Tag Archives: protein

The Effect of Sleep on Muscle Growth, According to Science

How many hours would you say you sleep in an average night? If you answered 7-9, the National Sleep Foundation says you’re doing pretty well.

Around 40 percent of us get less than 7 hours though.

If building lean muscle mass is important to you, your lack of shut-eye may be a bigger problem than you think. Let’s dig a bit deeper into what the science says about the effect of sleep on muscle growth.

effect of sleep on muscle growth
This is exactly what I look like when I sleep.

Not getting enough sleep inhibits your ability to grow muscle

Research shows that being sleep-deprived can actually encourage loss of muscle mass and hinder muscle recovery after a tough workout. Sleep deprivation can have major effects on athletic performance too, especially for endurance athletes.

Lack of sleep affects your ability to grow and repair muscle regardless of your age.

One study showed that a week of sleep deprivation in otherwise healthy young men resulted in decreased testosterone levels and increased spikes of cortisol, a stress hormone. Furthermore, cortisol levels may stay elevated until the following evening when you don’t get enough sleep.

Another study found that from ages 30 to 40, the total amount of growth hormone secreted during a 24-hour span decreases by two-to-three times. So for all you thirty-somethings, you already have biology working against you … don’t compound it by thinking you can get by on 4-6 hours per night (a common range among my more ambitious friends).

Finally, there’s a connection between shorter periods of sleep and weight gain leading to obesity. So even if you’re healthy now, as you age, not getting enough sleep can catch up with you.

If you’re having trouble falling asleep, check out this step-by-step guide to falling asleep. If you have trouble staying asleep (like me), here’s a helpful resource.

There’s a silver lining in all this though …

Getting ample sleep encourages muscle growth

While it’s clear that being under that 7-9 hour threshold may negatively impact your muscle gains, getting some extra rest is a proven way to encourage more muscle growth.

In one sleep extension study, a group of researchers instructed six basketball players to get as much extra sleep as possible following two weeks of “normal sleep”. The researchers found that these athletes exhibited faster sprint times and increased free-throw accuracy at the end of the sleep extension period (as well as decreased fatigue and improved mood).

The same group of researchers conducted another study in which swimmers increased their sleep time to 10 hours per night for 6–7 weeks. These athletes showed improvements in 15 m sprint time, reaction time, turn time, and overall mood.

But you don’t need to sleep for 10 hours a night to see improvements. Getting in that 7-9 hour range is what’s most important.

During those weeks where 7+ hours just isn’t going to happen because of other circumstances going on in your life, there are a couple things you can do, according to science:

  1. Take a nap. Athletes suffering from some degree of sleep loss may benefit from a brief nap, which can decrease your likelihood of muscle loss.
  2. Eat some protein (or drink a protein shake) before bed. Eating protein before bed may help your body recover from a workout faster.
Here’s the bottom line about the effect of sleep on muscle growth: if you focus on getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night, you will build more lean muscle and decrease muscle deterioration after age 30.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep!

Compare 20+ of the Best Plant Protein Powders By Ingredients, Nutrition, and Cost

compare plant protein powders reviews

When it comes to choosing a plant protein powder, it’s a highly individual affair.

Your age, activity level, health goals, pre-existing conditions, and budget all play a part in determining the best plant-based protein powder for you.

For our reviews, we analyze objective criteria like nutrition, ingredients, and cost.

Note: We do sell our own organic plant-based protein powders. That’s why our goal is to show yo how our products compare to the competition when it comes to: 

  1. Protein Sources
  2. Nutrition (calories, protein, and sugar per serving; sweeteners used)
  3. Ingredients (gums, flavors, fillers used; organic ingredients)
  4. Cost

How We Review Plant Based Protein Powders 

The nutrition facts label and ingredient list are the only objective pieces of information you have to judge most protein powders. 

Here are 5 things we typically look at: 

1. Sugar content

Sugar is sugar. It all turns to fat in your body. So anytime you see added sugar, in your protein powder it’s a red flag.

Bottom line: Avoid protein powders with added sugars. 

2. Artificial sweeteners

Many plant proteins contain chemical sugars like saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose. Xylitol is a cheap, processed “sugar alcohol” that can cause serious gut imbalances.

If you see any of those sweeteners, you may want to consider another option. But protein manufacturers are notorious for sneaking so-called “all-natural” sweeteners that may not be so good for you into their products.

If you like your protein a little sweeter, stick with organic monk fruit (luo han guo) or organic stevia extract. 

Bottom line: The best plant based protein blends use organic, real food ingredients and all-natural (or no) sweeteners … not fillers and junk.

3. Other “filler” ingredients (flavors, gums, fillers, etc.) 

Here are a few ingredients you’ll find in the majority of the so-called healthiest protein powders:

  • Natural flavors. Up to 90 percent of “natural” flavors have chemical solvents and preservatives. If you see them on the ingredients list, make sure you ask the manufacturer how they’re made and what’s in them. 
  • Gums. Many so-called clean plant protein powders contain gums like carrageenan, guar, xanthan, locust bean, konjac, and acacia. Gums make vegetable protein products easier to mix and blend … but there are some reasons for concern with some of them. Many people report gut issues and certain gums have been shown in clinical studies to produce laxative effects, gas, and bloating. I recommend people with sensitive guts and GI issues avoid protein powders that have gums.

best vegan protein powder
This is why it’s so hard to find a healthy protein powder–you have to cut through a lot of b.s. to find the hidden junk.

Bottom line: Avoid vegan protein powder with flavors and gums, especially if you have a sensitive gut.

4. Organic ingredients sourced from the U.S. or Canada

Is organic protein powder better for you?

Not from a nutrition standpoint, but if the ingredients in your vegan protein powder are not organic, chances are it’s sprayed with pesticides, and most of these powdered vegetable ingredients come from countries outside the U.S., where regulations may not be as strict.

Pure Food is one of the only plant protein powders on the market that is USA-grown and USA-produced!

Plant Protein Powder Reviews and Comparison Chart

In this section, we’ll share reviews of 20+ vegan proteins and help you compare some of the most popular plant protein brands. Let’s start with the reviews … 

Plant Based Protein Powder Reviews

Plant Protein Comparison Chart (Nutrition, Ingredients, Protein Content, and Cost)

Use our plant protein comparison chart to compare nutrition, sugar content, ingredients, protein source, and cost for 20 brands. 

Click/tap the numbers below to skip to each section.

1

Protein Sources

pure food protein
Organic fermented pea protein Organic sprouted and fermented whole grain brown rice protein Organic hemp protein
PlantFusion Chocolate Pea protein isolate, artichoke protein, organic sprouted amaranth, organic sprouted quinoa
Vega One Pea protein, sunflower seed protein, pumpkin seed protein
Aloha Chocolate Organic pea protein, organic pumpkin seed protein, organic hemp seed protein
Skoop Chocolate Organic pea protein, organic rice protein, organic hemp protein
SunWarrior Warrior Blend Chocolate Organic pea protein, organic hemp protein
Orgain Organic Protein Powder – Chocolate Organic pea protein, organic brown rice protein, organic chia seed, organic hemp protein
Garden of Life Organic Chocolate Protein Organic sprouted brown rice protein
Sprout Living Pea protein isolate, hemp protein powder, rice protein concentrate
Lifetime Life’s Basics Pea protein concentrate, organic brown rice protein concentrate
MRM Veggie Elite Chocolate Mocha Pea protein concentrate, organic brown rice protein concentrate
Body Ecology Fermented Chocolate Protein Shake Pea protein, mushroom protein blend
Healthforce Organic sprouted brown rice protein, organic hemp protein
Kachava Organic sprouted brown rice protein, organic hemp protein
Yuve Pea protein isolate, rice protein concentrate
Philosophie Organic hemp seed protein, organic reishi mushroom
Sann Pea protein isolate, rice protein isolate, artichoke protein
22 Days Nutrition Organic pea protein, organic flax, organic sacha inchi
Growing Naturals Chocolate Power Rice Protein Organic brown rice
Boku Organic brown rice, organic cranberry
2

Calories, Protein, Sugar (g) Per Serving and Sweeteners Used

 
Calories
 
Protein
 
Sugar
 
best vegetarian powder
134
20
1
Organic stevia leaf powder
PlantFusion Chocolate
120
21
1
Monkfruit, Stevia
Vega One Chocolate
140
20
2
Stevia leaf extract
Aloha Chocolate
150
18
4
Organic coconut sugar Monk fruit extract
Skoop Chocolate
150
20
1
Organic stevia extract Organic coconut sugar
SunWarrior Warrior Blend Chocolate
100
17
0
Erythritol Organic rice dextrins Organic stevia extract
Orgain Organic Protein Powder – Chocolate
150
21
0
Organic stevia extract
Garden of Life Organic Chocolate Protein
90
17
1
Organic stevia leaf
Sprout Living
110
19
1
Organic red banana Organic baobab fruit Organic stevia leaf powder
Lifetime Life’s Basics
134
22
5
Fructose Xylitol Stevia
MRM Veggie Elite Chocolate Mocha
130
24
0
Stevia extract Monk fruit extract
Body Ecology Fermented Chocolate Protein Shake
110
15
1
Stevia extract
Healthforce
100
17
2
Organic whole stevia leaf
Kachava
220
24
8
Erythritol Oligosaccharides Stevia
Yuve
155
16
2
Stevia leaf extract
Philosophie
55
10
0
Organic mesquite
Sann
116
21
1
Fructose Stevia
22 Days Nutrition
100
16
2
Organic stevia leaf extract
Growing Naturals Chocolate Power Rice Protein
120
25
3
Organic brown rice syrup solids Organic stevia
Boku
120
18
4
Vermont maple syrup Organic lucuma fruit
3

Free of Natural Flavors & Gums/Thickeners

FREE OF NATURAL FLAVORS
FREE OF GUMS/ THICKENERS
PlantFusion Chocolate No (natural chocolate flavor) No (silica, xanthan gum)
Vega One Chocolate No (natural chocolate flavor) No (xanthan gum)
Aloha Chocolate
No (xanthan gum, organic sunflower lecithin)
Skoop Chocolate No (organic flavor, natural flavor) No (organic acacia gum)
SunWarrior Warrior Blend Chocolate No (organic chocolate flavor blend) No (organic guar gum)
Orgain Vegan Protein Powder – Chocolate No (natural flavor, organic natural flavors) No (organic guar gum, organic acacia gum, xanthan gum)
Garden of Life Organic Chocolate Protein No (natural chocolate flavor, natural vanilla flavor)
Sprout Living
Lifetime Life’s Basics No (natural chocolate flavor)
MRM Veggie Elite Chocolate Mocha No (natural chocolate mocha flavor) No (konjac gum, guar gum, tara gum)
Body Ecology Fermented Chocolate Protein Shake No (natural cocoa flavors with other natural flavors) No (natural cocoa flavors with other natural flavors)
Healthforce
Kachava No (natural chocolate flavors) No (alkalized cocoa, xanthan gum, guar gum)
Yuve No (natural flavors) No (corn starch powder, guar gum, xanthan gum)
Philosophie
Sann No (natural flavor) No (glycine, guar gum, lecithin)
22 Days Nutrition No (organic chocolate flavor) No (organic chocolate flavor)
Growing Naturals Chocolate Power Rice Protein No (organic flavor) No (organic guar gum, organic gum arabic, organic sunflower oil)
Boku
No (organic guar gum)
 
4

Organic Ingredients, Probiotics Added and Cost Per Gram

Organic Protein Sources
Probiotics Added
Cost Per Gram
protein powder review
Bacillus coagulans
0.06
Bacillus coagulans
0.06
PlantFusion Chocolate No No
0.04
Vega One Chocolate No No
0.05
Aloha Chocolate No No
0.08
Skoop Chocolate
Lactobacillus plantarum Lactobacillus bulgaricus
0.11
SunWarrior Warrior Blend Chocolate
No
0.06
Orgain Organic Protein (Chocolate)
No
0.02
Garden of Life Organic Chocolate Protein No
Bacillus subtilis Lactobacillus bulgaricus
0.04
Sprout Living
No
0.07
Lifetime Life’s Basics No No
0.04
MRM Veggie Elite Chocolate Mocha No No
0.03
Body Ecology Fermented Chocolate Protein Shake No
Lactobacillus, Saccharomy ces, Bifidobacterium longum
0.10
Healthforce
No
0.06
Kachava No
Lactobacillus rhamnosus Lactobacillus acidophilus
0.08
Yuve No No
0.08
Philosophie
No
0.11
Sann No No
0.07
22 Days Nutrition
No
0.11
Growing Naturals Chocolate Power Rice Protein
No
0.06
Boku No No
0.09

 

 

Final Thoughts: What Is The Best Plant Based Protein Powder?

“Best” is subjective and depends on your unique health goals and needs. If you value ingredients and nutrition over taste, then the criteria for finding the healthiest protein powder are pretty simple:

1. Look for ingredients that are organic and come from whole food sources you can pronounce without any sugar and additives like fillers, gums, or flavors.

2. Find out the amount of protein per serving, the protein sources, sugar content, and cost per serving in grams. 

Is Pure Food Protein a Good Fit for You?

Here’s me being (probably too) honest: if you’re looking for the best tasting plant protein powder, Pure Food isn’t it. We don’t add sugar, artificial junk, and chemical-ridden flavors to make our product taste better.

But if you’re done settling for “average” protein powders and the junk ingredients that wreak havoc on your body and want to try a product that will actually have a positive impact on your health (and the world), then give Pure Food a try. We offer a money-back guarantee, so there’s nothing to lose!

Not only does Pure Food have the best ingredients, it’s the best value for the money at $.06/gram (the same price as Vega, which is NOT organic and has all types of fillers, additives, and “natural” flavors).

Try Pure Food Protein Now Save

Get Our FREE Google Sheet Comparing Cost, Ingredients, and Nutrition for 30+ Plant Protein Powders

 
 
 

Whey vs Plant Protein: Benefits, Side Effects, Risks, and Myths

Whey vs. plant protein: it’s a topic of much debate. In this article, I’ll break down the science and tell you about some of the pros and cons of each you may not have known about.

First, a quick story …

One of my favorite ways to exercise over the last 25 years has been resistance training. In my teens and twenties (I’m 40 now), after every workout I’d choke down a whey protein shake.

I’d always feel super bloated afterwards. And by the time I reached my thirties, my gut was a complete mess. I saw countless doctors, including several GI specialists, and spent some time in the hospital trying to figure out what was wrong with me.

In addition to discovering I had an autoimmune condition called reactive arthritis caused by a food borne pathogen (salmonella), I learned I was one of the 65% of people who can’t digest dairy properly. Yet I was exposing my gut to dairy-derived whey and casein protein powders on a daily basis for years!

Now, as someone who studies food science and reads clinical studies in his free time, I know this story is anecdotal. It’s just one example that doesn’t lend much credibility to the plant vs whey protein argument.

However, once I started digging into the science, I found that while whey may be an effective source of protein for some, for others it may be doing more harm than good.

So in this article, we’ll look at:

  1. What whey protein is and how it’s made.
  2. The potential benefits, risks, side effects of using whey and plant proteins.
  3. The criteria I recommend when choosing protein powders.

Click on each button below to navigate to each section.

 

What Is Whey Protein?

Milk contains two types of protein: casein and whey. Whey is found in the watery portion of milk. When cheese is produced, the fatty parts of the milk coagulate and the whey is separated from it as a by-product.

Q: Is Whey Protein Vegan? 

A: No, whey comes from cows so it’s therefore not vegan.

Whey Protein Benefits

Whey is a well-absorbed source of protein that’s very useful for hitting targeted daily protein goals.

Its benefits include muscle gain (in conjunction with resistance training), limiting muscle loss during low-calorie diets, and modestly limiting fat gain during periods of excessive calorie intake.

These effects aren’t exclusive to whey protein but it will likely be more effective than most other protein sources per gram.

Whey Protein Side Effects, Drug Interactions, Dangers, and Risks

Harvard Medical School says that one of the possible side effects of dairy-based proteins like whey is digestive distress.

People with dairy allergies or trouble digesting lactose can experience gastrointestinal discomfort if they use a milk-based protein powder.

A 2020 research review published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism said:

Chronic and without professional guidance use of whey protein supplementation may cause some adverse effects specially on kidney and liver function.

Another study found that long-term high protein diets, particularly those high in meat and dairy protein, led to increased incidences of:

  • Bone and calcium homeostasis disorders.
  • Renal function and liver disorders.
  • Cancer.
  • Coronary artery disease.

As mentioned above, up to 65 percent of people are lactose intolerant, and obviously if you have a known allergy or sensitivity to milk or milk products, you should avoid whey protein powder.

Whey Protein Drug Interactions 

Whey protein may interact negatively with certain drugs, including:

  • Albendazole (Albenza). Avoid using whey protein if you are taking this parasite-killing drug. The supplement might delay or hinder the drug’s effects.
  • Alendronate (Fosamax). Use of whey protein with this drug used to prevent or treat osteoporosis might decrease absorption of the drug.
  • Certain antibiotics. Use of whey protein with quinolone or tetracycline antibiotics might decrease your absorption of the drug.

Whey Protein Myths

The biggest whey protein myth you’ve probably heard often is that whey is more effective for improving our body composition (losing fat, building lean muscle).

The common argument is that whey is more “bioavailabile” than plant protein, a scientific term used to describe the extent to which a substance is absorbed in your body.

Here are three standard measures of bioavailability:

  1. Biological Value (BV), which measures how efficiently your body uses protein, doesn’t take into account several key factors that influence digestion and interaction with other foods.
  2. Protein Efficiency Ratio Value (PER), which measures the effectiveness of protein based on animal growth, has only been demonstrated in animal studies—which means it doesn’t necessarily correlate to humans.
  3. Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAA) is a measure created by the World Health Organization (WHO) to more accurately measure protein digestibility in malnourished people.

It’s true most plant proteins have PDCAA scores far below whey’s perfect 1.0. But plant proteins can be combined to create amino acid digestibility scores just as good as whey.

  • A 2021 study found that whey and plant protein were equally effective in supporting lean muscle gains.
  • A 2019 study showed similar body composition improvements after taking whey and pea (plant-based) protein for 8 weeks.

Contrary to popular opinion, whey protein is not better than vegan protein for weight loss either.

Examine.com offers up this conclusion based on clinical studies:

The influence of whey protein on weight per se is highly unreliable, and is subject to the overall context of the diet. Protein in general can aid weight loss attempts and is required to build lean mass, with whey not having any demonstrated benefit over other protein sources.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23107546

https://examine.com/supplements/whey-protein/#effect-matrix

Plant Protein Dangers

So plant protein powders like rice, hemp, pea, and soy must be better for you, right?

Not necessarily.

Some are actually worse.

Here’s why:

  1. Many of the supposedly-healthy plant proteins used in foods today are processed using hexane, an explosive chemical neurotoxin that can damage your central nervous system. Using hexane is an efficient and highly profitable way for food manufacturers to remove oil from plants.
  2. Vegan protein powders that aren’t made with organic ingredients are likely to contain potentially harmful pesticides and herbicides. Since most of these plant proteins come from countries where pesticide use is not enforced, your healthy protein shake is more likely to be a chemical cocktail.
  3. Most vegan, gluten, and dairy free protein powders are made using high temperature processing methods, which destroys the healthy nutrients in the plant and makes it harder for your body to digest.
  4. Plant protein powders are higher in heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and arsenic than dairy-based proteins.

The Final Verdict: Whey Vs Plant Based Protein

Here’s my advice based on my extensive research and personal use:

Whey protein is probably safe for most people but may come with side effects, particularly for those with a reduced ability to digest lactose (an estimated 65% of the adult population).

That’s why if you’re lactose intolerant or feel any ill effects from whey, we recommend trying plant-based / vegan protein powder options instead.

Choose plant-based protein powders that are:

1) Multi-sourced (a combination of plant protein sources like rice, pea, hemp, pumpkin seed, chia, etc.).

2) Are low in sugar and have some dietary fiber.

3) Are grown in the U.S. and Canada.

When in doubt, ask the manufacturer how their proteins are made and where they come from. If they won’t tell you this information, it’s time to pick another protein powder, whether you’re protein of choice is whey, plant, or anything in between.






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How to Find the Healthiest Plant Protein Powder in 3 Simple Steps

You remember those “Where’s Waldo” books? The ones where you had to find the little guy in the striped shirt in the middle of a colorful, chaotic scene filled with Waldo imposters?

That’s kind of what it’s like trying to figure out if all those protein powders marketed as “healthiest” and “all-natural” are actually good for you.

In other words, if you don’t know what to look for and where to look, chances are your protein powder may not be so healthy after all*.

Here’s why …

Supplement brands and their marketing teams spend LOTS of money on “Waldo imposters” (pretty graphics, clever marketing language, deceptive psychological tricks, etc.).

I know this because I was one of the guys they paid to help them create their marketing campaigns.

Here’s the truth they don’t want you to hear:

Most food supplement marketing is deliberately designed to distract you from scrutinizing the one piece of information that actually matters: the ingredients they put into their products.

In this article I’m going to show you how to see right through their b.s. and find the healthiest protein powder for you.

The Problem With Most Protein Powder Brands Marketed As “Healthy” and “All Natural”

When it comes to protein powder supplements, there’s one objective source of truth you can use to determine if a product is the right fit for your health needs: the ingredients list.

Here are a few ingredients, in particular, I found in some of the so-called healthiest plant protein powders (Vega, Garden of Life, SunWarrior, Orgain, and PlantFusion all have one or more of these):

  1. Natural flavors. Natural flavors are the 4th most common ingredient on food labels. Unfortunately, they’re anything but natural. They can actually contain up to hundreds of chemicals and preservatives. Here are a few of the more common ones:
    • Propylene glycol (found in antifreeze)
    • BHA, a known carcinogen
    • Genetically modified plants (GMOs) like corn and soy
    • Insects and bizarre animal products (such as beaver’s anal secretions)
  2. Sugars. Sugar comes in many forms these days, as you well know. Most proteins have some type of sweetener added–whether it’s artificial or “natural” is open to interpretation. For example, some companies use sugar alcohols like xylitol and market them as natural. Sugar alcohols originate from plants, but they’re chemically altered and may cause major digestive distress. Many protein powders that use more “natural” sugars like agave claim to be the healthiest … but they have half a day’s worth of sugar per serving (Shakeology is one example). Choose a protein powder that has 1 gram of sugar or less per serving from all-natural sources.
  3. Additives and Fillers. Avoid anything that ends with “dextrin” (like maltodextrin, a cheap, highly processed food additive usually made from genetically modified (GMO) corn. Protein companies use it to make their products mix easier. Soy and sunflower lecithin are common additives used to thicken protein powders and other foods. To make soy lecithin, soybean oil (GMO unless it says “organic” or “non-GMO verified”) is extracted from raw soybeans using a chemical solvent (usually hexane), then dried and bleached.
  4. Allergens. Dairy, soy, and gluten are among the most common allergens you’ll find. If you’re chugging down whey protein shakes and it’s causing GI issues, STOP. Whey protein works for some people. But for the majority, the cons outweigh the pros.
  5. Gums. Gums are thickening agents that improve the texture of protein powder blends. Xanthan gum, a common one, is produced by bacterial fermentation of a sugar-containing medium. Unfortunately, that medium is usually a potentially allergenic or GMO-containing substance such as corn, soy, dairy, or wheat. On top of that, xanthan gum has been shown to have a laxative effect … you might wanna wear a diaper if your protein powder has it. Be wary any time you see a “gum” listed on the ingredients list of your favorite protein brand.

3 Simple Steps to Help You Find the Healthiest Plant Protein Powder for You







My rule of thumb: stick with plant based protein powders that have mostly (or all) organic ingredients you recognize as real food.

Conclusion: Most Protein Powder Brands Claiming to Be All Natural Are Anything But

Shopping for the right protein powder brand for you starts with identifying your health goals.

Are you looking for a clean, all-natural ingredients? Then scrutinize that ingredients list and avoid all the stuff I mentioned above.

Do you want to lose weight and/or build some lean muscle? Then choose a powder with 20+ grams of protein per serving and 3+ grams of fiber.

If you’re looking to compare 20+ different protein powders, check out this post.

*Disclaimer: I sell an all-natural, plant-based protein powder called Pure Food.  

How to Find the Best Gluten Free Dairy Free Protein Powder

best non dairy protein powderDairy and gluten are two of the most common food allergens. 65% of U.S. adults are lactose intolerant and up to 3% are allergic to dairy … so it comes as no surprise that demand for protein powders that are gluten and dairy free has went up in recent years.

But there are two big challenges if you’re looking to find the best gluten free / non dairy protein powder for you:

1.) The abundance of hidden junk ingredients to be wary of (for example, most of the so-called best dairy free protein powders are loaded with added sugar and mystery chemicals and additives that may be doing your body more harm than good).

2.) Most people are relying on highly biased online reviews, which are cherry-picked by brands. I’ll share my “secret” for making sure you understand the pros and cons of each protein company you consider.

Long story short, just because you buy a protein powder without dairy or gluten, doesn’t mean it’s “healthy.

In this guide, we’ll share our 5-step checklist you can use to objectively find the healthiest and best gluten free and non-dairy powders for you.

Why 99% of Gluten Free / Dairy Free Protein Powders Are Complete Junk (Even the Organic Ones)

gluten free dairy free protein powder

Most of the time, the best selling protein powder brands are highly processed, pseudo-health foods with very good marketing.

So how do you see through the marketing hype and objectively assess which powders are worthy contenders?

First, you consult the only two pieces of objective information on the food label: the nutrition facts panel and ingredients list.

Most of the time, protein powder manufacturers will add chemical fillers, sugar, thickeners, fillers, and/or other unhealthy ingredients to make the product taste and mix better. 

Here are the “Big Five” questions you should ask to find the healthiest dairy free and gluten free protein powder (or any high protein plant-based foods, for that matter):

5 Steps to Find the Healthiest Protein Powder Without Dairy and Gluten

  1. Check the sugar content. Sugar—no matter if it’s from cane honey, maple syrup, molasses, or coconuts—turns to fat in your body. Eating too much sugar increases your risk of dying from heart disease too. I recommend avoiding all protein powders with added sugar. If your protein is gluten-free and dairy-free yet contains a bunch of sugar, that pretty much defeats the purpose of taking a protein powder. If you like it sweeter, blend your shake with a little fruit instead!
  2. Find out which artificial sweeteners they use. You’ll often discover fake sugars like saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose in non dairy protein powder blends. To see some of the potential health effects of artificial sweeteners, check out this article from the Center for Science in the Public Interest. And there’s good reason to be wary of the supposedly “all-natural” sweeteners too. Xylitol and erythritol are highly processed “sugar alcohols” that can cause gas, bloating, and gut imbalances. Xylitol also commonly comes from genetically modified corn. Stevia leaf extract in its natural state is okay, but the stevia most food companies use is a chemically-altered, bleached, stripped down version that’s likely to contain GMO fillers (often with allergens like corn and soy). Monk fruit is another all-natural sweetener that may be a good option for you. Again, just make sure there are no additional dairy-based fillers or additives, which is often the case. When in doubt, ask the company you’re buying from!
  3. What types of protein do they use? Vegan protein powders made from organic pea, rice, hemp, sacha inchi, and pumpkin seed are generally healthier dairy-free sources of protein. Whey and casein proteins are milk-based and have lots of side effects so obviously aren’t good choices for those looking for a dairy free option. Collagen proteins may be another good dairy-free option (unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan). And if your protein powder isn’t organic, you’re probably drinking pesticides with your protein smoothie.
  4. How are their ingredients processed? This is a tricky one because protein manufacturers are hesitant to disclose this information (which is the first sign they’re hiding something). Most vegan protein powders—even the organic ones—are processed using high temperature methods that destroy vital nutrients in the plant and render much of the protein useless. If you have a severe allergy to gluten or dairy, you’ll want to avoid brands that are manufactured in a facility where other gluten- and/or dairy-containing products are produced.
  5. What other ingredients do they add? This is where most protein powders—especially the ones you may have thought are healthy—fail miserably. Here are a few common unhealthy ingredients to look out for:
    • Natural flavors. Up to 90 percent of natural flavors are made of allergens like dairy, soy, corn, and gluten … as well as chemical solvents and preservatives, says David Andrews, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group. If you have a dairy sensitivity, definitely ask the company you’re buying from if they use any allergens in their natural flavors (they may not even know!).
    • Many protein powders that claim to be all-natural have gums like carrageenan, xanthan, locust bean. These cheap, processed fillers often have other additives and can lead to gut imbalances and be problematic for those with any GI issues.
    • Lecithins. To make most lecithins, oil is extracted from soybeans or sunflowers using a toxic chemical called hexane. Most are made from GMO soybeans (unless they’re organic).

The Bottom Line: How to Find the Best Gluten Free and Non Dairy Protein Powders for You

There are lots of protein powders available these days without gluten and dairy. But a lack of those two allergens doesn’t make a product “healthy” or “clean,” like most of these brands claim to be.

Learn how to read and understand the ingredients list and nutrition facts label and then use the checklist above when evaluating protein brands.

It’s the only way to see through the marketing hype and know if your protein powder is healthy.

Lastly, as we mentioned above, most folks rely on online reviews when choosing what protein to buy. This is a great approach but make sure you understand that most of the reviews you see are cherry-picked by brands.

Here’s how to make sure you’re getting the full picture:

  1. Do a Google search for “INSERT BRAND NAME + reviews”.
  2. Read the top 3 positive and negative reviews on each review you visit (many of the online retail sites and brand sites will not have any negative reviews so Amazon is usually a good source here).

Compare 30+ Dairy Free Proteins with Our Plant Based Protein Powder Comparison Chart