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What’s In Protein Powder – Secret Ingredients

The miracle of protein powder, such a boost for your daily protein intake. This stuff is so good, you would wonder what’s in it. Bringing us to the topic of today’s article, what’s in protein powder? What exactly is combined in the making to create such a great supplement? Well, we’re here to discuss the ingredients used in protein powder, and with some of these, you may want to think twice about consuming your everyday protein shake.

To analyze these ingredients, we decide to pick three popular protein powders on the market and look at each of the ingredients they have to offer. We chose 2 whey proteins since whey seems to be the most popular type of protein and 1 vegan protein…

(Note: To fully comprehend the whey protein or vegan sections, it would be advisable to get a good understanding of the proteins themselves. Check out these articles before reading this one for a quick refresher…)

What Is Whey Protein Powder – Good or Bad?

On Vegan Protein Powder – Better Than Whey?

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein Powder

Optimum Nutrition’s whey protein is a staple among lifters and anyone consuming protein powder for that matter. Such a solid and reliable protein powder holding the potential for great results. However, many consumers have no idea what’s even in their beloved power except maybe whey. Here is the ingredients label from the packaging…

Cocoa (processed with Alkali): Alkali processed cocoa, also known as a dutch process, is a chemical process that neutralizes cocoa’s acidity to a pH of 7. When processed by alkali, the cocoa powder is darker in color making it appear more like chocolate. Not only that, but it ultimately alters the flavor of the original cocoa flavor which can be a bit harsh. Since many protein powders offer a chocolate protein powder, cocoa is used quite a lot.

Lecithin: Lecithin is used to add a creamier, more appetizing flavor in your protein powder. Lecithin is a collection of fats, and it allows for the protein powder to not clump up as much, leaving it as a liquid.

Natural and Artificial Flavors: N/A Flavors are both made by a scientist in a laboratory called a flavorist. The difference between these two, although very alike, is that one is made with synthetic chemicals, artificial, and one uses sources from the environment.

Based on the words “synthetic chemicals”, you’d think artificial flavors are dangerous. But it is quite on the contrary since artificial flavors are processed to remove toxic and harmful chemicals unlike natural flavors, which could have the potential for hazardous substances.

Other than that, artificial flavors are cheaper due to it is manufactured in a lab while natural flavors may have to be found somewhere rare, which could cost a fortune.

Acesulfame Potassium: Acesulfame K is a calorie-free sweetener. Lots of controversies have surrounded with this sweetener, as at his been discovered, through rat experiments, that there are links to cancer. However, there is no concrete evidence of the said link. The Ace potassium is used to protein powder for a sweeter taste, seems obvious enough.

Aminogen: Aminogen is a protein-digesting enzyme, added to protein powder to help you smoothly consume your whey. It also reduces excess bloating or gassiness many proteins may come with.

Lactase: Lactase is an enzyme created in your small intestine that helps you digest lactose from milk. People who are lactose intolerant, cannot create enough lactase to consume all the sugar completely without it going to your colon, leading to the known side effects.

Bodybuilding.com Signature Whey Protein Powder

The 2nd whey protein we have on the list is BB.com’s signature line of whey protein, and personally one of my favorites. The company says they have absolutely nothing to hide when it comes to their high quality and heavily researched ingredients…we’ll be the judge of that. Here is the ingredients label from the packaging… (ingredients we have already discussed will not show up again)

 

Cellulose Gum: Cellulose gum is essentially used to thicken products. It is used to give buyers a more appetizing sight and taste when consuming the protein. Although rare, allergic reactions may come with exposure to cellulose gum, something to look out for.

Xanthan Gum: Made from fermented sugar, xanthan gum is a food additive mainly used to stabilize and thicken products. When I say products, it can vary from foods(ice cream/soups), personal care products(toothpaste/creams) and even industrial products (tile/paints). I know what you’re thinking, “How on earth can something put in tiles be even a little bit edible?”

Well, fellow reader, too many people surprise, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have researched and determined the additive to be completely safe for consumption. Xanthan gum is used in protein powder to add a thicker texture, for flavor and filling. Without it, you’d be left with a more “sludgy” protein shake, not very appetizing.

Carrageenan: Extracted from red seaweed, carrageenan is used to thicken and emulsify properties in protein power. Sounds fancy huh? Well, there’s quite the catch with carrageenan that makes many people want to stay away from the additive.

Carrageenan is rough on your digestive system. It may cause your immune system to respond in ways that cause inflammation, ulcerations, and bleeding in your body. Going to be honest, when reading about this, I thought hard about the protein powders I was drinking.

Sunflower Lecithin: Unlike soy lecithin, sunflower lecithin is much purer and not used in a majority of commercial products. By dehydrating a sunflower, you get oil, gum, and solids, the lecithin comes from the gum. Sunflower lecithin has shown to help liver functions acne due to its richness in choline, an essential fatty acid.

Dipotassium Phosphate: Sources of potassium and phosphorus, Dipotassium phosphate (DKP) is a water-soluble salt that can be used by your body for energy. It’s a popular additive, used for stabilizing and texturizing products.

Side effects from taking DKP for a prolonged time, may include the following due to an imbalance of phosphates in your body…

  • Constipation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Prohydrolase: Prohydrolase is a proteolytic enzyme that is meant to maximize the absorption of amino acids into the bloodstream, along with reducing bloating.

Orgain Organic Protein Powder

For our final protein powder, we decided on Orgain’s vegan protein powder. There are quite a handful of ingredients on the label, so we’ll bring it down to 3 we found most interesting. Here is the ingredients label found on the packaging…

Organic Inulin: Organic inulin is a prebiotic fiber that has quite the powerful health benefits. As it is a fiber, inulin may improve your digestive system along with relieving constipation.

Sea Salt: Sea salt in protein powder? Yes, the salt is used to enhance mainly chocolate flavoring (I used all chocolate flavors if you haven’t noticed). The only thing to be aware of is the potential added sodium that may come along with it.

 

Organic Stevia: Organic Stevia is a natural sweetener, said to be 200 times sweeter than artificial sugar at the same concentration. Wow! These calorie-less sweeteners are appealing to consumers trying to lose weight, however, they may come along with nausea.

The Take-Away

In conclusion, observing and analyzing the ingredients label of a protein powder container is a must when purchasing. The list of benefits and especially side effects are right there but unaware to many due to their lack of research before buying. If you have any comments or questions regarding the listed ingredients, feel free to leave them below. If you’d like to have me explain more of the vegan protein ingredients, go ahead and ask below.

If you’d like to know even more about the listed protein powders above, check our reviews on them…

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein Review – King of Whey

Bodybuilding.com Whey Protein – Powerhouse of a Protein

Orgain Organic Protein Powder Review – Plant Power

18 Comments

  1. Harry

    I have been taking the Bodybuilding dot com Signature Whey Protein Powder for a while now and I was always wondering what the heck are all those ingredients that are displayed on their labels…

    I was surprised to find out about the side effects of Carrageenan as every time I have a shake of this protein my stomach indeed feels weird. Now I know why!

    Thanks a lot for the info!

    • Jose Gallegos

      Hey Harry! Yea, Carrageenan was a scary one once I did some research on it. It was even scarier when it was in my favorite protein powder, Bodybuilding.com‘s whey protein. Just goes to show that a little research never hurt anybody.

  2. Rina

    I’m blown away by the amount of ingredients that go into protein powder. I’m not sure how to feel about that but I guess it’s necessaary for those athletes that use it regularly. Is it just for athletes or can anyone use protein powders? I have considered having it as part of my fitness regime to help with fitness and to build muscle. However, I won’t make my mind up until I have thouroughly researched it as you suggest. 

    • Jose Gallegos

      Hey Rina! Yea, it is definitely worthwhile looking at the ingredients before purchasing a protein powder. One never knows what may be inside.

  3. Cathy Cavarzan

    One of the big take aways I have on protien powders is the fact that a lot of them use stevia or similar in them for me it makes my stomach upset which I found out the hard way. So I must always read the labels my doctor wants me to take protein powder because of the benefit to me. So my question in your research have you found one that would not contain any stevia or similar sweetener substitute? 

    • Jose Gallegos

      Hey Cathy, many, and I mean many, protein powders include some sort of sweetener. However, there are unsweetened protein powders you may want to look into. I’ll try to review some if you’d like?

  4. Boniface-AndroidBix

    Dear Gallegos,

    Thanks a lot for this great post about Protein Powder. 

    Those ingredients are certainly beneficial to the body- for instance, lecithin usually is very good in raising HDL levels in the body and thus lower bad cholesterol. However, could you kindly give more details on the alleged and unconfirmed cancer link of the Acesulfame Potassium ingredient? This is because this can really help one to make a decision if to go for the product as it seems quite beneficial. 

    Boniface- from AndroidBix 

    • Jose Gallegos

      Hey Boniface, of course, I’ll give you some more details!

      Acesulfame Potassium is a very controversial sweetener added to many products, like soda, ice cream, gum, etc. Risks of Ace K causing cancer have been researched upon, and both the U.S and Europe have declared it to be safe for human consumption. The FDA says that Ace K is safe 15kg a day of body weight.

      However, many officials are still skeptical on the issue of it causing cancer, mainly because the research/experiments conducted to debunk the causing of cancer did not meet scientific standards to be able to declare such statement. With that, many people still question Ace K being in products and tend to stay away.

      Hope you found this helpful!

  5. Dave Sweney

    I have always wondered what was in protein powder because there is a broad spectrum of possible sources of protein, and some may not be so appealing if you knew they were in your powder. That is why I was so interested in reading through your article to find out more.

    Also of concern are the many additional ingredients that different brands add to their product. Protein powder can have a vastly different set of additives and some may harm you depending on your tolerance and body chemistry. I know that I am sensitive to several ingredients in products so I always have to look at what is in them to make sure I do not have any reactions.

    Your detailed listing at least takes the cover off of what each of the big three brands has and the possible side effects that their additives can have for some people like me. Thanks for that and I will likely have some detailed questions when I stop by again. Are you a professional gym instructor? You have detailed knowledge that is certainly better than some instructors I have worked with!   

    • Jose Gallegos

      Hey Dave Sweney, unfortunately, I’m not a professional gym instructor, but I’m flattered that you think I am. I’m just someone trying to help clueless supplement consumers find their way through the good and bad supplements out there, mainly protein powders.

      You’re definitely right, everybody’s body is different and some additives have different reactions on different people. You must always read the ingredients label, never know what they got going on back there.

  6. Henderson

    Wow, so much ingredients go into making this? You know, I never really checked out a the ingredients of whatever I bought because I thought since I already know its main components, I should just go for it. After reading this though, I think I need to pay more attention. By the way, 

    • Jose Gallegos

      Hey Henderson, you should definitely check out the ingredients label not only on protein powders but on any product you plan on consuming, you never know what they got going on back there

  7. SeunJeremiah

    Protein powders are a quick way to help ensure that your body is nourished and satisfied, I’ve taken alot of protein powders some were good others were giving me health issues and that made me stop, but I’m sure I have come across Orgain organic protein before now but haven’t purchased it yet,  I’ll give it try and hope for the best. Thanks 

    • Jose Gallegos

      Hey SeunJeremiah, we actually have a review on Orgain Organic Protein Powder on our site, if you’d like to check it out. It’s a pretty solid protein powder!

  8. Ken Burgess

    Loved the article!  Lots of information on ingredients I had no idea about, especially about Carrageenan.  I didn’t know that it could be so harsh on someone’s digestive system,  Why do you suppose they add it in? Surely unless you are researching specifically, neither does the general public who consume these whey protein shakes.  Made me think twice about purchasing!  Thanks for the info!

    • Jose Gallegos

      Hey Ken, Carrageenan is used for smoothening and thickening foods like ice creams, yogurts, and in this case protein powders. It’s mainly used just to improve the texture of a product.

      Although considered safe, researchers have found inflammatory reactions like the ones I listed in the article.

  9. janhesa

    you website is informative its tell weather is good or bad in our health.it contain so much information about What’s In Protein Powder – Secret Ingredients contains.you compare the 3 and tell what the different that contain on it.I recommend this to my friend.
    you must read the ingredients before purchasing a protein powder.usually for the atlhets that use some protein powder i.I hope they will read this so that they will know about it.

    • Jose Gallegos

      Hey Janhesa, I appreciate the publicity! It is important to check not only the ingredients label on protein powder but on every product to see what’s behind the curtain.

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