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973741 tn?1342342773

Protein Drinks for Weight loss?

What is the current thinking of protein drinks for weight loss? Are there any good ones?

Do you think that they can work to use for meal replacement, say breakfast, maybe lunch and then eat a normal dinner? Pros? Cons?
8 Responses
Avatar universal
Con.  None of them taste good, because powdered protein tastes like chalk.  So you have to load them up with something that makes it taste good.  There's a lot of stuff in most of them that's much worse for you than extra weight.  You can avoid this by making your own -- you can buy a good protein concentrate powder (remember, isolates are what are in most protein shakes and bars and they don't work and can be bad for you) in a good health food store and you can mix it with a good quality and low sugar soy milk or almond milk if you can find one anymore -- most of the good ones have disappeared from store shelves, such as Edensoy original) and a banana and it will taste really good.  But then, of course, high protein diets don't lead to long-term weight loss and aren't all that good for you, so then you have that problem.  Most people on a high protein diet has a limit to how much they're going to eat, and so they substitute the protein for healthier antioxidant rich veggies and fruits.  You really can't win long-term with weird eating habits.  Studies consistently show this.  Long-term, what still works is more burning of energy and eating a healthful balanced diet rich in antioxidants and plant foods with proper portions.  
7 Comments
Didn't mean to suggest you have to be vegetarian -- animal food is fine but other than fish, in moderation.
Thanks for the info.  I have tried the pre made protein powder drinks from  a couple of companies.  You are right, but yuck.  My son is drinking "muscle milk" after weight training and I started thinking more about it.  He's always very full after he drinks it.   I've read a gazillion things that talk about protein is the way to start your day.  That then you eat less for the rest of it.  But I'm not a huge morning eater. I've never made  my own protein drink.  I probably could add protein powder to a fruit smoothie as well, right?  Like the Smoothie King franchise!  
I also agree about anything radical diet wise is hard to sustain for too long.
Yes, adding it to a smoothie works great.  But remember you have to add more liquid, and it's just easier to do that by using something like soy milk.  There are some pretty good tasting and relatively -- and I mean relatively -- healthful alternatives out there if they still exist.  Spirutein by Nature's Plus, if it's still around, was pretty tasty but too high in sugar for my taste.  Still, balanced out the protein with fruit and spirulina.  When I managed a health food store that had a juice bar, we made our protein shakes largely with high quality protein powder by very reliable companies, very high quality organic soy milk, and threw a banana in with it.  Tasted great.  Or we used Spirutein, which had more sugar in it but was still pretty healthful all around.  
Paxiled, I wish you could make me a smoothie.  :>) I need to get a list together of what I need but feel inspired.
And you know, that's partly it . . .  trustworthy, quality, etc.  I get overwhelmed by choices.
Don't wait for me to make you a smoothie -- I don't make them.  Since I got so sick from Paxil and stopped sleeping I got way out of step and ended up in a lot of pain probably from overexercising and not sleeping.  My wife makes our dinners, and we have different food tastes, but she meets me halfway and we eat pretty healthfully.  For my first meal -- I only eat 2 times a day -- I eat my way, which is the way you'd expect an old health food store manager to eat.  I only did that when it was part of my job.  But it's pretty easy to do, you only need a good blender and a good place to buy clean food to put in it, which these days can often mean having to buy from online stores if Whole Foods has put the good stores out of business where you live.  A protein shake really only takes a couple of minutes to make as opposed to a true smoothie, which takes more prep time for all that fruit and veggies.  Just buy a good quality true protein concentrate powder of whatever protein source you prefer, add the beverage you prefer, and throw in a banana.  Done.
Avatar universal
I use protein powder (and unsweetened almond milk, and a banana thrown in -- I feel like Paxiled is on the same wavelength as me) as a recovery drink after running most days, and I've noticed my legs recover much, much faster than they used to when I didn't take in some form of protein after working out. I also try to consume food that has protein in it later in the day at least a few days a week (I don't eat mammals, so it is usually fish or chicken).  I don't think I can eat nearly enough meat, eggs, milk products, etc. to make up for my protein needs, especially on days like today when I do a very long run (18 miles), so the protein powder helps make up the difference.  I am usually way under 20% of my calories coming from protein, and I'd prefer to not just "eat more meat" to get more protein, so the powder helps (I use whey or plant based protein powders).

I don't think muscle milk is inherently "bad", but I've noticed that when I buy any premixed protein shakes, it usually has twice the amount of calories as using powder (30 g protein for 120 calories vs. 20-30 g protein for 240 calories), those extra calories are almost always added sugar, and that is not necessarily great to be drinking.  If you are trying to "bulk", those extra calories might be fine, but they are a waste on me and I avoid premixed protein shakes.

As for drinking a shake in the morning, a shake for lunch, and then eating a sensible dinner - wasn't this a big thing in the '80s and '90s with SlimFast?  There is a reason other diets are much more popular today, and that is because a shake for two of the three major meals of the day is just not sustainable for most people.  I'm a big fan of making very small changes to your diet that can be maintained in the long term to lose weight.  It might take a lot longer to do, but I found it easier to stay on track.

Good luck, and I hope you can find something that works for you.  I like the fruit smoothie with protein powder mixed in idea - especially if you are not a big breakfast person to begin with.  I mix my protein powder up in a small blender, today I threw in some peanut butter, almond milk, and we were out of bananas so I put in a handful of spinach.
4 Comments
If the muscle milk is the product Muscle Milk -- it's the name of a popular line of products you can find at a bad store like GNC -- it really is very bad for you.  It's loaded not only with sugar, but also with lots of additives such as maltodextrin that are not only hidden sugars but artificial stuff we're all trying to avoid these days for health reasons.  Most bodybuilding products aren't very good for you.  Now, if you're running 18 miles, I don't care what you eat, it's going right in and going right out again, so other than the teeth problems ( and as an old guy missing teeth, it will get you, folks, it will) you really can eat pretty much anything because you're going to burn it right out of your system.  That's not going to work for us older folks who have accumulated too many injuries from working out hard for many years, or those who have worked in labor-intensive industries for too long, or those who do a normal amount of exercise, not endurance exercise.  Serious athletes have that advantage, they burn stuff off which is one of the benefits of hard workouts and lots of cardio, toxins you take in don't stick around in the body long enough to do as much damage as they would to the rest of us.  When I was able to do the things I used to do -- basketball, running, long weight lifting sessions, and kung fu, I could eat pretty much anything and burn it off.  But those things plus an auto accident plus meds that I took for too long added up over time and left me in constant pain and so now I can't burn stuff off like that anymore.  So if you're not super athletic, remember, bad stuff you take in sticks around more and that can lead to problems.  On the other hand, long distance running is associated with some heart problems statistically, so really, do what you love because no matter what you do life gets us in the end.  Enjoy it while you can but do watch that crap like Muscle Milk.  Not good for you and not effective, either.  Read the labels.  Peace, all.
Thanks for the info, Paxiled

I'm not that familiar with the Muscle Milk brand - it looks like they have some basic whey protein powders that are not all that different from what I normally use (looking at the ingredients).  

The premixed, ready-to-drink Muscle Milk shakes seem to have a whole lot more additives and preservatives, so I think it really depends on what you buy.   The pre-mixed shakes seem to be high in calcium caseinate, which is a protein source that is harder to digest and causes digestive issues for some people.  The protein bars also seem to have a ton of additives and sugar substitutes (like maltitol), which can cause stomach and digestive issues for some people.  

I have a very sensitive digestive tract when it comes to some sugar alcohols (allulose caused a very bad reaction), so I will stay clear from most of the Muscle Milk products for that reason.


Well, darn.   Another bad mothering moment. Was buying the premade bottles.  He is not in a situation of needing to lose any weight and is really the opposite. He does two sports at once and has a bit of an insane work out schedule.  He runs 6 times a week usually more than 10 miles in a pop and  plays club soccer (it's off season/spring season, plays with the school during fall) two to three times a week plus weight lifting sessions three times a week. His bod fat is close to nothing and I'm not even joking.  He actually needs to gain some weight.  He eats often and a lot but is still extremely thin.

Anyway, thanks for the thoughts!
Also, again, remember, most of those things you buy use protein isolates.  That doesn't work and isn't what you want and can be not so good for you, especially plant based isolates.  If you use whey, you can buy pure whey protein concentrate, you can even get it from organic dairy, and then add in your flavoring in the beverage you're mixing it with and that banana -- the banana is the real trick, it adds the sweetness.  Or an apple if you like them better.  If you want to get really flashy, try juicing sweet potato or beets -- really sweet and very good for you.  So don't get the flavor from the protein product, that's where the trouble comes in, get it from adding healthy things in with the pure powder.  Now, never say never -- I eat protein bars too.  Right now I use one that uses pea protein concentrate and is pretty clean.  
649848 tn?1534633700
COMMUNITY LEADER
I have to agree with everyone... although you might lose weight to begin with, shakes just don't cut it for anything long term because it's not anything that can be sustained for any length of time.  Most things that are "faddy" or promise quick results aren't anything that can be maintained long term so even if they produce immediate results, most of the time, weight will be regained once that particular diet is stopped, unless healthy eating and exercise habits are implemented while on the diet.

I read an article again yesterday that says the Mediterranean Diet is still the one being recommended as healthiest and best for weight loss.  
4 Comments
Second that.  Not matter how many long-term studies they do, some variety of the Mediterranean Diet always comes out best when real people are studied for a long time.  And that's just basically eating the way we were always told to, lots of veggies, moderate intake of meat, fish for most of our animal food, whole grains -- which translates, folks, to a high carb diet.  
thanks Barb.  I feel like celebrities and the rich and famous can maintain their weight better because they have chef's that prepare the healthy food for them!  Ugh.  

Paxiled, what do you mean that translates to a high carb diet?  the whole grains part of what you wrote?
I know what you mean; I could do it a lot better tooif I had someone to cook the food and say " this is what you get instead of leaving the choices and cooking up to me.  I do okay making the choices, but when it comes to cooking it, I just don't do it because husband doesn't eat things like vegetables and fish, whole grains, etc so we end up cooking 2 separate meals at every meal time.   But then he doesn't want me to even cook fish in the house because he says the smell makes him sick so if I eat fish I have it when we go out... Kind of hard to eat the Mediterranean diet under those circumstances... lol  

You didn't ask me, but I'll add my 2¢... we all tend to think of carbs as bread, cereal, sugar, etc - things that are bad for us... to simplify it, vegetables are complex carbs/fiber that contains the most nutrients so if you're eating a lot of vegetables, you're eating a lot of good carbs.   Whole grains still contain the fiber so they're complex (good) also, whereas refined grains (white flour, rice, pasta, etc) have had the fiber removed during processing.  Refined grains, without the fiber are simple carbs.  The difference between complex and simple carbs is how quickly they break down into glucose.  
Mom, Barb answered for me and answered well.  The basis of the Mediterranean diet, and know that it isn't really that, they've found it in Sweden, Russia, the Himalayas, and in a 7th Day Adventist town in California, are grains, fish, veggies and fruit.  Some meat, but in moderation.  And really, it's not whole grains, though I prefer that as well.  Those folks in the Mediterranean eat bread with every meal and it's usually not whole grain bread.  The Chinese and Japanese usually don't touch brown rice.  Somehow they do this, stay thin, and stay healthy, so there's a lot we just don't understand about food.
Avatar universal
I tried doing a diet that consisted of slim fast shake in the morning and for lunch, then 'regular' food for dinner. I only lasted 2 months on that, and by the end, I was actually feeling really bad. Plus, I found having a shake for lunch was awful! I wanted actual food, not a shake! Once I stopped using slim fast and just adjusted what I was eating, I felt so much better.

I do use protein power mixed with some unsweetened almond or cashew milk after my workouts.  The protein powder I am using only has 160 calories and 2g of sugar.
8 Comments
Good to know.  I've never really done one of those diets myself.  I find I'm very hungry early on in the day and want some substantive food.  Not a breakfast eater, but around 9 to 10 am, I want lunch food.  I get up around 6 though so guess that makes sense. What is the brand of protein powder?  
I'm also up at 6am (urgh!). I've been eating oatmeal for breakfast. Then around 10am I have a banana or apple, then lunch around 12:30pm, then apple or banana in the afternoon. I find for me the evenings after the kids go to bed are the worst because my husband likes to sit on the couch and eat sweets, so we always have something sweet in the house.
The protein powder I'm using is MuscleTech NitroTech Protein Powder Plus Creatine Monohydrate Muscle Builder, 100% Whey Protein,40 Servings,1.81 kg
I have a terrible sweet tooth.  Seriously.  I have to be careful because I can binge out on something if we have it.  I'm best to just not see it or pretend it isn't there.  Sigh. Your husband would be bad for me.  lol  I heard once to drink a cup of tea at night and it helps keep you from eating.  I do that often.   Thanks for the name of your protein powder!
I wouldn't recommend that particular protein product.  It's protein isolate.  You want concentrate.  The isolate doesn't work well and can be bad for you.  I'd also be careful with the creatine.  Some do fine with it, but too much is unsafe.  Peace, all.
Paxiled, how much is too much for it to be unsafe? I use one scoop a day, but not 7 days a week...I usually only use it maybe 5 days a week.
Can't give you an exact amount, and it's going to vary by the person.  For some it's no problem at all, it can depend on what your body is doing with the creatine it has to deal with on a daily basis anyway.  This is a subject for your own homework and is your own decision.  There seems to be no question that it does seem to help bodybuilders get bigger muscles to at least some extent, but keep in mind, bodybuilders aren't usually interested in health, they are usually focused on big muscles.  Often a focus on sports performance is way removed from health, but folks do a lot because it makes their lives more enjoyable, health isn't always the focus of people.  If it was I guess we'd never drive, right?  Anyway, this is something you can research.  Peace.
By the way, the reason it's hard to give a general answer is it would take a blood test first just to see how your body is doing with it, or a few blood tests over time, actually.  
Hmmmm maybe I'll stop using it then. I prefer health over muscles.
Avatar universal
Fasting...can't beat it. It's good for you, medical research shows that, and, you learn good eating habits. I've used the 5-2 diet successfully.  Read Dr Michael Mosley's book. Library should have it.
2 Comments
I just want to point out here that fasting may not be "good" for everyone.  Some people with certain health conditions (low blood pressure, low blood sugar, on medication that lowers blood sugar, etc.) or have a history of eating disorders should probably avoid intermittent fasting or at least consult with their doctor first.  Growing children and adolescents and pregnant people should probably avoid it too.  People with a history of eating disorders may find fasting to closely resemble cycles of bingeing and purging and trigger a relapse.  With the 5-2 diet, I think this means you eat normal five days a week and restrict calories to 500-600 a day the other two days... I'm not actually sure this is a "good eating habit", it depends on the person, but for many people this can actually be triggering and lead to binges on the "normal" day.  

I don't think there is any evidence showing that this diet leads to more long term, permanent weight loss than any other diet.  I also looked up the data showing that the 5-2 diet improves health better than any other type of diet, I found an article referencing one study that showed improved insulin sensitivity over a three month period compared to calorie restriction, but longer term benefits, I'm not sure.  Losing weight can improve health, but there is no evidence fasting improves it better than any other diet.

The best diet is one that works and keeps weight off in the long term, and this can vary from person to person.  For me, it has been making small changes to my normal diet (that I can maintain indefinitely).  I lost 35-40 pounds by increasing exercise and counting calories and aiming for a very small deficit of less than 200 calories a day on average - because I didn't want to lose muscle because running.  I now know that worked for me because a.) I gained the weight due to a thyroid problem, b.) I have never had an unhealthy relationship with food, and c.) I really love running and was already an endurance runner long before the weight gain happened.

I don't recommend everyone just increase their mileage from 30 to 50 miles a week, because I realize what works for me might not work for everyone.
It is true that we are all different!  I would like to be up to your mileage!  I did walk 4.5 miles in a day last week (my record).  I have found that not eating at night does help me.  I may have a cup of tea if I feel hungry but a nice early (ish) dinner and then not eating until the next day giving myself that big chunk of time (most of which I'm sleeping) does seem to help with weight management.  But everyone should make sure they are doing what is best for their own health situation, most definitely.  I also like what you say about the small deficit of calories.  When I lose weight, that's how I do it too.  Small changes decreasing calories by a certain amount each day but not a huge amount that it feels like deprivation.  Takes a while, but it does work for me too!  
Avatar universal
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), dietary supplements are products that contain a dietary ingredient, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and herbs

In this case, protein shakes provide amino acids, also known as the building blocks of proteins.

Dietary supplements come in many forms, from powders to capsules to liquids. While you may find ready-to-drink protein shakes in liquid form, you can also purchase protein supplements in powder form.

Many types of powdered protein supplements are available from either animal- or plant-based sources.

For instance, the most popular animal-based protein powders are whey and casein, both usually derived from cow’s milk. However, if you have a milk allergy, egg white protein may be a suitable choice.

As for popular plant-based proteins, you can take your pick from soy, pea, hemp, or rice protein.

Lastly, as their name implies, dietary supplements are meant to help you complete or enhance your diet.

Overall, protein shakes may come in handy when you don’t have high-quality protein sources available or simply can’t reach your daily protein needs through food alone.

9 Comments
All protein is made of amino acids, that's what protein is.  Any food that contains protein from any source will therefore be a source of amino acids.  However, protein shakes differ a lot in their composition.  Some are just protein.  Some are protein isolates, which aren't recommended.  The best are concentrates.  But they can also contain a lot of other things, such as sugars both artificial and natural, vitamins, and minerals.  So they aren't all just protein.  The label will tell.
Also, supplements including protein powder might have an unhealthy level of contaminants, including but not limited to: heavy metals, pesticides/mycotoxins, and plasticizers (BPA is one).  https://cleanlabelproject.org/the-best-worst-protein-powder-products/  is  a website where they have tested several different protein powders for contaminants.   You can check it out, your protein powder might be on there, and some are perfectly fine.

You might think organic or natural would be less likely to contain contaminants, but Garden of Life Organic Plant Formula Raw Protein Powder - Chocolate received an F rating for heavy metals.  Vega chocolate (another plant based protein powder, and one I've tried in the past) also received an F because of heavy metals and plasticizers.  Gold standard whey (another I've tried, whey means from cow milk) received a D for below average plasticizers.

This article: https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/02/heavy-metals-found-in-40-percent-of-protein-powders-tested/  summarizes the findings.  "Healthy eating enthusiasts may want to reconsider their protein powder choices in light of a new study that shows 40 percent of 134 brands tested have elevated levels of heavy metals, with certified organic products twice as likely to contain heavy metals as non-organic powders."

Plant protein powders:  "study found other surprising statistics about plant-based protein powders.

75 percent had measurable levels of lead.
Each contained on average twice the amount of lead per serving as other products.
In addition to lead, the plant powders in several cases contained mercury, cadmium and arsenic above health-based guidelines."

Whey (which I use, almost exclusively): "Testing further revealed that about 10 percent of whey-based protein powders contained lead levels above health guidelines."

Eggs: "Good news coming out of the research was the finding that no egg-based protein powders tested contained lead."

So... if you are able to get enough protein in your diet from non-processed food sources, that is probably a much safer way than consuming protein powder.  Some protein powders are low on all of these contaminants, but this study only looked at 134 protein powders and my current protein powder isn't one of the ones tested - its main source of protein in whey concentrate.  (I did stop entirely with plant based protein powders once I heard about this study, since they seem more likely to have heavy metal contaminants, much like baby foods.  Plants take up heavy metals from soil and water, and this can be concentrated as the plants are processed into food substances, or could come from plants growing in regions with heavy metal soil contamination.  We tend to think certified organic means healthier, but when it comes to processed foods like protein powder, it is a risk.  (I'm not saying don't eat certified organic foods, just maybe not the plant based protein powders, until producers find a way to make a healthier, non-heavy metal containing product).

I've never tired egg white protein powder.  I assume egg whites have low levels of oxidized cholesterol, which tends to be high in powdered eggs (whole eggs including yolks) and can be harmful, especially when consumed on a regular basis.

I still take protein powder almost daily to help meet my protein needs and recover muscles damaged from running.  I know it helps because when I don't take it, my legs take much longer to recover from a hard run, but I also know it is probably not the best thing to take every day.  Maybe I should start adding in more non-processed protein, and skipping the protein powder more often on "easy" days.  
Not sure this is accurate info, Sara.  Can't say one way or the other, but most organic food is grown in California, and it has rigorous testing that has a very low bar for toxins.  Some herb companies with stellar reputations are required by this California law to list that everything made of plants has to be labeled as potentially containing toxic levels of heavy metals.  So basically, if I buy this, I also have to stop eating organic veggies because they're grown in the same soil.  Which leaves us buying pesticide laden food grown in soil lacking in any nutrient other than the few added in commercial fertilizers.  Not a good choice.  I'll continue to eat my pea protein bars and trade things that mostly affect very young children, who shouldn't be eating protein supplements anyway, for all the other toxins found in food.  I mean, really, they rated Gatorade higher than organic pea protein, and Gatorade anything is mostly sugar.  They didn't test for that, did they?  I'd look into Consumer Labs and see if they came up with similar findings.  Look, if you're buying food grown in today's world, the soil is going to be contaminated because the air and water are contaminated and because organic farms are recovered commercial farms.  Now, as to effectiveness, whey probably works better, if you ignore you're eating dairy, something no adult mammal including humans until they'd been around for thousands and thousands of years ever ate.  Nothing is pure.  Nothing is entirely safe.  But I'm skeptical about these findings although I already knew that all plant food has too much heavy metals in them, and will until we clean up our industrial societies.  As for oxidized cholesterol, remember, it oxidizes inside the body too.  Actually, mostly.  If you don't consume enough antioxidants, cholesterol, largely the LDL, will oxidize and that's what clogs your arteries, not cholesterol itself.  And how do you consume those antioxidants?  Eating plant food grown in soil contaminated by our polluted society.  Gotta eat something, you know?
Of course, I should have added, nobody has to eat protein powder.  Not an essential food.
This study is looking specifically at protein powder, not organic vegetables in general, which I also agree are probably better for us than ones commercially grown with synthetic pesticides.  It is great that California has rigorous testing and labeling, but unfortunately, not all the US does.  Organic protein powder, however, goes through a lot of processing, and it isn't the same thing to say since organic vegetables are safe, then the protein powder made from organic vegetables will be free from contaminants as well.

As for non-organic, "pesticide laden" fruits and veggies lacking nutrients, this is just not true.  Many people can't afford to buy organic, or live in "food deserts" where access to any non processed fruits and vegetables is scarce.  I live in Ohio and I know food deserts very close to me, where local grocery stores have shut down and moved out of the "bad parts" of town, and some vegetables are better than no vegetables at all.  
I found this quote from a study author on nutrition benefits of organic "Across the important antioxidant compounds in fruits and vegetables, organic fruits and vegetables deliver between 20 and 40 percent higher antioxidant activity".  That does not mean non-organic foods don't have nutrients, just fewer antioxidants, and if you can't afford or can't access organic foods, regular vegetables can still be nutritious.  (Vegetables also provide fiber, sugars, some protein, etc.)

As for the "accuracy" of vegetable protein powders containing higher levels of contaminants as others, that wasn't my opinion, that was the findings from the study.  I have no reason to believe that the Clean Label Project is biased against plant based proteins, but that is possible.  I was summarizing the speculations as to why heavy metals might accumulate more in vegetables, but animal tissue can also have higher heavy metal levels because they eat plants and therefore can concentrate heavy metals.  Possibly it is less likely to end up in cow's milk or egg whites, more likely to remain in animal tissues, and that is why those had much lower heavy metal contamination, however, they still had plasticizers which is also a major concern and not something I want to be consuming.  Heavy metals could also end up in the powder from machinery used to process the foods or soil contamination.  It wasn't meant as an attack on organic veggie protein powders in any way, I was just presenting what was found in the study (which showed that the veggie powders contained more heavy metals and were more likely to have heavy metals, percentage-wise).

One drawback of the 2018 protein powder study is they measured levels of contaminants in specific batches, and this was two years ago, so there is a chance that problems have been addressed and corrected, but whether that actually happened is unclear.  And, some flavors  from the same company might have had high levels of contaminants while others were fine.  If the source of protein varies, or the diet of the cows/chickens for milk/eggs varies, or production conditions change, these contaminants will vary from batch to batch, making it difficult to actually know whether there are contaminants now or not.  Powders that were rated an A two years ago could be contaminated now, and vice versa.

This isn't the first time contaminants were found in protein powders.  I found this Consumer Reports article reporting similar heavy metals, all look like whey powders to me, and there are only 15, from 2010.  https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/04/protein-drinks/index.htm   So, while I'd love the companies to realize this is a problem and fix it, it does not seem like it is happening.  (In that 2010 study, I think they found heavy metals in all 15 protein powders tested.)

I don't have access to Consumer Labs, but these supplements are not regulated in the same way as food products (I'm not even sure food is well regulated at this point, especially with the high levels of heavy metals found in baby foods in 2019.)

From  https://www.nfpt.com/blog/heavy-metals-in-protein-powders:
"In the United States, dietary supplements are considered to be food products under the Dietary Supplements Health Education Act. A protein powder is a dietary supplement. The FDA leaves it up to manufacturers to evaluate the safety and labeling of products. In the absence of federal testing, there is no surefire way to know if a protein powder contains what manufacturers claim.

These products are not subject to mandatory review, approval or quality requirements, and do not go through testing for identity, purity or potency of active ingredients."  

I'm not entirely familiar with California's Prop 65 warnings, are the producers required to test for heavy metal contaminants themselves, which seems like most protein powder makers regardless of kind are not doing, or is there an agency in California that does this?  Who is overseeing what gets a warning label?  From what I can find, it seems to be  based off of the ingredients list, which one would expect whey powder or pea protein to not have a high level of lead contamination (and hopefully most do not).  Is each product tested for lead, cadmium, etc.?  I would love for this to be the case.

Too long, here it the rest:

I only mentioned the heavy metals and other contaminants because I think people should have as much information as possible when deciding what type of protein powder to buy, if any.  The commenter was listing out different protein powders, and that reminded me of this 2018 study, I don't remember when I first heard of it, but the mention of plant proteins jogged my memory.  After looking in to this more, I'm reconsidering how much protein powder I should be taking myself.  I don't get nearly enough protein through my diet, so stopping completely will mean having to make dietary changes and more effort on my part to figure out how to stay low on animal meat and still get enough protein, but it is doable.  What is an acceptable level of contaminants, and are these studies being too careful?  I don't know. I know many people who take protein powder every day, and I know heavy metals accumulate in the body, so it is something to keep in mind.

You can choose whether or not you believe the 2018 Clean Label Project or the 2010 Consumer Reports study, or the 2019 Consumer Report on heavy metals in baby food (in almost all baby foods tested - this report led to my sister making all the baby food for my nephew born in May 2019), but having more information helps me to make informed decisions and I thought I would share.  In general, I tend to trust science and scientists (well, I am skeptical and trust peer-reviewed, repeatable findings), and the more studies that report similar findings, the more likely I am to believe it.  I am also open to having my mind changed if new evidence contradicts what has been previously reported.

As for the Clean Label Project rating system, I'm not a fan of combining "nutrition", which I believe is looking at added sugars with "contaminants".  And, I don't pay much attention to how much sugar is in the protein powder, because I usually take it after running 7-10 miles and I'm more than making up for extra calories.  But, maybe added sugars are much more harmful for most people taking these powders compared to the heavy metals, especially if someone is using it as a weight loss strategy.  I treat both as completely separate issues because for me they are, but I understand what you mean.  From my own experience, the pea protein powder I have tried was around 180 calories for 30 g a protein, compared to the 110 calories for 30 g protein I take in now in a whey protein, so veggie based does not necessarily mean lower sugars.

I can't actually find Gatorade on the Clean Label Project, so I don't know if it is rated higher than any organic pea protein powders or not, it does not seem to be part of the 134 tested.  (And there are so many protein powders that 134 is only a tiny fraction of what is currently on the market). I actually use Gatorade Protein Powder now, but that does not mean it is safe or healthy.  And, I have no idea if there are contaminants in it, hence I'm thinking about cutting back (or working towards eliminating?).

As for oxidized cholesterol, I learned about this from The Nutrition Diva Podcast, an episode about whether powdered milk is bad for you, and it was explained as the oxidized cholesterol can irritate blood vessels and form plaques, leading to blood vessel blockage and increased risk of stroke or heart attack.  Oxidized cholesterol can also initiate oxidation of other cholesterol molecules, leading to a chain reaction and formation of more oxidized cholesterol.  (Powdered milk has low levels of oxidized cholesterol, so the conclusion was it is safe to consume, but powdered eggs have high levels and should not be consumed in high doses).  Whether you choose to believe that or not is up to you, I trust the Nutrition Diva host Monica Reinagel who is a dietician and likes to research topics for the podcast, and it was enough to convince me that I don't need powdered eggs in my life.  (The Wikipedia article for powdered eggs has this to say "The process of drying eggs so as to make powdered eggs oxidizes the cholesterol, which has been shown to be helpful at reducing aortic atherosclerosis in animal trials." and cites a paper from 1984 where fresh and powdered eggs were fed to male chickens, which indicates the opposite and goes back to the whole "Are eggs good for you?" debate that never ends.)

I'm not disagreeing about organic vegetables, but when we are talking specifically about protein powders, there is a lot more than just added sugars to contend with and I choose to believe the multiple reports that are telling me that there are heavy metals in these powders.  I also know heavy metals are harmful, especially as they accumulate, even to full grown adults.  And thought I would share, because not everyone has this information.  
What I was saying wasn't doubting the wisdom of avoiding heavy metals.  That's clearly a good idea.  But what you are quoting above isn't a "study."  It's a program that appears to be aiming to charge money for a label of approval.  A study is done by scientists over a period of time, etc.  What the article you quoted is doing is similar to programs a lot of organizations out there have, which is. they go to stores and randomly select products off the shelf and test them.  I'm assuming this is what the organization you're citing did, but I can't be sure.  The second article you mentioned was just noting the first article.  What the California law had done is cause a lot of confusion because it was poorly drafted, as referenda often are.  It's mostly a warning system.  The reference to Gatorade protein was made by comments on this particular organization I found because you raised my curiosity, as I do use a product, a protein bar, made by one of the companies.  I use it because it's plant based, it's a concentrate, and the other ingredients make it about the cleanest protein bar around.  I don't usually eat protein bars since I stopped being able to go the gym and do weightlifting, but I had to start again because of an endless tooth problem that prevents me from eating the nuts I used to eat, and the protein bars are soft.  I won't be eating them forever, because eventually my endodontist will give up and the tooth will be pulled.  For me, I'm much more concerned about nutrition than heavy metals, and much more concerned about pesticides and other toxins because I'm an old adult.  If I were a young kid, which these metals affect most adversely, I wouldn't be eating protein bars anyway, or I shouldn't be.  But my point was, if the soil in the entire developed world is contaminated with heavy metals, which it is, it's going to add up if you eat plant food.  And I don't think I said food raised that's not organic had no nutrients.  It may have as many as organic, depending on freshness and the talent of the farmer.  But it will also have the toxins, and I also want my money to go to the betterment of our environment so that's where I put the little I have left.  Over time, organic farming brings back good soil and replenishes the valuable topsoil, but the heavy metals problem is particularly significant in California because it's a highly developed state -- it's the fifth riches t country in the world, essentially, I believe -- and when I was growing up there it was also one of the most polluted places on Earth.  But it's also where most organically grown food comes from.  That's where the California referendum has been a problem, as if you produce say an herbal supplement. you are going to have to put a warning label on it if any of the herb are sourced in California whether or not a particular batch tests for the stuff or not because some batches will.  I'm guessing the same is true for protein powders -- different batches will test differently.  I think everyone should take your info to heart, but also check the source.  That's all I was saying, because it seems to conflict with organizations that have been doing regular checks on products for years and haven't found this problem, and I saw comments that questioned the validity of the organization.  I really don't know, but I've seen this happen a lot with Consumer Labs, where they will put out a warning on companies I know to be the very best in the biz and it leaves me wondering.  I should also mention, if this is a problem, be very very careful with products sold only online or by direct marketing, because you can't grab them off a shelf and test them.  You never know what's in those products, so it could be even worse.  But for your purposes, as you are an athlete who does way more than the average person will ever do, whey protein will probably do what you want better.  But as for sugar and additives, remember, they cause inflammation.  Weight isn't really the problem there.  Anyone using a protein powder doesn't want it to produce inflammation, and sugar does do this.  So can dairy.  So can wheat.  So can soy for those who are allergic to it.  But sugar definitely causes it, and that won't help you any if you're using it to recover from the fact you exercise more than your body apparently can handle, which every serious athlete does.  I don't know why whey works better, but this is what I saw in the many years I managed health food stores.  I just prefer to limit my intake of dairy.  So in sum, there are a lot of things in the world that are unhealthy.  Heavy metals are just one of them.  Peace.
I agree, Clean Label Project is not peer-reviewed, and it is difficult to actually access the raw data from this "study".  They assign what appears to be an arbitrary letter grade to protein powders but do not give the actual data.  They (or another company - that website is hard to navigate and who is doing what is unclear) can give a(n unaccredited) label to show that a product is "clean", but even then protein powders can have low level, acceptable heavy metals and still get the label, which I assume they are paying for.  This is certainly problematic.

The Consumer Reports 2010 study  https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2012/04/protein-drinks/index.htm
which looked at 15 whey based protein powders is also not peer reviewed, but they actually present data and let you decide for yourself what is an acceptable limit.  
"What our tests found: Heavy metals
We purchased 15 protein powders and drinks mainly in the New York metro area or online and tested multiple samples of each for arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. The results showed a considerable range, but levels in three products were of particular concern because consuming three servings a day could result in daily exposure to arsenic, cadmium, or lead exceeding the limits proposed by USP.

We found that three daily servings of the ready-to-drink liquid EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake provides an average of 16.9 micrograms (µg) of arsenic, exceeding the proposed USP limit of 15 µg per day, and an average of 5.1 µg of cadmium, which is just above the USP limit of 5 µg per day. Concentrations in most products were relatively low, but when taking into account the large serving size suggested, the number of micrograms per day for a few of the products was high compared with most others tested.

The samples of Muscle Milk Chocolate powder we tested contained all four heavy metals, and levels of three metals in the product were among the highest of all in our tests. Average cadmium levels of 5.6 µg in three daily servings slightly exceeded the USP limit of 5 µg per day, and the average lead level of 13.5 µg also topped the USP limit of 10 µg per day. The average arsenic level of 12.2 µg was approaching the USP limit of 15 µg per day, and the average for mercury was 0.7 µg, well below the USP's 15 µg-per-day limit. Three daily servings of Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème contained 12.2 µg of lead, exceeding lead limits, and 11.2 µg of arsenic. A fourth product, Muscle Milk Nutritional Shake Chocolate (liquid), provided an average of 14.3 µg of arsenic per day from three servings, approaching the proposed USP limit."

Consumer Reports also did a similar study (2018? 2019?) on baby food and found heavy metals in tons of off the shelf baby foods, but again, I think the conclusion was they were within acceptable limits and that varying the baby's diet would keep the risk limited.

I found no peer-reviewed studies on protein powder and heavy metal contamination (on PubMed).  I did find one 2019 peer-reivewed study on US infant formula and heavy metals, Science of The Total Environment
Volume 651, Part 1, 15 February 2019, Pages 822-827
Science of The Total Environment
Lead and cadmium contamination in a large sample of United States infant formulas and baby foods
Hannah Gardener, Jaclyn Bowen, Sean P. Callan

Their conclusions (of looking at lead and cadmium in 91 infant formulas) were:
0/91 infant formulas exceeded FDA lead guidelines in 31 oz, 22% exceeded Prop 65.
23% infant formulas exceeded Prop 65 cadmium guidelines, 14% exceeded WHO PTMI.
3% food exceeded FDA lead consumption limit in 300 cal, 34% exceeded Prop 65.

I realize infant formula and protein powder are not the same thing, but infant formula and whey based protein powder have similar components (and both contain whey powder), so this seem comparable to the 2010 Consumer Reports study (15 whey based powders), where they saw some samples with levels approaching or exceeding daily guidelines when there was a larger serving a day.  (I'm assuming most formula fed babies take in more than one serving of formula per day).

I'm glad we've had this discussion because I had thought of the Clean Label Project, which is a registered non-profit, as something comparable to Consumer Reports, you've brought up some very good points that make me think much less of that "study".  I think there is probably some heavy metal contamination, some protein powders are probably better than others, depending on what you want out of it.  Whether the amount of contamination deserves an "F" rating or not, this just seems like a gimick to sensationalize findings of any heavy metals, regardless of whether this exceeds daily permittable limits or not, and that is deceptive to the consumer.  (Making it difficult to know if it is harmful or not.)

I definitely know I recover better from hard workouts when I take protein powder, but I have no idea what the "best" protein powder is to take, or what is safest.  I guess the take home message I am getting from what I've found is that many foods on this planet contain heavy metals, most are at acceptable levels, and that we should try to eat a varied diet to minimize risk of high levels of any of these.  According to Consumer Reports, an alternative to protein powder is 3 eggs, or 3 x 8oz glasses of milk, or half a chicken breast.  So if milk causes inflammation (I don't know how my body would handle 24 ounces of milk, my guess is "not well"), 3 eggs seems like a lot of cholesterol to me (I can't remember if we are supposed to be concerned with dietary cholesterol or not?), and I'm doing well to eat one serving of animal protein a day (seafood, fish, or poultry), I think I will keep protein powder as a part of my diet, but try to cut back on how often (from every day to less than every day).  I'm not taking more than one serving a day, so hopefully keeping my risk at a minimum.  

I do wish protein powder and other supplements were better regulated in this country.  I know California is trying, but it is hard for the consumer to know what is safe and what is not.

Protein bars and I have a troubled past.  I like protein bars.  I once bought Quest bars (1 year, 2 years ago?) that had allulose, which is a sugar alcohol , in it.  I did not know that they had allulose, or that my body really does not handle allulose well at all (digestive issues), and I've been "off" protein bars ever since, but I think that can be a good way to get protein in as well.  There is no judgment here from me.  And, if the Clean Label Project isn't actually reporting contamination level numbers, it is impossible to tell whether one protein bar is above governmental guidelines or not.  (I really dislike the letter grade system - you are right, that is not "science").

And thanks, as always, for giving me a lot to think about.  I do like the idea of plant based protein powders (if you can't tell, I'm not a huge meat eater).  I'm not opposed to consuming plant based protein powder, that would be my choice if it was as affordable as whey and if I knew what the level of heavy metal contamination was.
You and me both, got burned by Quest too.  I am not surprised by heavy metals in plants, but I kind of am in whey.  I believe Consumer Reports.  They have a long track record and is probably as good as we are going to get.  But again, if whey protein and baby formula failed the heavy metals test, then I have to assume everything would, no?  Why would milk be better when whey is extracted from milk and should therefore be less tainted, shouldn't it?  Same with eggs.  By the way, I believe current thinking on eggs is, they're okay as long as you don't overdo it.  But at the levels at which you run, I'm not sure what overdoing it is for you.  As I understand it, cholesterol is an oxidation problem.  If it oxidizes either while sitting around before you eat it or in your body after eating it, that's what causes cholesterol to stick to the blood vessels and clog them up.  If it doesn't oxidize, it is liquid basically and moves on through and does what it's supposed to do, including manufacturing our sexual hormones.  The solution, of course, is environmental clean-up, but that is expensive and would take a long time.  I would have thought that an organic farm that had been organic for many years, as most of them have been in California especially, the soil would have cleaned up by now, but if it's still in the water and the air and even  in natural compost and natural fertilizer, it's still going to get in there.  It's like GMOs, once they let them loose they're impossible to avoid, though you get less by not buying GMO foods you still get some because the winds have blown them everywhere.  On the other hand, you don't need to use as much protein powder as the doses you cite above because that's for building muscle, not recovering from exercise.  The latter takes less.  I only eat half a protein bar, not a whole one.  You don't have to drink a whole dose of your protein shake, put in just what you need.  Peace.
Avatar universal
Hi guys, I currently work out about 4/6 times a week. I get very sore muscles. Just wondering if people use protein powder or bars to help fill them and help muscle repair and if it has effected your weight loss? Thanks in advance!!

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3 Comments
You don't actually say what you do in your workouts, and that matters as to your question.  Since you mention sore muscles, I assume you mean you lift weights, but again, you don't say.  Protein before lifting helps build muscle.  Doesn't mean the added protein is good for you, just means more protein is necessary if bigger muscles is your goal.  You can get that by eating more protein or using protein supplements that actually work and don't contain so much sugar they counter what you're trying to accomplish.  But you get muscle growth actually by damaging the muscles and they get bigger as they repair themselves.  Protein does help with this.  As to soreness, that's a different issue.  It does seem to help recovery from exercise if you consume protein after a workout, but most bodybuilders eat a lot of protein and eat it all day.  But protein might help.  There's nothing magical about powder or bars except it's just easier and quicker than preparing a meal high in protein.  If it's the wrong kind of protein, however, such as isolates instead of concentrates, it might not work very well.  As for weight loss, high protein diets do seem to help some in the short run, but there's no evidence they help in the long run and are probably unhealthy in the long run, as one can only eat so much and the protein tends to crowd out the much healthier antioxidant and nutrient rich plant foods that are largely carbs and don't help with building muscle.  They do, however, supply energy and protect us from harm, and the healthier one is obviously the more one can work out.  Which means, it might help, yes, if you don't use one that doesn't work or has too much sugar, because sugar causes inflammation, but you can also reduce soreness by doing less and build up more slowly so you minimize the soreness.  It all depends on why and how hard you work out.  Bodybuilders pretty much always hurt.  So do marathoners and professional athletes because they are doing more than the body can really handle easily.  So some of it is up to you and what you want out of life.  Peace.
Meant to add, other things can also cause muscle soreness and protein won't help with those other things, such as lifting more than you can handle, or not having sufficient electrolytes in your system, or not eating and sleeping enough to support your level of effort, or not drinking enough water, or not having sufficient antioxidants in your system.  
I agree with Paxiled.

From my experience, it depends on what is causing the soreness whether adding protein powder to your diet will help.  I run a lot, I very rarely get muscle soreness just from running, although I take protein powder after most runs, especially ones that I've put in more effort (long runs or faster paced runs), and usually recover pretty quickly.  For example, I did an 18 mile long run yesterday, and today felt completely fine and did an easy 7 mile recovery.  I also took protein powder.  7 years ago, when I first started doing that type of distance, I wasn't taking protein powder and it too much longer for me to recover.

If I have delayed onset muscle soreness (usually takes 12-24 hours after exercising to show up, usually I'm fine that day but the next it is sore) it usually takes 48 to 72 hours to run its course, with or without protein powder.  I get delayed onset muscle soreness sometimes from lifting weights or doing body weight exercises, although that is never my plan, or from doing hill repeats workouts (running up a steep hill repeatedly).  

If you are injuring yourself, straining muscles more than just DOMS (which is a dull achey pain but I don't consider it an injury), protein powder won't fix it quickly, you will need to rest and recover.  (Protein may help, but still need time to recover).
Avatar universal
I have used protein shakes a lot for muscle building and weight loss ya they can help they will boost your energy level help you recover fast but as you talk about taste they taste like worse food on planet so it's up to you that you can drink it or not.
Hope this comment will help you.
2 Comments
You can make them so they do taste good.  I don't know which ones you used, or if you used ones that actually delivered useful protein so you would know that it was the shake that actually did something and not something else you were doing, but making them taste good is pretty easy.  Adding a banana is one good way, for example.  Some have a lot of flavoring and sugar, and they taste pretty good.  If you're just using protein concentrate powder, yeah, it will taste like chalk, but if you've ever had one at a juice bar they taste good and that's by adding good tasting things to them.
I agree with mixing something in.  I usually use protein powder with almond milk and a banana, blended in a personal blender (12-16 oz).  

If amiroshel is actually referring to the pre-mixed protein shakes that you can buy in a bottle, I've never had one of those that I liked, they all taste disgusting to me.  The ones I've tried often have clumps stuck to the bottom (which makes me gag), and they usually have twice as much calories for the same amount of protein as some protein powders.  I'm sure there are good ones out there, I've only tried 4 or 5 different ones before giving up on them completely.  I like the idea of premixed protein drinks for convenience, but so far not really something I ever reach for.
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