Protein powders are regarded as the fuel of the fit and healthy. No body builder, or fitness junkie would be complete without a shaker in hand as he or she exits leaves the gym.

In Australia, this industry is growing at a rate of 27.7% per annum, with $80 million worth of sports foods sold in 2012. The However, the unfortunate reality is that the majority of protein powders sold on the market are packed full of added nasties, which are causing more harm than good. 

If you do opt for a protein powder, go natural and organic and beware of the following: points which may sabotage your fitness goals. 


Energy dense

Australia is today currently ranked one of the fattest nations in the developed world, with over 4 million Australians classified as overweight or obese. Healthy adults require 0.8-1.0g of protein per kilogram of body weight, a target that is easily met through natural wholefoods. Unless you have significantly increased protein requirements, adding protein powder to your diet will simply increase the number of calories consumed. 


Contain artificial sweeteners

The jury is still out on the safety of artificial sweeteners, with the TGA still claiming the safety of aspartame, sucralose and saccharin. However, many believe that these chemical substances are carcinogenic, which significantly increases the risks of bladder cancer and may interfere with optimal brain function. They are also thought to contribute to the obesity epidemic. 


May contain lactose

Protein powder is generally made from a combination of whey protein isolate (WPI) and whey protein concentrate (WPC). WPC is a cheaper alternative and contains a combination of protein (39-90%) and fat while WPI is predominantly protein (>90%). Most brands contain a “proprietary protein blend” which is predominantly WPC, the cheaper alternative. WPC will contain lactose. If you are lactose intolerant, opt for WPI protein powders and always check the label for allergen warnings.


Natural and ‘nature identical’ flavours and colours

This phrase was listed in the ingredients of a popular protein powder. What does this even mean? The first problem with thishere is it doesn't list what the flavours actually are. This is common throughout the protein industry. The second issue is that they are trying to disguise laboratory-designed additives as natural. As we can’t identify what these are, we have no way of recognizing the health risks. 


Heavy metals

Read through the ingredient list of popular protein powders and it will most likely read like a bottle of cleaning detergent or beauty product. So many chemicals, so many additives and flavours that you’ have never even heard of. A report published in 2010 by Consumer Report, tested 15 protein powders and found moderate levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury in these products. This is hardly the ideal post post-workout recovery fuel.

6 fish we should be eating (and how to cook ‘em) Vegans beware: the hidden animal products in your food 43 wonderful ways with fennel