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Heather Benek


August 31, 2023

Protein - Powders, Bars, and Additives OH MY

With marketing and advertising throwing countless products your way, not to mention snazzy buzzwords like “high protein,” “all natural,” and “healthy”, it can be TOUGH to sort through all the BS to find a product that will support your nutritional needs and personal goals- BS free! 

Not to worry, I’ve got you. Below are tips for ingredients to avoid and an (incomplete) list of bars and powders to try out!

Here are some things to avoid or limit in protein shakes and bars

  • Sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal distress in high quantities or with regular use
  • Artificial sweeteners like maltitol, erythritol, and xylitol, acesulfame potassium (also labeled as Ace-K or Acesulfame K) (can cause bloating, gas, abdominal pain)
  • High Fat Content From inflammatory vegetable oils rather than healthy fats like nuts and seeds
  • Sucralose Research suggests that it can compromise your gut microbiome by reducing the healthy bacteria by half. Sucralose can also increase inflammation in the body, over time chronic inflammation often leads to preventable disease
  • Be cautious of “natural and artificial flavors” This is often a catch all for extracted flavors, those created in labs and MSG. MSG are known excitotoxins. Despite evidence that excitotoxins can freely penetrate certain brain regions and rapidly destroy neurons, they’re still being used since they contain some of the chemicals that cause your taste buds to experience “irresistibility” when it comes to food. With “natural and artificial flavors” in the ingredient list, companies are not required to disclose all additives
  • Long ingredient lists with ingredients you don’t recognize. Generally, the fewer ingredients, the better

NOTE: I highly recommend eating fermented foods, especially when consuming foods that compromise your gut biome.

Protein Powders - Our Recommendations

Make your mix

Base Liquids - Water (cold!), dairy milk, Oat/Almond/Soy milks, coffee or cold brew, fruit juices go well with vanilla flavored powders

Taste Adjustments → Adding a scoop of cocoa powder or carob and some monk fruit, honey, or maple syrup. Or blend with a banana and vanilla.

Texture Adjustments → Try mixing in a shaker bottle, using a blender,  a mini frother wand, or simply shaking in a jar with a lid that seals well. Add ice if you like it extra cold! You can blend with a banana or avocado for additional creaminess. Use less liquid and more banana or avocado for a protein meringue or pudding.

Protein Bars - Eat your fill on the go!

  • Epic (JUST Protein)
  • RX Bars (Minimal Ingredients)
  • GoMacro or Rise (Vegan/ GF)
  • Kion or Promix (Whey Protein)
  • Eggs (Hard-boiled) (Highest Quality, least ingredients, cheapest, least carbs)

It’s worth noting that many people have trouble digesting large volumes of concentrated macros, and that includes protein. So if you’re having some GI “distress” try a different base liquid or powder in general! 

This is a great starting point around different ways to add extra protein in your diet. Things can get way more complicated when you look at things like nutrient timing, source, volume, total calorie consumption, bio-markers, muscle mass, and the list goes on forever!

Our recommendation when starting something new is to add one new thing and do it slowly but steadily. Check your results and make adjustments!

EDIT: Upon initial posting, the products listed below DO CONTAIN items that we recommend avoiding. Below we’ll list all the ingredients to avoid that we found in the nutrition facts

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