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By Brian A. Stenzler, M.Sc, D.C.

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Lately I’ve been getting really good engagement on my posts, especially the most recent ones related to soda and blending vs. juicing. After sharing my personal breakfast smoothie recipe last week, a lot of people are asking me why I choose a plant-based protein rather than the others. Therefore, this week I will share with you some of the pros and cons to different protein sources as well as what to look for in a protein powder should you decide to start using one or make a change.

First, let’s understand what protein is…

Simply stated, proteins are made from amino acids and are the building blocks of muscle. Some amino acids are made on our own and some we get from what we ingest. The typical person should consume around seven grams of protein for every 20 pounds they weigh. This can vary based on their individual body type (endomorph, mesomorph or ectomorph), daily activities and goals, but this is a general recommendation. So, someone who weighs 160 pounds should be consuming around 56 grams of protein daily. It is important to note that if someone desires to add muscle mass and burn fat, more protein would typically be recommended. It is also important to consume a clean form of protein 30 minutes before or after exercise (preferably after for digestive and comfort reasons).

Protein Powder Sources…

Animal Sources

There are many different types of protein powders that come from animal in some way, shape or form. If you choose to be vegan, which is a very noble endeavor, you can skip this section and read about the plant-based options. The most widely consumed animal-based protein powders include beef, egg, casein, and the most common, whey.

Whey protein has been the most popular over the years for many reasons. For one, it was one of the first used in protein powders and costs a bit less to manufacture. It is also known for helping a person build muscle and aid in recovery. Whey is one of the two proteins that is derived from milk (the other being casein, which I don’t recommend because so many people have allergies and sensitivities). Like all animal derived proteins, whey protein is considered to be complete as it contains the nine essential amino acids that humans cannot produce. While there are quite a few positive benefits to whey protein, many people, whether they have milk allergies or not, complain of bloating, stomach pains, nausea, fatigue and headaches when consuming it in large amounts. Also, it is considered a milk product, so all the potential issues with dairy come along, though whey does have low lactose content.

Grass-fed beef protein is beginning to gain popularity, though it is more costly. Beef protein has been said that it is superior to whey for increase muscle mass and does not come with the downfalls of consuming dairy. If the protein specifically comes from grass-fed cows, there are added benefits in the omega-6 fatty acid, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Studies have shown that CLA offers many health benefits, including weight loss. It has been shown that grass-fed beef contains 300-500% more CLA than typical grain-fed beef1.

Eggs have been referred to as “the perfect protein,” as they also contain all nine essential amino acids. For a period of time, I consumed egg protein powders and enjoyed them. However, I have been unable to find a very high quality, clean egg protein powder.

Plant Sources

While protein from animal sources is easy to come by and measure, proteins from plant sources are typically much leaner and cleaner, and come chock full of other healthy nutrients. Also, the issues that coincide with consuming milk products do not come into play when consuming plant-based proteins. Personally, I feel much lighter and better when drinking shakes made with proteins that come from the earth. If significant weight and muscle gain is your goal, then perhaps you may want to choose a different source of protein, or just load these shakes up with an extra scoop of protein powder and be sure to add additional sources of protein and healthy fats, such as hemp seeds, nut butter and coconut oil. I also appreciate knowing that plant-based proteins are better for the environment and animals are not directly impacted by my daily consumption. Some examples of recommended plant-based proteins include hemp, pea, brown rice and chia. I do not, however, recommend protein powders derived from soy for a variety of reasons.

It has taken me years to find a protein powder that I love the taste, blends nicely with my other ingredients, is organic and non-GMO, does not contain any sugars or artificial sweeteners (only stevia for sweetness, which is a plant) and is reasonably priced (right now, only $1 per serving). I typically switch between the Warrior Blend, Warrior Classic and Collagen Building. These powders are so clean that I even serve it to my six-year-old son, just in smaller servings. Sun Warrior protein powders are also available at many health-conscious grocery stores such as Whole Foods and Sprouts, or you can get it for 10% off by using the code, DREAM with this link

Note: I am not vegan, but when I consume animal products, I do everything I can to ensure that the animals were humanely raised, free-range and handled with love and care throughout their lifetimes.

A word of caution…

Just like not all protein sources are created equal, not all protein powders are either. Many protein powders are loaded with sugar, or worse yet, artificial sugars. If you see corn syrup solids (or any derivative of that those words), Sucralose (Splenda) or Acesulfame Potassium which is common in many protein powders, I beg you to think twice before consuming. If you haven’t yet downloaded chapters 5-12 and 5-13 from my book for FREE, please do so now to understand why and to learn about what sugars and sugar substitutes are better than others. If stevia or monk fruit is not an option for you, you can go for other natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup or even molasses and coconut sugar, as long as you keep in mind that those are forms of sugar and increase the number of calories and impact your sugar-glucose levels. In my opinion, you should go with the cleanest ingredients you can find and sweeten your shake with fresh or frozen fruit whenever possible.

In Summary…

A healthy protein shake starts with a good base of the protein powder you choose, but the remaining ingredients are what turn the shake into a healthy meal. If you do not have the opportunity to load your shake with lots of healthy other ingredients for whatever reason, I recommend using a powder that can serve as a complete meal, such as Sun Warrior’s Lean Meal Illumin8. Personally, I prefer to start with a very clean and simple protein base and add fresh healthy fruits, vegetables and fats as you can see if my personal recipe. Enjoy!

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