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P-P-Protein Power

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One of my health goals for this year was to improve my diet, and in particular eat more protein, less fat and be more organised with eating around my exercise sessions. I’d never thought of using protein supplements to do this, I’d just planned to try and include more lean meat, eggs and seeds in my diet, but over the last few months I’ve been sent a range of protein supplements to try out and I decided to give them a go.

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I’ll confess I was a little wary at first, I didn’t want to just add extra junk and “empty calories” to my diet, and those pictures of muscle bound men on the front of the boxes never really made me think of people who were health conscious, just people who would eat anything if it helped them bulk up! My goal is to eat more healthily within the limitations of my life and to help my performance in the activities I enjoy. While I think “clean-eating” sounds like a lovely thing, it would be unsustainable for my lifestyle, and probably for a lot of peoples, to eat that way exclusively. I travel a lot and have to eat out, I’m often away when I exercise or have to shoot off straight from one thing to another, plus I like the occasional Ginsters Cheese & Onion pasty so the odd additive doesn’t worry me too much, but I do like to know what I’m eating, and it bothers me when foods are marketed as “healthy”, “fat free” etc and are actually stuffed with sugar and other pointless nasties. So I did my research on these products before I tried them.

Most of them seemed to use whey protein as their main ingredient. On the plus side whey protein is an extremely good source of branched chain amino acids and is apparently easily utilised by your body as a protein source, it can also be added to your diet without adding large amounts of fat or cholesterol that might come with other protein sources, which appealed to me. When looking for the downsides of whey powder I found that some of the claims about its role in building muscle didn’t have enough research into them, but that the only other downsides mentioned were to do with potential lactose intolerance, which isn’t a problem for me, and the general potential negative effects of a high protein diet including osteoporosis and liver and kidney failure, but I had no intention of eating that much protein, just adding a little more to my diet. Overall it seemed that whey protein was perfectly safe, and the subject of ongoing research about its potential benefits, so I decided to give it a go.

Most sources I found recommend about 0.7-2g of Protein consumption per kg of body weight, depending on your level of activity. Most of us are probably towards the lower end of that scale, unless you’re in the middle of training for a marathon, so there’s no need to go nuts with the protein!

Today I’m going to take a closer look at 3 of the protein supplements I’ve been sent to try.

Ā MaxiMuscle Protein Milk and MaxiNutrition Protein Milk

These products are ready mixed protein shake in a bottle, the MaxiMuscle contains 30g of Protein and the lower calorie MaxiNutrition contains 20g protein. It contains skimmed milk and milk proteins and is sweetened using sucralose, an artificial sweetener. Sucralose is mostly not recognised by the body at all and simply excreted, apparently there have been studies linking consumption in excess of 11,000 packets of sucralose a day to DNA damage in mice though, so, you know, probably best not to drink too much.

maximuscle

Whilst I’m a little glib about the dangers of sucralose, an unrefined sugar source would no doubt be best, and there’s no denying this is a processed food and designed to be consumed as one. I found it very handy to chuck in my gym bag or suitcase for a post exercise “snack” if I knew I was going to be in a situation where no other food was going to be easy to come by, but this is essentially a milkshake with no sugar and extra protein.

I preferred the taste of the MaxiNutrition shake to the MaxiMuscle, it tasted slightly less powdery, but I don’t know if that’s because it was strawberry instead of chocolate flavour and it was the flavouring that caused the difference.

Protein World Slender Blend

This is a protein powder, but aimed at slimmers, so a little lower in calories per serving than a lot of them. This one bothers me slightly as in the blurb it refers to it as a “meal replacement” something I have a big issue with, and I also think the calorie content of a serving would be too low at 130 calories to serve as a meal replacement anyway. If you read on further, it suggests having one for breakfast, and another after exercise, which isn’t as bad as it first sounds.

slenderblend

As well as Whey Protein the powder contains Raspberry Ketones, Green Tea Extract and CLA powder, all supplements said to aid weight loss. There’s seems to be little evidence to support the claims, but none of these additives appear to be harmful. It also has added multi vitamins and minerals, though I’m not sure in what quantities. The other ingredients are dextrose as a sweetener, which is basically a sugar, and xanthan gum, a naturally derived thickener.

I initially made this up as recommended, mixing it with water in a shaker and I had it for breakfast alongside a banana. It contains 30g of protein and 130 calories made up this way. The taste isn’t nasty, but is also nothing really special, just a chocolatey shake, but I did think the consistency was slightly gritty. Since then I’ve started to add it to smoothies in the morning, using just one scoop for a bit of chocolate flavour with some unsweetened almond milk, a banana, peanut butter and some frozen spinach. I like it’s versatility as you can edit the amount you use and add it to different foods and drinks, it’d be great to use to flavour frozen yoghurt, for instance.

Twist Espresso Protein Drink

This is a protein powder in a single serving form. It comes in a frankly genius bottle that you top up with water and shake, which makes it light to carry and brilliantly portable for travelling.

As well as whey protein it also contains spray dried columbian coffee, flavourings, inulin, which is an insoluble fibre which acts as a pre-biotic and 2 different artificial sweeteners, Sucralose and Acesulfame Potassium, the second of which has been found safe also, but also contains no nutritional value, and again has been linked in some studies on rodents to cancer causing properties.

twist protein drink

Taste wise this pretty much tastes like any pre packed coffee drink, which I’m actually quite fond of! The caffeine content felt a bit odd to me as I associate this sort of drink with a post work out drink, where as caffeine is often used to enhance performance in sports. I only had a couple of these sent to me, and one I had for breakfast whilst away working in a hotel accompanied by a Nakd bar, and the other I drank after a morning run when I would probably have had a coffee anyway. I’d be interested to try drinking this before a short run or endurance skating to see if the caffeine has any effect.

The Verdict

Having tried all these products my favourite is probably the powder. I like it’s flexibility to be added to different foods, but the convenience of the single serving packages of the other 2 products is undeniable and I suspect I shall continue using all of them in some form. The key word is convenience, these are a convenience food, they contain artificial sweeteners, stabilisers and thickeners and someone else made them in a factory rather than you creating them from scratch in your kitchen. If I’m going to consume artificial sweeteners, which I no doubt am, I would rather have them in a product like this than in a totally nutritionally empty form like a diet coke, which I’m pretty sure I’ll also still have again in future.

I wouldn’t want to rely on any of these products as my main protein source and I wouldn’t want to be having 2 or 3 of these a day as some of them recommend, I’d prefer to eat more lean meat, eggs, seeds and other natural sources, but as a supplement and for convenience purposes when boiling an egg or grilling a chicken breast, or even just making a smoothie, isn’t physically possible, then having done the research I’m perfectly happy to fall back on any of these.

I haven’t kept all of the places I read about whey protein, but there’s a few places for further reading below

Wikipedia – Whey Protein

Love to Know Vegetarian – Is Whey Protein Dangerous?

Discovery Health- Whey Protein

8 Responses
  • Robin
    March 5, 2014

    I’ve been having Slender Blend in a smoothie with banana, spinach and almond milk and I like it as a way of getting extra protein. I don’t like the fact they’ve obviously sent it to a load of Z list celebrities who are now all saying how awesome it is on twitter though, as well as the fact that they try and market it as a meal replacement shake.

  • Mitchell Okotie
    March 5, 2014

    I think it is great to use supplements at times,, but like you said to focus more on a healthy, balance low fat diet.

  • Zoe (www.star-psyche.co.uk)
    March 5, 2014

    Interesting comparison, thanks. I’ve been on the lookout for protein powders that don’t contain artificial sweeteners but apparently they seem to be few and far between šŸ™

  • Kim
    March 9, 2014

    Interesting. I try and get what I need from food but I do use protein powder to make pancakes for breakfast and occasionally a shake. I get sent some protein smoothie things as I free gift with my protein powder the other day, anything that leaves that kind if after taste can’t be good!!

  • Exercise Bike
    March 9, 2014

    Almond milk is a best of form of protein than any other source. Nice blog.

  • Tiffany
    March 18, 2014

    If you want a nice snack that’s high in protein and fairly low in fat try this: chocolate protein powder in fat free greek yogurt with a bit of peanut butter thrown in. I’ve been know to add a pinch of cocoa to punch it up too šŸ™‚

  • Will Sykes
    March 19, 2014

    Thanks for the share. I’ve started relying quite a lot on supplements recently, mostly out of convenience to be honest. They’re a great way to get that post-workout protein fix. I haven’t tried the MaxiNutrition products before, I’ll have to give them a go!

  • MrsB (@MrsB_LDN)
    March 22, 2014

    I just put some hemp protein powder (can’t use whey cause dairy gives me pimples), cocoa and antioxidant powder into a shaker bottle and after my workout add water and gulp it down. It doesn’t taste like a treat but it does not have to – it’s just something I do because it’s good for me šŸ™‚