If you've decided to try out some whey
protein, you may be a bit confused by the many types on the
market. How do you choose a good one?
we look at that, just in case you've come straight to this
page, a quick recap on whey protein in general.
powders of any kind are NOT whole
foods. We don't recommend you rely on them as a main protein
source. Better to get your protein from a range of fresh animal
products, such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy, if
you can tolerate it.
it's the only convenient way of having some protein after
a workout. And if it's a choice between having a protein shake
for breakfast, or going without breakfast, have the shake.
Throw in couple of raw egg yolks (yes, I do mean the yolks,
not the whites) for all those excellent fat soluble nutrients,
and some blueberries for flavour and antioxidants.
ARE going to have a shake, unless you are severely dairy intolerant,
good quality whey protein is the only kind we recommend. Soy
protein powder in particular should always be strictly avoided.
on Whey protein vs Casein
is concern in some circles that whey protein is available
too quickly, and used by the body within a couple of hours.
For this reason, some whey protein powders have added casein.
concern about this is that many people are casein
intolerant. Some people who are dairy intolerant can't
even tolerate whey, but many can. But they can't tolerate
the added casein.
using your whey protein as an after workout supplement, I'd
expect you would then be having a full meal within a couple
of hours, complete with protein. So the whey is available
straight after your workout, and there's no problem with it
using it as a meal replacement, add in those egg yolks and
you're still getting slower release protein.
you can tolerate dairy, some added caseinate in a good whey
protein will slow down your utilisation of your protein (although
those products haven't been reviewed here).
Now, let's look at how good quality
whey proteins are produced. The first stage of processing, which
uses ultrafiltration, produces whey protein concentrate. This will
still have some lactose and fat, and can range from 25-85% protein.
A good one will be around 70-80%.
The second stage isolates the protein,
and eliminates the lactose and fat. There are two ways of doing
this - microfiltration and ion exchange.
Ion exchange gives you a higher proportion
of protein in your finished product, so many people will recommend
ion exchange. But we need to look more closely at the different
types of protein fractions that make up the whey. Most of them
are believed to be good for the immune system, including alpha-lactalbumin,
glycomacropeptide and Bovine serum albumin. But the fraction that
makes up most of the protein is beta-lactoglobulin. This fraction
is the one that is most likely to be allergenic. So you want a process
that reduces that as much as possible, preferably keeping the %
to around 50% or lower. With Ion Exchange, the % can be up to 75%.
This also means there are less of the beneficial elements. So this
would not be my first choice.
But crossflow microfiltration keep
the fractions in more or less the same ratio as they started. So
this is a safer option. The drawback here is that you have a much
higher priced product.
If you are sensitive to lactose, you
will need to go for a Ultrafiltered, then Microfiltered Whey Protein
Isolate. But otherwise, it seems to me that an Ultrafiltered Whey
Protein Concentrate (or a blend of the two) will be suitable for
most people, and kinder on the pocket. It's also a less processed
product, which is often better. Of course, if you have digestive
trouble, move up to the Microfiltered. Remember that they must be
non-denatured and produced without heat, which will be somewhere
on the label of a good product.
There are a couple of other things you might see printed on the
label that you need to know about.
Most powders are instantized.
Whey protein concentrate or the whey isolate is instantized before it is put into containers and sold to you. Instantizing is not really a complex process but it involves a product called “soy lecithin” that is bonded to the powder to decrease the surface area and therefore increasing dispersion. Whey protein manufactures use soy lecithin to make their powders “instantized”. Therefore every time you buy a whey protein concentrate or whey protein isolate that is instantized (which pretty much means all of them) you are technically buying whey protein and soy lecithin
Soy lecithin comes from soy oil. After the soybeans are pressed and the oil is extracted the sludge left over is made into soy lecithin. It's a disgusting looking product that requires a harsh chemical process to make. Other chemicals are added to kill off the putrid smell. Soy companies decided this product could be used as an emulsifier (soy lecithin) and marketed it that way. Thus it found its way into protein powders in the late 80's. Avoid all soy lecathin and instanized powders like the plague.
The other process is hydrolyzation. The purpose of this is to break
down the peptides into smaller pieces, to make them easier to digest
and assimilate. The drawback seems to be that this is done using
acid, alkali or enzyme treatments and it can affect the function
of the protein. I'd go for minimal processing and avoid hydrolyzation if
Hydrolyzed whey protein supplements are taken in by the body more quickly. The process of hydrolyzation is the breaking down of the proteins into di-peptides and tri-peptides.
If building large muscles is your primary goal, hydrolyzed whey protein supplements may achieve this more rapidly. But it's very unlikely that in the long term these supplements will turn out to be completely safe. So if good health is your aim, use whey protein with extreme moderation and rely more on real food!
You also need to check what other ingredients
are in there. Watch out for fillers like calcium caseinate, and
especially for sweeteners. Some of
the usual sweeteners used (roughly from best to worst):
- Stevia - about the only sweetener
that is universally agreed to be totally safe. It can have a bitter
aftertaste if used incorrectly though, so is often teamed with
other sweeteners to get round that.
- Maltodextrin, honey, glucose polymers,
etc - No good for people following a completely whole
food diet (ie no sugars or refined carbs) and people on a
low carb diet would probably
want to avoid as well. But for people not worrying about sugars,
probably OK in these quantities.
- Sucralose - this has taken over
from aspartame as a popular sweetener. Most experts seem to agree
that if you must go artificial this is the least harmful one to
use. But it is still too recent to be totally sure, and at least
one doctor is publicising examples of people who have had intense
reactions to it.
- Acesulfame k - same chemical family
as saccharin. No research has conclusively linked it to diseases,
but it pays to very wary of all artificial sweeteners.
- Fructose - Many adverse effects
on health. (The fructose part of the sucrose molecule is much
more damaging than the glucose part)
- Aspartame - too many health dangers to list here - it is literally toxic.
flavour" can also be a problem for some people, so if you're
sensitive to MSG, look for a product that's unflavoured. These are
hard to find though, so if you don't have a specific MSG problem,
you'll probably be OK with a naturally flavoured product.
have xantham gum in them. This is not a problem for most people,
but some people do have difficulty digesting gums.
Any other ingredient
that you don't know what it is, ask before buying.
Products that I
would use :
My pick in New Zealand is two of the Red 8 products, or the two
by Leppinsport. The two Red 8 products seem to be the less popular
of the range, so you may need to ask for them to be ordered for
Red 8 Protein Plus is an instantised, low temperature,
ultrafiltered whey protein concentrate. The sweetener is stevia,
and it has a "nature identical" vanilla or chocolate flavour.
As long as you're not senstive to lactose or flavourings, this looks
like a good all round product. Reasonably priced at around $28 for
500g. Also available in unflavoured for around $25.
Red 8 Microfiltered Whey Protein Isolate is unflavoured
and unsweetened. This would be the choice for anyone with sensitivities.
Contains lecithin. Around $42 for 500g.
Note that Red 8 Premium Whey Fuel Powder hasn't
been reviewed as it includes caseinates, but the whey is as good
a quality as the rest of the range, plus it includes l-glutamine
Leppinsport Ultimate Whey contains Ultra filtered
ion-exchange Whey Protein Concentrate, Natural Flavours, Natural
Sweeteners (Stevia). Four flavours available. Price is around $40
for 700g, $70 for 1.5g, or $110 for 2.5kg. Like the Red 8 Protein
Plus, this would be a good, reasonably priced product as long as
you're not senstive to lactose or flavourings.
Leppinsport Active Woman is like the Ultimate
Whey but also contains Sodium, Potaasium, Calcium, Super Citrimax,
L-Carnitine, Iron, Zinc, Chromium. Five flavours available. Price
is around $20 for 300g, or $40 for 700g.
Metagenics Bio Pure - "BioPure
Protein is prepared by utilizing a patented ultrafiltration/diafiltration
process that concentrates the whey protein and bioactive immunoglobulins.
It is processed at controlled temperatures and pH to prevent the
protein from denaturing (becoming inactive). The whey in BioPure
Protein is obtained from the milk of a dairy herd in New Zealand,
one of only two "pristine herds" worldwide." It does
have a small amount of maltodextrin in it, so no good for whole
food diets, but carbs are fairly low at 1g to each 16g protein,
so pretty OK for most people. Price and availability unknown.
In other countries, there will probably
be a lot more choice, and I can't go through them all!! But if you
send me a link about your favourite powder, I'll check it out and
tell you what I think. To start you off:
- These products look OK.
Aussie Bodies Perfect Protein.
Made from Ultrafiltered Whey Protein Concentrate. Chocolate and
Vanilla only have flavour added, so they're good. But the Strawberry
is sweetened with sucralose, and has a colour added that some people
have reacted badly to, so avoid that flavour.
Designer Physique - Whey protein
concentrate. Ultra filtered. No additives. So looks good
for those who can tolerate a little lactose.
Designer Physique - Whey protein
isolate. Ultra filtered and micro filtered. No additives.
So looks good for those who need lactose free.
Designer Physique - Slim Whey.
Appears to be exactly the same as the isolate, so not sure
why they need a separate product.
States - These products look OK.
Jay Robb's Whey Protein Isolate. Microfiltered.
From grass fed cows not treated with rBGH (Recombinant Bovine Growth
Hormone). Also with natural flavor, xanthan gum, lecithin, stevia.
Pro Optimal Whey. Concentrate. From grass fed
cows, free of growth hormone. Also contains xylitol, natural flavours,
lecithin, flaxseed. Some people react to xylitol with diarrhoea,
so this may not be suitable for everybody. http://www.mercola.com/
Chek recommends only these two powders:
Imuplus is a whey protein isolate produced by Swiss
Pharmaceutical. Imuplus is not a whey protein concentrate,
which means that instead of using the kind of standard technology
described in Appendix 1, very expensive and advanced technology
is used to isolate key protein fractions such as lactoferrin and
glutathione. Imuplus also has the common allergenic fractions removed
(I am allergic to milk and personally can’t tolerate Imuplus,
yet most of my patients with milk allergies and intolerance can).
In my conversations with the distributor (www.biogene.net), she
stated that Imuplus is organic and produced from raw stock. When
I asked if they could send me a copy of their organic certification,
she said that information was “proprietary.” The reason
for this was beyond me until I found this statement: “Fat
and lactose free, the whey used for IMUPlus™ is from the milk
of USDA Grade A dairy cows.” That being said, I have had good
results with the product. Imuplus is not like the kind of protein
powders most of you are used to using. It does not work well at
all when mixed with fruit juices or most other typical ingredients
used to make “protein shakes.” My patients that have
tried using it that way all describe feeling like they had "bricks
in their stomachs.” It is a medical grade protein supplement
and must be used exactly as described. I have also had athletes
who are used to consuming large amounts of protein powder ignore
my instructions to stick to only two to four packets a day (depending
on needs), only to end up smelling like an unhealthy gym rat with
a taxed liver! This product is highly bioavailable and should be
seen as a medical supplement and not a food.
de Sante (Essence of Life) - Nick Abrishamian, Ph.D. is
a clinical biochemist and is the only person I know to acquire FDA
approval to formulate and sell a raw, organic whey protein. Not
surprisingly, he informed me that it took several years of battling
the FDA to get this rare approval. An expert in blood analysis,
Dr. Abrishamian typically customizes each batch of whey protein
to the individual’s needs. For those without blood analysis,
it is possible to order Eclater de Sante in its standard formulation.
Like Imuplus, I learned of this product through one of my associates,
Dr. Dan Kalish, an instructor of the C.H.E.K Nutrition and Lifestyle
Coaching program. Dr. Kalish uses Eclater de Sante to help patients
in need of biologically available protein, immune modulation and
support. I have personally tested Eclater de Sante and had minimal
problems. Like Imuplus, it did give me the typical headaches I get
from consuming any dairy products (aside from butter), yet it did
improve my recovery from hard training sessions while lecturing
on the road. This product is a medical grade supplement, and again,
it should not be used in place of a whole food organic eating plan.
Products I would
use as a compromise:
These are compromises
as they use Ion Exchange isolate, where microfiltered is probably
NFS Nutraceuticals Super Whey protein
- mainly lonic Exchange Whey Protein Isolate and a small amount
of Bio-Engineered Ultra Filtered Whey Protein. 5g of l-glutamine
with each serving & 2g taurine to complete the amino acids.
Sweetened with stevia and malt. Malt is no good for whole food diets,
or the gluten sensitive. Choc & strawberry flavours. $NZ80 for
750g. It can be ordered online at www.creativeenergy.co.nz
Solgar Whey to Go (vanilla)
- Ion-exchanged, Micro-filtered and Hydrolyzed protein blend. Leslie
Kenton recommends this brand, though I have my doubts about the
hydrolyzed portion. I'd only use the natural vanilla flavour. The
other flavours all have fructose in them. Around $NZ60 for about
340g protein, so pretty expensive.
Products I wouldn't
Solgar Whey to Go (Non vanilla flavours)
- Ion-exchanged, Micro-filtered and Hydrolyzed protein blend
- only the natural vanilla flavour is recommended. The other flavours
all have fructose in them.
Biochem Ultimate Protein System
- 100% microfiltered whey protein isolate, which is good. But the
sweeteners are fructose, which is bad, and acesulfame k.
Biochem Ultimate Lo Carb Smoothie
- Instantised whey protein concentrate. Sweeteners are maltodextrin
& sucralose, which are suspect.
Twin Lab Triple Whey Fuel -
Combo of micro-filtered and ion exchange; hydrolysed and whey protein
concentrate. The dodgy bit, though, is that the sweetener is aspartame,
which I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole.
Horleys Whey Factors - Instantised
Ion Exchange Whey Protein Isolate, Ultrafiltered Whey Protein Concentrate,
Whey Protein Hydrolysate. It does have L-Glutamine, which is good.
But the sweeteners are acesulfame k and aspartame, so that rules
Horleys Awesome Whey - Instantised
Whey Protein Concentrate, Hydrolysed Whey Protein Concentrate. Also
the sweeteners are Maltodextrin, acesulfame k and aspartame.
I haven't looked at products that are
whey combined with other protein powders. And this isn't all of
the pure whey products. There may be other good ones out there,
but as you can see there are more bad ones than good ones. This
range gives you an idea of how to judge other products.