible benefit to people who don’t know how to eat healthy (or who do but aspire to eat better).

What’s the harm in that?

To me, there are bigger fish to fry anyway …

clean eats product marketing claimsThe real problem with clean eating

One of the underlying reasons for much of the aforementioned ambiguity and debate is Big Food coming in and slapping clean eating claims on all types of unhealthy packaged foods.

For example, some of my competitors in the protein powder industry sell sugar sweetened beverages to children that are marketed as clean and “all-natural”.

Not cool.

In addition to added sugar or artificial sugar, many so-called “clean” products on the market contain mystery ingredients and fillers like gums and “natural flavors,” which are now the fourth most common ingredient on food labels.

It should come as no surprise that those clever food product marketers have found ways to exploit the “all-natural” and “clean” claims, since the FDA doesn’t regulate use of these terms.

So how do you know what’s clean and what’s not?

Well, clearly “clean” is open to interpretation. But here’s what I look for:

  1. Organic ingredients I recognize as whole, real foods.
  2. No added sugar.
  3. No refined white flour.
  4. No mystery ingredients like gums, “flavors”, and other additives that you know nothing about.

If you stick with products that meet those criteria, it’s hard to go wrong.

When in doubt, the ingredients and nutrition facts label are the two objective sources of truth on any packaged food product.

If you don’t know what something is, don’t buy it until you research the safety of the ingredients. Check out credible sources that back their claims with peer-reviewed science (like the EWGCSPI and Pubmed).

10 Best Clean Eating Packaged Food Brands for 2018

I’m not saying you need to be a vegetarian or vegan to eat clean. But the focus on my clean eating approach is plants … because 99.9% of us can benefit from eating more of them.

The clean eating food list I’m going to show you below contains foods with no:

  • Added sugar
  • Artificial ingredients
  • Allergens like soy, dairy, gluten, and corn
  • Animal products
  • Highly processed ingredients posing as “natural” (e.g., flavors, gums, and other additives)

Eden Organic: I love their organic canned beans and tomatoes. They have some solid clean eating recipes on their website too. Eden was one of the first companies to use BPA-free cans too! Many of their products are now available on Amazon.

Malk: Their unsweetened almond and cashew milk are the only ones I have found without gums, fillers, and additives. Here are the ingredients in the almond milk: organic almonds, Himalayan salt, filtered water. Use their Store Finder to see if it’s available near you.

Nutiva: Great source for organic coconut oil and hemp seeds. Here’s the Store Locator. Most of their products can be found on Amazon as well.

Nature’s Intent: This is my go-to source for organic chia seeds. I get mine in bulk at Costco or Amazon.

Simply Organic: Seasonings and spices without fillers and other junk. Their recipes page has some tasty-looking ideas.

Bragg Organic: Bragg apple cider vinegar, “liquid aminos” (non-GMO, lower sodium soy sauce), coconut aminos (soy free), and nutritional yeast are staples in my clean eating recipes.

Bob’s Red Mill: They sell a variety of whole grain flours and baking products. I love their organic rolled oats. You can get most of their products on Amazon.

Trader Joe’s: TJ’s is a great place to stock up on nuts, seeds, healthy oils, fresh and frozen produce, and organic, gluten-free, non-GMO grains and pasta. Try the Organic Brown Rice and Quinoa Fusilli Pasta.

Banza: Love their chickpea pasta, which is gluten free, high in protein, and delicious. Available on Amazon too.

Alter Eco: Ok, this one has a little added sugar … but if you’re driving yourself insane trying to eat clean 24/7, this is a guilt-free indulgence to help satisfy those sweet cravings in a responsible manner. 😉 Alter Eco’s dark blackout chocolate is dairy-free, has 4 simple, organic ingredients, and contains 85% cacao for a healthy dose of antioxidants. It has just 6 grams of sugar per serving (a Snickers bar has 20 grams of sugar, for comparison’s sake). They also sell other chocolates, coconut truffles, quinoa, and rice.

Clean Eating Shopping List

These are the staples I stock up on every week:

clean eating foods list
Get the printable version of the clean eating checklist here

Final Thoughts About Clean Eats

Hopefully this provides some inspiration and ideas to help you find cleaner products. It hasn’t been easy in the past but now you’re starting to see a lot of brands jumping on the clean eating bandwagon … and I think that’s a good thing.

Minimally processed foods with ingredients you can pronounce are generally (but not always) healthier.

If you have questions or want to share your favorite clean eating foods and/or packaged products, leave a comment below.

And don’t forget to hit those share buttons on the left if you found this post helpful. 🙂

Pure Food Healthy High Protein Muffins Recipe

One of our awesome Pure Food customers Traci shared this Pure Food protein muffins recipe with me and it was too good not to share.

Traci hails from Naw’lens, Lousiana (I bet people from New Orleans get annoyed with that real quick). She says she whipped up these healthy muffins as a cleaner, healthier alternative to beignets.

I made a few modifications with the ingredients I had on hand that I noted below (I still included the original recipe though).

Best part is, this high protein muffin recipe is nutritious. It’s low in sugar, high in fiber, and is soy, dairy, and gluten free … pretty awesome!

Here’s the ingredients and instructions:

Pure Food High Protein Muffins Recipe Ingredients

healthy high protein muffins ingredients1 scoop of Pure Food Vanilla Protein Powder (note: I added 2 scoops)

2 cups of old fashioned oatmeal

1/2 cup of egg whites

1 banana

2 Tablespoons of hemp seeds

2 Tablespoons of chia seeds

2 Tablespoons of unsweetened coconut flakes

1 Tablespoons of light agave (note: I used organic coconut sugar)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (note: I used whole vanilla bean powder)

A pinch of pink Himalayan salt (note: I used plain sea salt)

How to Make the Muffins

  1. vanilla protein healthy muffinsMash one banana in a large bowl. Add one scoop of Pure Food Protein powder Vanilla. Stir.
  2. Add Agave (or coconut sugar), Vanilla, Hemp seeds, Chia seeds, and Coconut. Stir.
  3. Add two cups of oatmeal. Stir.
  4. Add egg whites to form a solid dough. Stir.
  5. Sprinkle sea salt.
  6. Take muffin pan. Spray with coconut oil. Create little muffins by rolling dough in your palms. Drop in muffin pan. Bake 8-10 minutes at 380 degrees. (note: I added about 5 minutes of cooking time since my muffins were larger. If you do 8 smaller ones stick with 8-10 minutes and see if they’re done).** 

Keep refrigerated after baked.

If you want them heated, heat them in microwave for 3 minutes at 20% power.

**I made 4 large muffins and ate one as a post-workout snack. As you’ll see below, if you go that route you get a solid 345 calories, 10 grams of fiber, and 19 grams of protein!

Here’s the final product …

gluten free muffin recipes

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 345

Carbs: 46 grams

Fiber: 10 grams

Sugar: 6 grams

Protein: 19 grams

Fat: 11 grams

Check out my other high protein recipes for more inspiration. And if you have a Pure Food recipe you love, please share it with me by replying to this post or shooting me an email at Scott@purefoodcompany.com!

My Simple Green Smoothie Recipe with Protein Powder

I don’t know what it is about green smoothies but whenever I drink them, I feel better.

Maybe it’s the flavanoids.

Maybe it’s the polyphenols.

Maybe it’s the fiber.

There’s something about those magical, mystical green plants that produces amazing results. And there’s plenty of science to back that up for you skeptics out there.

The fact is, eating and drinking more green vegetables can help with nearly every chronic health condition and disease imaginable.

Enter green smoothies … the easiest way to get your daily dose of greens, all in one (sometimes) delicious dose.

But parsley and kale juice can get old fast. Sometimes you just want your green smoothie to have a little more substance. In those cases, adding a scoop of plant-based protein powder can help your green juice or smoothie pack a more powerful punch.

Why Do You Need Protein in Your Green Smoothie?

You don’t. But here’s why I add some once in a while … because the benefits of protein are well documented in clinical studies. Protein has been shown to:

Most adults get enough protein. But older adults and those who exercise may find it hard to eat enough to maintain lean muscle mass … especially those who follow a plant-focused diet.

That’s where a good protein powder comes in.

Protein powder can complement your green juice or smoothie by helping improve the flavor and adding a boost of muscle and bone boosting (or preserving) goodness.

However …

Not All Protein Powders Are Created Equal

Many powders have added sugars, additives, and fillers. There are various side effects associated with each. Kinda defeats the whole purpose of drinking a healthy green smoothie, if you ask me.

Now, I am admittedly biased because I created my own protein powder … but Pure Food is the only plant-based protein powder with 100% plant-based, organic, real food ingredients + probiotics.

That’s why it’s the absolute best protein powder to use with those green smoothie recipes … because you’re adding real food ingredients instead of a bunch of fillers, gums, and natural flavors.

But I digress.

Let’s get to the recipe already!

Ingredients: Green Smoothie Recipe with Protein Powder

simple green smoothie ingredients

1/2 lemon

1 pear

2 large kale leaves (stems removed)

1 stalk celery

1 scoop Pure Food Vanilla Protein Powder

1 tsp. spirulina (optional … spirulina is an awesome superfood but definitely makes it more “green” tasting)

Water (depends on how thick you want it … see below for my recommendation)

**I recommend using all organic ingredients. Especially organic pears and celery, both of which show up on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of foods most contaminated with pesticides.

How to Make My Green Smoothie Recipe

  1. Wash all vegetables and rip the leaves off the kale.
  2. Toss everything in a blender or juicer, fill with water to the 24 oz. line, and blend on high.
  3. Add ice cubes to taste.

Here’s what the final product looks like:

green smoothie with protein powder recipe

protein juicer recipes

The nutrition stats are pretty solid. This recipe is bursting with vitamins and minerals!

Nutrition

Calories: 201

Carbs: 38 grams (8 grams of fiber)

Protein: 14 grams

Fat: 2 grams

Final Thoughts

You can substitute the pear for most fruits. Understand that some fruits (pineapple and mango, for example) will be on the sweeter side. I know it’s sugar from fruit, which is obviously better than added sugar … but I recommend limiting your sugar content to maintain optimal body composition.

If you like a little more sweetness, add a little organic stevia … or raw honey if you’re splurging. Just not too much, because it is sugar! 😉

If you like this green protein smoothie recipe, subscribe to my email newsletter to get more just like it.

Benefits of Protein Powder

Even mentioning the word “protein powder” can stir up heated debates among doctors, nutritionists, athletes, vegan/vegetarians, and everyone in between.

Protein powder, some say, is a magic bullet that can help you look like this if you’re a man …

benefits of protein powder

Or this if you’re a woman:

best protein shake for women

In this article, I’ll dispel the myths and misconceptions … and break down the latest and greatest science of protein powder. I’ll  answer your most common questions I get on the topic, such as:

  • What exactly is protein powder
  • How is it made?
  • How much protein do you need?
  • Do you really need a protein powder supplement to lose weight and/or gain muscle?
  • How/when should you consume protein powders for optimal health?
  • What are the benefits and risks of various types of protein powder sources?
  • How do you choose the best one for you?

Without further ado, let us begin …

What Is Protein and Protein Powder?

Proteins are organic molecules made up of amino acids (the building blocks of life). Protein helps build, maintain, and replace the tissues in your body. Your muscles, organs, and immune system are made up mostly of protein.

Protein powder is a powdered form of protein (duh).

What Happens When You Eat Protein

When you eat protein, your stomach uses its acid and enzymes to break it down into those “building blocks” we talked about (amino acids).

what are bcaasThe most important of the amino acids for building lean muscle and losing fat are called BCAAs, or Branched Chain Amino Acids.

Together, the three BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) account for as much as 33% of muscle tissue. Here’s a brief overview of each: 

  1. Leucine is arguably the most important BCAA because there’s clinical evidence that shows it helps your body synthesize protein.
  2. Isoleucine is the second BCAA. It can help your body regulate blood sugar levels and ensure your muscle cells are metabolizing sugar (instead of fat cells).
  3. Valine is the third branched chain amino acid. Based on current research, it’s the least important BCAA for body composition (it’s also the least-studied).

Protein powders can come from plant or animal sources, each having a different make-up of amino acids.

Different Types of Protein Powders (and Their Benefits and Risks)

There’s some intriguing science about the most common types of protein powder sources that we’ll explore a bit further …

Whey Protein

whey protein powder safetyAs mentioned, whey protein has been studied more than any other protein powder. A quick search of “whey protein powder” on PubMed brings up close to 400 studies to date.

While you can certainly find studies like this one that showed no link between whey protein and body composition, the overall body of evidence seems to suggest that whey works for building muscle. 

A meta analysis (a review of a group of studies) published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition looked at 14 clinical studies including a total of 626 adults and concluded that whey protein powder has favorable effects on body composition (and is even more effective when combined with resistance training).

However, there are some side effects associated with whey protein, particularly for those with sensitivities and allergies to dairy.

And one study found that high protein diets from animal-based sources may lead to kidney disease. The researchers cautioned against eating too much protein from animal sources like whey.

Casein Protein

Casein is a slower digesting form of milk-based protein. Casein is often marketed as a “superior” protein source.

However, one study showed that casein did not have any noticeable differences on body composition, strength, and power and agility compared to whey.

Casein has a few major flaws as a protein source too. This study found that it promotes the growth of prostate cancer cells.  And since it’s milk-based, it’s probably not a good choice if you’re sensitive to dairy.

Brown Rice Protein

brown rice protein woman weight lossRice protein is a plant-based protein powder used by vegans, vegetarians, and people who can’t tolerate dairy products like whey and casein. In one study published in the journal Nutrition, researchers found that rice protein had similar effects on body composition as whey.

In other words, there was no difference between the group of subjects that took rice protein and the one that took whey protein; both experienced positive body composition changes.

One of the main complaints you’ll hear about rice protein is it’s high in potentially toxic heavy metals like arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury.

While it’s true consuming high amounts of some of these metals can lead to negative health effects, heavy metals are in all plants that grow in soil. Here’s a quote from Jon Barron’s well researched article on the topic:

In summary, don’t have a knee jerk reaction to the label “heavy metals.” (Both calcium and iron are technically heavy metals.) Yes, obviously, when it comes to “toxic” heavy metals, less is better than more. But the issue is far more nuanced than a simple label–or even numbers on a chart for that matter. You have to factor in whether or not the element actually has any “proven” toxicity (tungsten has no demonstrated toxicity), whether it’s organic or inorganic (organic arsenic is virtually ignored by the body), and whether it’s bound or unbound (bound cadmium has only 2-6% absorbability).

Yes, many plant-based protein powders have tested high for heavy metals.

That’s why it’s up to you as the consumer to ask the manufacturer of your protein powder what their heavy metal contents are, especially if they use rice protein (if they won’t share those numbers, it’s a big red flag).

And choose a rice protein from organic brown rice to avoid ingesting potential chemical pesticides and herbicides.

Pea Protein

organic pea protein benefitsPea protein is another popular plant-based source of protein. It’s becoming increasingly prevalent in vegetarian / vegan / dairy free powders for several reasons:

  1. It’s generally lower in heavy metals than rice protein.
  2. It’s a “complete” protein source that contains an impressive BCAA profile.
  3. Pea protein powder is among the most hypoallergenic of all protein powders, as it contains no gluten or dairy.
  4. It’s easy on the gut and doesn’t cause bloating, a common side effect of many other protein powders from animal sources.

Again, organic pea protein is always a safer choice (albeit a more expensive one).

Soy Protein

Soy protein is another popular plant-based protein powder. Most men should avoid it because it contains isoflavones and phytoestrogens that share similarities with estrogen.

It’s often extracted using hexane, a petroleum-based solvent … and most soy from comes from genetically modified (GMO) soybeans.

However, according to several studies, soy protein may have body composition benefits for older women.

One study showed that a daily supplement of soy protein prevented increases in subcutaneous and total abdominal fat in older women. Another showed soy protein had a mild effect on body composition in elderly women.

One caveat: whey has been shown to be more effective than soy for improving lean body mass when combined with resistance training. So if lean body mass is your goal, you may want to consider other protein sources than soy if you’re using a protein powder.

How Is Protein Powder Made?

Protein powder processing methods depends on the type of protein and the company making it.

Whey Protein Processing

how is whey protein madeMost commercial whey protein powders are made using a high-heat, acid-flushed, “ion exchange” process to separate the whey from the cow’s milk. This can strip away vital nutrients, creating an imbalanced, acidic “whey isolate” that’s then contaminated with synthetic additives, flavors, and chemicals to make it taste like something resembling food.

So why do companies use it?

Because processing protein with acids is cheaper, of course.

If you decide a whey protein supplement is best for you, I recommend choosing one that’s organic, from grass-fed cows, and raw or cold processed.

Ask the manufacturer how it’s made before you buy it and spend a few bucks more on an acid-free, organic product … it’s worth it.

What if you can’t tolerate milk-based products or prefer plant-based proteins though? How are those processed?

Plant Protein Processing

Many of the supposedly-healthy plant proteins used in supplements and packaged foods today are processed using hexane, a petroleum-based neurotoxin. Using hexane is an efficient and highly profitable way for food manufacturers to remove oil from plants and separate the protein.

If you decide a plant protein powder is a better option for you, look for plant-based protein powders that are cold processed and “enzymatically sprouted,” which means all-natural enzymes are used rather than chemicals to separate the protein from the plant.

Also, sprouting grains used in plant-based powders (e.g., rice, pea, amaranth) increases many of the plants’ key nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, fiber, and essential amino acids often lacking in grains, such as lysine. Sprouted grains may also be less allergenic to those with grain sensitivities.

Who Should Take Protein Powder?

best protein for womanProtein powder is most commonly associated with athletes and people who are active … but it may be beneficial to everyday Joes and Janes too if you’re not getting enough protein (more on that in a minute). Here are a few reasons why:

  1. For healthy adults, low protein diets can lead to weight gain and increased fat mass.
  2. Eating more protein can help increase levels of the hormone glucagon, which helps control body fat.
  3. Eating protein can help strengthen bones as you age.

So How Much Protein Do You Need?

It depends on several factors:

  1. How much muscle you currently have. The more muscular you are, the more amino acids your body needs to maintain your current body composition. If you don’t know your body composition and want to make real, measurable improvements to your health, go see a personal trainer who offers body composition analysis so you can get a “baseline” of where you’re currently at.
  2. Your activity level. The more you move, the more protein your body needs.
  3. Your age. The older you get, the more protein your body needs to maintain its muscle.
  4. Your hormones. If your body has high levels of growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), it will use protein more efficiently than someone with low levels. These hormones decrease as you age, which is one of the reasons why older adults need more protein.

So back to the original question: how much protein do you need?

The current recommendation for protein intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram (or around 0.36 grams per pound) of body mass in generally healthy adults.

However, this protein intake recommendation is only to prevent protein deficiency and maintain nitrogen balance in the body (a negative nitrogen balance indicates that muscle is being broken down and used for energy).

It’s not necessarily optimal.

Studies show that athletes, active people, and older individuals may require even more protein (1.4 – 2.0 g/kg of body weight).

does protein powder workIn a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers compared muscle development in three groups of athletes on the same exercise routine but with different protein intake levels.

One group was given 1.4g/kg of body weight, the second group received 1.8g/kg of body weight, and the third group got 2.0g/kg of body weight.

The researchers found that 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight was sufficient to see favorable changes in body composition in athletes.

Non-athletes and particularly older adults need at least 0.8 g/kg per day to help preserve current levels of muscle (or “lean body”) mass.

So to recap:

  • Athletes need at least 1.8 g/kg of bodyweight [For a 150-pound person, that’s 122 grams of protein per day].
  • Older adults and non-athletes need at least 0.8 g/kg of bodyweight [For a 150-pound person, that’s 54 grams of protein per day].

When Should I Take Protein–Before or After a Workout?

If your goal is to lose body fat and increase lean body mass (muscle), then the answer is both.

In a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, researchers concluded the following:

High-quality protein dosed at 0.4–0.5 g/kg of LBM at both pre- and post-exercise is a simple, relatively fail-safe general guideline that reflects the current evidence showing a maximal acute anabolic effect of 20–40 g

That’s 27-34 grams of protein both before and after a workout for a 150-pound adult.

Couple other interesting things the study authors noted:

  1. Despite claims that you need to take protein immediately (within 1 hour) after a workout to maximize gains, evidence-based support for such an “anabolic window of opportunity” is far from definitive.
  2. Even minimal-to-moderate pre-exercise high-quality protein taken immediately before resistance training is capable of sustaining amino acid delivery into the post-exercise period. In other words, eating protein before your workout may have more impact.

Long story short, eat a little protein before and after a workout if building muscle and/or losing body fat is your goal.

What is the Best Protein Powder?

“Best” is an ambiguous term. The best protein supplement for you depends on your age, your health goals, and a number of other factors.

Here are a few common things to consider:

  • What protein powders get absorbed by your body best?
  • What are the benefits and risks of all the ingredients in your protein powder?
  • What protein powders do not cause digestive distress (gas, bloating, etc.) when you take them?
  • What type of protein is best for your unique health needs (losing muscle, building fat, etc.)?

For me personally, I choose packaged products with only organic ingredients I can pronounce … that have no/low sugar and have some dietary fiber.

As you can see, choosing a protein powder is a highly personal decision though.

For most people, the potential benefits of protein powder outweigh the risks if your diet is lacking in protein and/or you want to improve your body composition.

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