Protein Powders: How Do They Measure Up?

protein powderLast week’s whey protein post generated a ton of great questions. I’m going to try to get to as many as I can today, and I’ll include information on alternative protein powders at the end. As always, let me know if I miss anything and I’ll try to rectify that in the future.

What about oxidized cholesterol? Aren’t most whey protein concentrates exposed to significant amounts of heating that oxidizes the cholesterol?

Oxidized cholesterol is potentially dangerous. In fact, along with Ancel Keys’ fudging of the saturated fat intake data, it was the oxidized cholesterol-fed rabbit model that jumpstarted the crusade against fat and cholesterol. Undamaged dietary cholesterol wasn’t atherosclerotic; oxidized dietary cholesterol was the stuff that contributed to arterial plaque (feeding pure cholesterol to an obligate herbivore played a part, too) in the rabbit.

Depending on how whey protein concentrate is processed, some of its cholesterol is oxidized. The higher the temperature used, the greater the oxidation. Sounds horrible, right? Not so fast. The average serving of whey protein concentrate contains 30 mg of cholesterol. Let’s assume every last milligram of that is oxidized – sounds pretty terrible, right? Maybe not. Consider the average egg, which contains 220 mg of cholesterol. If you scramble that egg, breaking the yolk and exposing it to oxygen and heat, a significant portion of the cholesterol may be oxidized. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been known to put away half a dozen eggs in a single sitting. Granted, I usually fry mine in butter and try to preserve the structure of the yolk (partly because it tastes better, and partly to dip my bacon), but I’d wager that anyone who eats cooked eggs on a regular basis eats some small amount of oxidized cholesterol, too. Even if just a tiny fraction of that 220 mg/egg cholesterol is oxidized, it’s comparable to the amount you’re getting from a whey protein shake every now and then.

I’m not too concerned with it, personally. We already know that regular egg consumption has a net positive effect on blood lipids, including levels of highly oxidative small, dense LDL. We also know that whey protein supplementation decreases VLDL, at least in rats, and that lactoferrin, a whey protein concentrate component, appears to reduce LDL oxidation. Even if you’re consuming a modicum of oxidized dietary cholesterol from the occasional scoop of whey protein power, the benefits – including increased lean mass, better recovery from strength training, as well as a reduction in atherogenic lipids – seem to outweigh any potential negatives. Additionally, when we consume oxidized cholesterol in the bioreactor that is the stomach (at a very low pH) we may also be mitigating some of the potential harmful effects of oxidized cholesterol.

Is grass-fed whey protein worth the extra cost?

I don’t think so. If ethical concerns are your primary reasons for eating grass-fed beef and dairy, it might make sense to shell out the extra dough for grass-fed whey powder, but if you’re drawn to it for the health benefits, don’t bother. There really aren’t any. Think about why we prefer pastured animal products in the first place – favorable fatty acid profiles, more fat-soluble vitamins, cleaner, better-tasting meat (once you get used to beef tasting like beef). Why do we take protein powder? For the protein. We aren’t expecting incredible flavor, vast amounts of vitamins, or healthy fats; we just want some fast-acting protein. Feel free to use grass-fed whey protein, but don’t think it’s doing anything special. You’re better off buying grass-fed meat (and dairy) instead.

When’s the best time to take whey protein, if I’m looking for increased protein synthesis and muscle recovery?

I generally don’t worry about meal timing too much, but if you do, take your whey protein within a half hour post-workout. Your muscles will be insulin sensitive and primed for nutrients and glycogen, so the insulinogenic release from the whey will be a boon.

Other Proteins

Of course, whey isn’t the only protein powder around. It’s my personal favorite for a few reasons (the anti-atherogenic qualities, the fast absorption, the positive effects on lean mass development), but a number of you asked about other sources, so here’s some info on a few of the more popular varieties, including their respective biological values (BV).

The BV is one way to measure a protein’s “usability.” The higher the BV, the greater the proportion of available protein that can be synthesized by the body’s cells. Higher BVs also indicate a greater amount of essential amino acids – those amino acids that the body cannot synthesize or convert on its own and must instead obtain from the diet. Whey protein concentrate, for example, has a biological value of 104, while isolate has a BV of 100. Milk itself? 91. Beef? 80. You want a high biological value in your powders especially, since their only reason for existing is to provide a quick, easy influx of dietary protein. Interestingly, BV goes down with greater protein intake. Whey’s BV of 104 is at intakes of 0.2g/kg; it drops to around 70 at 0.5g/kg. While this isn’t really an issue for a PBer who uses shakes sparingly as supplements and gets most of his or her protein from whole foods, it might dissuade one from getting all their protein from powder.

Note, though, that biological value does not refer to the amount of protein in the powder; it only refers to the usability of the protein in the powder. A particular powder might be 60% protein, and the biological value would tell you exactly how much of that 60% is usable by the body. Different powders have different protein contents. Hemp protein, for example, is often about 50% protein, but it varies by the manufacturer. A quick glance at the nutrition facts should clue you in.

There’s also the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS), which is the method by which the World Health Organization evaluates protein value. It’s a newer model, and it’s based on the amino acid requirements of humans, specifically children. Most protein powders (and their consumers) stick with the BV, but the PDCAAS is gaining in popularity. Whey protein (both isolate and concentrate) has an optimum PDCAAS of 1.

Casein Protein

BV – 77


Derived from that other variety of milk protein, casein protein powder doesn’t absorb as quickly as whey. It’s a complete protein with the full range of amino acids (including ample amounts of glutamine, which transports nitrogen to tissue), just like whey, but it’s potentially far more problematic because of the autoimmune/allergen issue. Those with dairy allergies should probably avoid it. Bodybuilders swear by casein; they dig it for the slow absorption rate and tend to take it before bedtime. One (industry funded) study found that casein was inferior to whey protein in terms of body composition and muscular strength outcomes, so I wouldn’t replace whey with casein just yet. There may be some benefit to taking both, though, seeing as how both casein and whey are a package deal in nature. Milk is certainly a popular post-workout recovery drink, and it contains both casein and whey.

Egg White Protein

BV – 100


Egg white protein powder is another highly bioavailable protein choice. In fact, it’s so bioavailable that it represents the BV against which all others are compared (that’s why whey can have a BV exceeding 100). All the amino acids are represented. If you’re concerned about oxidized cholesterol, stay away from whole egg protein powder. You may be able to get a hold of a minimally processed whole egg powder with very little oxidation, but you’ll probably end up spending a ton of money. Just eat actual eggs or stick with egg white powder instead. The Paleo Diet blog recommends egg white protein powder for those with autoimmune disease, but it’s worth noting that egg whites themselves can be rather potent allergens, so use caution.

Pea Protein

BV – 65

PDCAAS – 0.69

I’m generally down on vegetarian protein powders. In my experience, they just don’t work as well as the animal-based ones. We’re not meant to get all our protein from vegetable sources, and our absorption of vegetable-based protein isn’t as efficient, so you have to consume far more pea protein powder just to get enough – and this stuff can get pretty pricey. No protein powder is perfectly Primal, but pea protein powder is even less so. If egg and milk protein powders are off limits for whatever reason, though, give pea protein a shot.

Rice Protein

BV – 83

PDCAAS – 0.47

Rice protein powder is created by isolating the protein from the brown rice grain. Rice is already one of the least offensive grains out there, so a smattering of rice-based amino acids will work okay. You’re not going to absorb or digest the rice protein with as much ease as with animal-based protein, but that’s fine. A reader mentioned that any form of dairy protein powder resulted in great discomfort; if that’s true, rice protein powder may be a good choice.

Hemp Protein

I was unable to get a reliable score, but the general consensus was “lower BV” than other powders.

PDCAAS – 0.46

Hemp is another option for vegetarians (or nutrition explorers). Like the other vegetarian protein powders, hemp is quite a bit lower in protein content than the animal protein-based powders (or even other vegetarian powders). It’s generally loaded with tons of fiber and a bit more fat than other powders, but fiber-free versions do exist. Again, not my first choice, and it’s fairly expensive, but hemp powder does taste relatively good.

A good rule is to choose protein powders that have both high BVs and high PDCAASs.

Do You Need Protein Powder?

Whey protein powder is proven to be effective, and it’s ubiquitous and inexpensive. Protein powder in general can help athletes recover from training, and it doesn’t have to be dairy-based, if you’re sensitive. There’s nothing wrong with dabbling (or even throwing yourself into) in alternative protein powders, and in the case of casein and egg whites, you might even see added benefits by incorporating them into your whey regimen.

But that doesn’t mean you need protein powder.

Take your time and evaluate your diet. You may find that you don’t need powder supplements. I certainly don’t need any myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a big whey shake after an intense workout session from time to time, just for the anabolic effects if not for the convenience and taste. If you’re not getting enough protein, or you can’t find the time to cook every single meal, try some protein powder. Otherwise, eat a steak.

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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102 thoughts on “Protein Powders: How Do They Measure Up?”

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  1. Mark, what about the following factors:

    whey protein authenticity, protein potency, melamine, solvent residue, heavy metals, herbicide & pesticide residue, stability, bacteria, yeast and mold counts.

    Even if you discount the harm from oxidized cholesterol, doesn’t cold processing preserve immunoglobulins and the original protein structure better?

      1. I bought some Living fuel products, then when they arrived I realized they used Rice and Pea protein in them. I had a few and now my stomach seems bloated. Is the amount of rice high?

      2. I dont understand the whole maintaining the original protein structure/ non-denatured protein thing..

        don’t all proteins get denatured by stomach acid anyway….thats the point…break them down take the amino acids? no?

        1. If the protein is denatured before its eaten, the amino acids won’t be there. That’s why people selling cheap whey protein at places like GNC recommend taking a BCAA supplement.

      3. Living in Canada the shipping for the PB Primal Fuel would kill me, add the shipping and possibly having Health Canada not allowing it past the border…I’m stuck searching for another protein powder. I don’t “need” it but I find that my craving for sweet and chocolate items go nuts without my daily smoothie. I also get lazy with cooking and find eating enough protein cumbersome….so the shakes are my go to source. Having said all that can you recommend a protein powder that would be somewhat comparable to primal fuel? Or do you know if there are any distributors of it in Canada?

      4. I’m confused Mark you promote life style that enhances eating food that is natural yet having protein shakes and promoting them is not. On top of that there is maltodextrin in the ingredients of the protein shakes, which in all intended purpose turns into straight glucose in the blood stream. I’m not understanding what is being promoted? It’s not natural?

  2. While searching through youtube I found this guy who talks about raw foods.

    In this video he talks about proteins and how do vegans get their daily dose of proteins. He also says that the only thing he would want from an animal is fatty acids, not protein and that the protein found in meet is much more harder to process that those found in plants.

    What are your thoughts?

  3. I lost mucle in me hemp preotein days, so for me, animal protein definitely makes all the difference.

    I like undenatured whey better than regular because it is less processed, has more of the immune factors intact and helps to raise glutathione levels. Natural Factors and Source naturals both make good (and tasty) undenatured whey protein.

    I also like goat’s milk protein- possibly a good choice for cow’s milk sensitive folks. I use Mt. Capra Caprotein (which is fermented for extra digestability). I noticed Jarrow just came out with a new one.

  4. Mark, what is your viewpoint on protein powder as a supplement for a vegetarian? If’s for my fiancé, not me, I happily scarf down a still moo’ing & kicking cow 🙂

  5. …but what about soy-based powders? I know you’ve spoken against soy before, but would you also be against the protein powders from the stuff?

    For vegetarians, would it be best to have one of those powders that mix the various types? For instance, I’ve seen a vegetarian powder at my local shop that contains equal parts pea, rice, and hemp in the container. Would this be better than just having pea protein on it’s own?

    1. I think soy protein powders are one of the worst soy foods because it’s the protein molecule that most people who are sensitive to soy react to.

      Also, it’s very goitrogenic and blocks the formation of thyroid hormones, not to mention high in copper, which increases estrogen retention in the body. And it’s estrogenic. Estrogen dominance also interferes with thyroid fucntion.
      I’ve known people who induced hypothyroidsim from eating too many soy products (come to think of it, I was at my heaviest and most hypothyroid in my soy-eating days!)

      1. That’s so ironic to me, lol. Since becoming vegan CURED my hypothyroidism (I could go into detail on exactly how but it would involve too much typing for me right now- mind you I’m not saying it’s because of the soy I ate). Also, if you have a good intake of iodine, you won’t get any harmful effects from the goitrogens.

        I am actually trying not to eat soy anymore though, for totally different reasons. So right now when I’m too busy to make food, I use pea, rice, and hemp protein. I would never suggest whey protein to anyone for health reasons. If you just want to bulk up – whey is great for that. But overall health wise – hell no.

        1. Not sure about that Nichole, I’d been on Whey for years and had nothing else, lost weight and or toned up, its perfectly healthy for you and I’ve no issues what so ever to it only great results, I wouldn’t touch soy because the majority of sources from Soy are genetically modified so I stay clear of that stuff, but not sure of your reasons (because you didn’t state them) for Whey being unhealthy but I can tell you its far from true.

        2. I a a vegan for over 10 years now and a competing amateur boxer. i also studied food engineering. My conclusions are that is somewhat harder as a vegan athlete to get toned and muscular but it is not impossible and in the end it is more healthy. Especially fruits and vegetables are full with micro nutrients which can benefit your health greatly. It is true that whey does have a high BV and is easily digested. But with combining plant proteins and taking BCAA’s you will get the same BV and results. It is true that whey does contain glutathione and other bio-active compounds which are not in plant proteins. but plant proteins contain active bio-nutrients which are very healthy to. So in the end you can be very healthy and muscular with a vegan diet. The only problem is that in this society we are more focused on an animal protein diet so a vegan has to do some more research.

      2. Soy protein is the most common powder that I eat – I eat it daily. No thyroid deficiency here. There is not scientific proof that soy interferes with thyroid function. I also have no “excess estrogen” signs or symptoms.

  6. Oh btw, guess i SHOULD add that cheese, eggs, milk and cream she will eat so wouldn’t have to be a “vegetarian protein” She will not as she puts it eat anything that has eyes, like cows, pigs, chickens and fish (or other seafood).

    1. Interesting this thing about the food with eyes. Would it be ok for such a person to eat worms (I believe they have no eyes)

    2. She should read “The Vegetarian Myth” by Lierre Kieth. She provides a great commentary about the “anything with eyes” reason for being a vegetarian. It’s a great book even if you’re not interested in the pro’s or con’s of vegetarianism. Just a good book about food and food systems in general.

      1. If you are a vegetarian who is still buying milk products and eggs from factory farms, you are doing nothing for animal welfare other than decreasing your impact by not eating meat. Egg laying hens are TORTURED their ENTIRE lives, as are many dairy cows. If you want to really take a stand for animal welfare – going vegan is the only logical choice (unless of course you’re buying from the few humane farms out there).

        1. Nicole do you even research the stuff you go on about and paste? If you buy eggs and they are normally free range or organic you are NOT supporting tortured animals AT ALL. They are free to roam like in the wild, you are thinking CAGED chickens (caged eggs) and some barns where overcrowding exists.

          Please research more in future before bluntly pasting the first thing you come across.

        2. I raise my own eggs. These chickens love life. They are out eating bugs, worms, toads, grass etc. They are way better than store bought organic. The yokes are more golden and whites are firmer. Even my kids notice it.

  7. Hi!

    Do you have any thoughts about the fact that casein (and gluten) contain opioid peptides? A morfin like substance that some people think can be addictive and cause overeating.

    And; how about supplementing with only selected amino acids, preferably the most scarce?
    I have read somewhere that if you eat, for example, 200 grams of salmon and supplement with a little methionine and a little phenylalanine the “useability” of the protein of the whole meal will be several times higher than if you just eat the salmon. The chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link, and therefore it’s most efficient to just supplement with the most scarce amino acid.

    What do you think?

    1. You can increase anabolism by supplementing with BCAA (Branced Chain Amino Acids) which are: Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine. These cannot be made by the body. Atleast 15-20grams a day if you are trying to gain muscle (assuming you are weight training). Leucine alone signals protein synthesis in the body. Some free form L-glutamine (which is another amino) powder can also help and has the added benefit of improving intenstinal problems like leaky gut.

  8. Thanks for the whey protein follow-up, Mark. I did not know that the BV goes down with a higher protein intake. If I understand correctly, if I make a shake with 25g protein, the whey BV would drop to ~80 if I weigh ~63kg? Is BV just a function of how much protein you eat in one sitting?

    Although I hear Primal Nutrition sells a great meal replacement, if anyone is looking for a whey protein finder, I have used this one with success in the past. You can search by many different nutritional factors, or even sort by price per serving or brand. I looked for a low price/serving with low carbs, fewer ingredients, and little to no artificial sweetener.

  9. Loved reading this article. I use to consume a whey protein shake after a workout all the time. Then I stopped for about a year or so.

    Reading the previous article and this one tells me it is ok to have a delicious whey protein shake after a workout for now. Once I am on my own I will definitely buy quality meat and get my needed protein there.

    Thanks for sharing this helpful article Mark!

  10. I like treating myself to the odd protein shake but I don’t worry about meal timing or any other reason other than it is an alternative healthy snack (albeit not exactly Primal).

  11. I use Jarrow plain whey powder, no flavorings or sweeteners. It really is unflavored; I expected some kind of funkiness but it’s basically like drinking a glass of (dirty but tasteless) water. Label claims to supply BCAAs.

    I hate eating in the morning, always have, so my breakfast is 2 scoops of this in water, my supplements, and a tbsp of organic flax oil. Surprisingly this keeps me going well past lunch time.

    1. I put my whey protein isolate powder in a watered down coconut milk with some raw organic cocoa powder and stevia. This gives a more creamy milky consistency. Much yummier and easier to drink.

      I will continue to use WPI from pasture-fed hormone-free cows as well.

  12. If the whey is not from grass fed organic raised cows,perhaps the whey protein isolate would be best as the pesticide residue and possible growth hormone residue would be stored in the fats.Just add a little omega 3 or coconut oil to the shake or smoothie for proper absorption.look for the cold processed filtration and you should be good to go…Anyway that’s my take on it.I encourage any contrasting thought,as I am in this to learn.

  13. Re Egg White powder.
    Thanks first to Mark, your site rocks, I visit it daily.

    Do you Mark, or any of your readers, have any ideas on how to make eggwhite powder palatable?

    Stick it in a shake like I would a normal protein, and wow, it tastes HORRIBLE!

    Any help here is appreciated. I am not a huge fan of gulping down coconut cream with it. I need something else.

    1. Dan, I realize this is in response to a relatively old post, but I’ve just arrived at MDA and I didn’t see a response to your question re: making egg white protein powder palatable. I use egg white powder with unsweetened almond milk as my base for post workout protein shakes (milk and other milk subs work as well). Then I add half a banana and a serving of whatever fruit is in season. Sometimes add almond or coconut butter for extra fat or flavor.

      I find the temperature of the shake also plays into the overall taste and mouthfeel. Room-temp fruit makes for a runnier shake and the egg protein is more detectable and I like my shakes to taste and feel like an old-fashioned ice cream-type “milkshake” so I freeze the fruit ahead of time (takes a little prep work, but saves time in the long run – e.g.: Peel a dozen ripe bananas all at once, break ’em in half and store ’em in a gallon-sized zippy freezer bag; Buy a dozen peaches (or whatever) on sale, peel, cut up and store each serving in it’s own smaller zippy freezer bag; Gallon-size bags work well for berries).

      I find the egg powder clumps when I throw it right in the blender with the frozen stuff (as does coconut butter), so I blend the egg powder with the milk (and whatever nut butter) first, then I add the froz banana and other fruit, blend well and enjoy the most scrumptious shakes.

      My fav combos:
      Peach or Mango (1), Blueberry (1/2 cup), Coconut Butter (1-2 Tbsp)
      Blueberry or Mixed Berries (1-1.5 cups), Almond Butter (1-2 Tbsp)
      Strawberries or Cherries (1-1.5 cups), Dark Chocolate (1/8-1/4 cup)

      Inconceivably yumlikshous!!!

  14. I have this probably unjustified gut feeling that nature wanted protein packaged with fat–these macronutrients tend to be found in tandem in real foods, which makes me think we are adapted to eat our protein this way…with fat. I view these powders as processed foods and I don’t want to eat them. Real food that’s not already partially broken down is handled differently by the body, I think. I just bring a slab of meat with me when I go to work out, for afterwards…or nitrite free salami. I do try to eat a good-sized serving of protein within 20 minutes of a workout–I think there’s good evidence of the benefits of this for muscle building and I think it’s what Grok would have done after the chase. But I only eat if I’m hungry. I cook meat in big batches and freeze serving sized slices, then toss them in the cooler I bring to work with me each day. The meat is thawed by the time I finish my work day and workout, and it’s helped to keep my other food cold in the process. Protein makes up 15 percent of my 3,000 calories each day, about 150 grams and I get that from meat, fish and eggs primarily. Sure it’s more work, but I really enjoy chewing a slab of cold roast beef–sometimes with a cold beer. It’s more satisfying to me than sipping something from a plastic straw that has a weird aftertaste at the gym after I work out. But, hey, personal preference.

    1. It’s a very good point about nature generally providing protein in the presence of fat – protein requires Vitamin A for proper absorption/assimilation and, as a fat soluble vitamin, can only be supplied in fatty foods. However, I’m not sure that steak post-workout will catch on as, good source of protein as it is, it is also the most complex, which means it will take around 4 hours to clear the stomach versus 25 minutes for whey protein.

  15. Thank you for this, Mark. I have a whey, water, and coconut milk “shake” for breakfast just about every day after my workouts. When I have time, I cook a more “primal” breakfast, but during the week, I just don’t have the time.

  16. I was big on PP as well, until I read Brad Pilon’s ‘How Much Protein’ ebook. I highly recommend it to everyone. It will really open your eyes on protein consumption. I have ditched all meal-timing philosophies and PP and have actually felt better and stronger – I think in part because proteins require so much energy to break down, taking in protein frequently all day is a drain. I eat meat, eggs (raw and cooked), fish, nuts, seeds as protein sources. As BP’s book shows, it doesn’t matter when, in what amount per meal, and you don’t even need more than 75-80g per day. So now I never worry about getting in a particular amount of protein at a particular time. It’s very freeing, and works perfectly with intermittent fasting.

  17. Mark, Could you just tell me what brand of whey protein to buy. I trust your book so I trust your recommendation. Which one do you use in your shakes? That would be a lot easier than me searching. Do you sell a whey protein supp.?
    Please give us the names…….

  18. I disagree with the fact that the quality of the protein is not of concern (grass fed etc.) Again, we tend to have too much of a quantity perspective when there are MANY unseen factors that protein could give us. Also, why would I want protein in isolation from everything else? I would rather have the fatty acids etc. that are vital to my body regeneration and repair. Again, I think quality is a MUCH more important aspect than quantity. I take a raw, grass fed, cold processed whey protein and I tend to do better on LESS when compared to amounts taken in the past with ‘other’ wheys.

    At what cost are we taking cheap, highly processed proteins? My liver, kidneys etc. thank me.


  19. I buy pure cold-filtration whey protein isolate in bulk from with no added sweetener or flavor. Even with the shipping, it’s way less expensive than any retail brand, and I can flavor it how I like. I have two protein shakes, three days a week, on gym days, and that probably makes up the bulk of my 20% primally non-compliant.

    1. Thanks for posting re: the website. Looks like a great place to order powder!

      1. I do agree that is a great place to order protein!! However I’ve recently had to switch to egg white protein and theirs is not hormone free, free range or from organic eggs.

  20. Mark,

    Why do you include artificial flavors in your own protein supplement? Doesn’t sound very Primal to me.

  21. Mark,

    I have been making “protein powder pancakes” lately as a supplement to protein shakes. Is it harmful to heat up the protein on a skillet?

    Also, Do you recommend protein powder with sucralose or with heavier amounts of real sugar?


    1. Jennifer – did you ever find the answer to your question about heating protein powder? I’ve been making a version of protein powder pancakes for breakfast too. Thanks.

      1. I did not actually. I would like to ask Mark his opinion however.

  22. and let’s not forget that a cow conventionally grown with its modern tactics of growth hormones and steroids WILL and DOES alter the amino acid composition of the animals protein, which often results in the absence of certain essential amino acids, So i more than strongly disagree

  23. Casein has trumped way in many studies from muscle building to fat loss. Mainly for it’s slow digesting rates. You have to look at the long term to see the real advantage, because although Whey has an initial spike in free form AA, the body will compensate and increase oxidation as well (leading to a spike up and then down), while casein remains stable (like Pepe le pew chasing the sprinting cat…he always wins).

    Here’s a graphical representation

    I personally go with BCAA pre-workout to get the increase initial protein synthesis benefit and then after that it’s more milk/meat based protein.

    Worst case if someone needs the protein, I’d mix a single scoop of whey-casein powder mix (or egg) with a glass of whole milk (if one can tolerate dairy well that is). Adding 2-3 scoops is not needed (excess protein just leads to more oxidation anyways).

    1. I have read that casein is a cancer causing agent. Any studies you have seen in this regard?

  24. Thanks for all the good info in this post and the previous one. I’ve been using whey protein for several years, almost by luck, since I did not have the background to know what’s what in this area. It has been valuable for me, as I do strenuous backpacking a few times a year, but often can not get a lot of exercise the reminder of the time — the whey protein definitely seems to be facilitating much quicker recovery than I had prior.

  25. Good morning Mark,

    I’ve been PB for about 8 months now and have never been in better shape in my life, so thanks for the great lifestyle change.

    Secondly, I have a question about whey protein that was not mentioned above. What if you were drink the by-product of making yougurt (liquid whey)? Is there any benefit? How many grams of protein are in pure liquid whey? This is what I do now, but have no idea how much protein is in what I drink.

    Thanks again.

  26. I just checked out various brands of protein powders, and I must say I’m shocked at the prices: a dollar a serving and up. I can buy three pastured eggs for a dollar, or almost a serving of grass-fed ground beef. Paying that much for one ingredient to go in a smoothie seems an awful lot. Is it really worth it?

    1. I’ve only found the pure organic ones are $1 + a serve, most of the other ones I’ve found to be half or less than half that.

      I’d search more if I were you.

      On a side note you can go to and search (or you use to be able to) by price per serving. If not it tells you right beside it anyhow.

      Only thing that makes me iffy now (I use to buy all my products from America cause it was cheaper) but all America’s milk products (well most, not all) have been genetically modified or has added hormones in it so the cow produces more milk, and even if it doesn’t you can never tell because there is no law saying those that have them in it has to tell you!

    2. Getting your protein from its most natural source (i.e. food sources) is always best, reason to go with shakes is faster bioavailability PWO or simply convenience in a time crunched world.

  27. Thanks for mentioning that protein supplements are not ‘needed’ and explaining that someone’s whole food diet may have covered all the bases in regards to protein consumption. Many times people get hung up on supplements and use them as the bulk of their intake (though at times their is nothing wrong with that route, it is a less permanent strategy).

  28. Does anyone know if adding avocado to a whey shake (via magic bullet) will lower the insulinogenic release whey has on the body? Just wondering…

  29. As I understand it, whey powder has a good bit of MSG in it. Back when I was lifting regularly and drinking lots of protein shakes, I never felt ill effects from it (but then again, neither did I feel ill effects from eating pasta and bread like I have in the past few years), but I have had 4 bouts of praying-for-death sickness as a result of eating at Chinese buffets (3 different ones, mind you).

    What’s the skinny on the MSG in whey powder? Are there brands that leave it out?

    1. my son is allergic to msg. he has a neurological condition that, I’m told, would benefit from use of a protein powder. unfortunately, no can do because of the “concentrate” or “isolate” in the powders. My understanding is that it’s not that the powders have “msg,” it’s that the process of concentrating or isolating the protein (isolates) creates free glutamic acids which really are the equivalent of msg.

      1. Yes, free glutamic acids. That’s what I was thinking of. For now, I will stick with my diet of whole foods. My body seems to be much happier on it anyway.

        1. I have an MSG allergy – my throat swells closed, my lips/face gets puffy and I break out in a rash. I am not at all allergic to milk. I bought organic whey protein powder, and was shocked to find that I did have a reaction. I did some research and found exactly that, the free glutamic acids in why protein kill me, even organic. I am using brown rice protein for now, but am still trying to figure out the best alternative.

  30. I like whey a lot. But given that they have isolated as many as 10 different pesticides from cow’s milk, it’s no surprise that whey powders often contain pesticide residue. Sorry if you have considered this already elsewhere, but I do think it is worth addressing when discussing whey protein’s merits.

  31. Hemp protein is more easily digestible.

    Hemp protein, while being a plant source, is actually a surprisingly complete protein. Hemp protein contains all 20 known amino acids including the 10 essential amino acids (8 in adults – 2 more are considered essential in children and seniors) our bodies cannot produce. Proteins are considered complete when they contain all 10 essential amino acids in a sufficient quantity and ratio to meet the body’s needs.

    Hemp also has an extremely good essential fatty acid profile – it contains the fatty acids in perfect balance to each other (Omega 3 and 6 Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs), in the near perfect ratio of 1:3 respectively).

    One of the other major benefits of hemp protein supplementation is the very high insoluble fiber content of the powder. Fiber helps keep your blood sugar stable (ideal for fat loss), not to mention helping to keep you “regular.” On the ingredient label, you’ll see just how much fiber is in hemp…ALL the carb content is fiber, making it an excellent protein for low-carb diets.

    I’m still doing my own tests on it now vs whey.

    1. Hemp protein is a delicious and nutritious supplement/addition to the diet, however it’s not the best for PWO if trying to build muscle. I’ve recently switched from using hemp in PWO shakes, it’s lacking in the AA profile to help build, specifically Leucine.

      As far as a substitute, whey yields better results, however a mix of pea and rice protein can provide a comparable AA profile for anyone who’s looking to stay away from the whey.

      1. Haha! Interesting! I thought I was the only person in the world to blend pea and brown rice protein! (I also throw in a spoonful of hemp protein, for good measure.)

        I’ve had good luck with that blend. No gas or bloating or other side effects.

        Also, I’ll take a couple BCAA capsules before I drink my protein shake.

        Lately though, I’ve been using whey again. Life Extension has a nice offering, derived from grass-fed, happy cows from New Zealand (how can they not be happy living in New Zealand?!)


  32. Been experimenting with different protein powders since whey protein (to me) has a vomit-like taste.

    Does anybody have any more details on pumpkin seed protein powder? Ran across it at Whole Foods and am curious to know how it stacks up.


  33. Hi I like your comment and it is so informational and I am gonna bookmark it. One thing to say the Superb analysis you have done is greatly remarkable.No one goes that extra mile these days? Bravo. Just another suggestion you canget a Translator for your Global Audience .

  34. What do others think of / know of / summarize of this product:


    and I am trying to figure out what it means when it says that this has over 6g of BCCAs.

    Seems nutritionally packed, though I wonder if on days I use that, should i back off on certain sups.

    I do Veggie Juicing as well (fresh) daily.

    Use organics (yeah I know this wont fall into that category)

    But after a workout it sits well on my stomach as so many of the whey goat protein hasn’t. I used half liquid/half Ice and half a packet and it yields what is like a (tastes like those evil bad for you wendy frosty from many lives ago, except not as fatty or sweet) milkshake.. quite decadent… lol.

    Sure calms what remains for that craving for ice cream.. but i have minimized my white sugar intake so much and the protein intake helps calm what remains of the dessert cravings I use to have


  35. Thank you for another magnificent post. Where else could anybody get that kind of info in such an ideal way of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such info.

  36. To the two who were asking about making pancakes in a skillet. I am sure if you cook it too much of course some of the protein will be lost. No idea how much but it is probably negligible.

  37. Metabolism plays an important part when striving to lose weight. A diet may be good for someone but not good for you. Luckily we are all different, and the best approach is to go to a nutritionist before starting a diet.

  38. you do your readers a great disservice in your misleading glance at hemp protein and your blase attitude toward its nutritional reality ,

    you might have mentioned that hemp protein is the only vegetable protein on earth that has a complete compliment of amino acids and that has them in beneficial ratios ,no other plant source on earth can claim That.

    it is also an seed that has some of the healthiest oils as well , outperforming seeds like linseed by meaningful amounts in bio- active oils … it is sad to see the horrible crusade against hemp , , advanced in your small way at nutrition sites like this , hemp food and oils seed and fibers and medicines and yes even its psychoactive products are one of natures , why not have the courage and intellectual honesty to say so ?

  39. I saw recently on the Weston Price foundation website, that a strong man trainer uses Kefir as his post workout protein supplement. Makes sense to me- fermented and already broken down, therefore easily digested. Also since you make it yourself you can control whether there are contaminants or not. Any thoughts? I’ve begun making my own out of the raw milk I just started sourcing for the fam. I’m trying to lose fat though and my husband says he thinks the Kefir will sabotage my goals because of a great deal of fat coming along with the useable protein for the ride? I’d love to hear thoughts on this. I’m conjuring up thoughts now of fruit, coconut milk and kefir smoothies! Sounds too good to be true!

  40. I am currently using Jarrow Organic Brown Rice protein powder. It claims to be specially processed to have a complete amino acid profile. Can this be true?

  41. What do you think of beef isolate protein powder? I am intolerant to all dairy- lactose and casein.. and egg white protein powder causes considerable stomach upset

  42. Try almond milk with hemp and rice protein… a tasty shake it is.

  43. I recently bought some hemp protein on a sort of quizzical whim since I can hardly stand the taste of Whey protein, then I was scared that I’d messed up. Good to hear its okay… however I think I’ll buy Whey again next time around since its animal based I was attracted to the aspect of fat and fiber involved as well

  44. Anything protein that has glutamine in it is extremely bad for you. I get a newsletter every month from Dr. Blaylock, MD., a neurosurgeon who looks into certain vitamins and the affects they have on you. He says that glutamine is bad, because it inflames the brain which in turn can bring about Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. He has a website and is also on Youtube if you are interested in what he has to say. He also has written in the Medical Association pamphlets. So I would definitely believe what he has to say. Hemp has the glutamine in it. I don’t know if the others do, if so, I would stop taking it.

    1. Neurosurgeons are just the neck line of assault in the medical quackery that is Western medicine. The guy doesn’t appear to be very healthy. He doesn’t have that vibrant glow that true healers have. You’ve been misled and are avoiding healthy things out fear and dogma that doesn’t really relate to practical reality.

      I’d rather lean towards what MMA fighters, extreme athlethes use to look the way they do, or people who aren’t selling things or being paid for their opinions on things like this neurosurgeon is.

      I’m going to do the opposite of what he says not to do, men like these are weak cowards who try to find knowledge to hide it and gain power, not to better mankind. Kansas city shuffle, tell everyone to go right when they should be going left…

      Also the fear-mongering that this guy is up to is far worse for immunity and overall health to be hating Government or whoever else is “poisoning the skies” and everything else.

      Stress kills, and hating people because of shit some idiot said on the internet is a great way to have permanent stress.

  45. Do you think that one guy was gonna marry his weed? He seemed down right offended about he neglect his poor hemp got from Mark. Wow. Calm down buddy, all the proteins listed had a complete amino acid profile, that’s what they give you in protein powders. Thanks.

    1. I bet he could find the middle of a circle. You sir, probably can not

  46. I make my own yogurt (from raw milk) and typically strain it to my desired consistency, which leaves me with lots of wonderfully tasting whey. I keep it around and use it to make brine for soaking cheeses, replace water in lots of recipes for a nice flavor, and of course I use it to make fruit smoothies for post-workout or on-the-go meals.

    My question is, can anyone make a recommendation on how much real whey I should use in a smoothie to approximate an ideal protein intake comparable to using a powder. I’m a 40-year-old male, 200 lbs with very low bodyfat. A typical single meal protein intake for me is around 35 grams.

    If it’s not a great substitute, I’ll keep doing what I have been. I still use a whey protein powder in my smoothie, but I use about 12 ounces of my liquid whey instead of water, plus some regular ice cubes, frozen fruit, etc. for the iced smoothie effect. Tastes wonderful!

  47. Anyone have any comments on JJ Virgin’s All-In-One protein shake powders? (pea,potato,chorella protein mix). I’ve been using them for about 6 months as I burned out on daily eggs for breakfast.


  48. BUT from Dr. Mercola, often mention by Mark and vice versa:
    One wants Whey Protein:
    1.) Cold processed, NOT heat processed
    Most whey is heat processed which:
    Makes the whey acidic and nutritionally deficient
    Damages the immuno-supportive micronutrients and amino acids
    Makes whey inadequate for consumption
    Cold processed whey protects the nutrients in their natural state.
    2.) Acid-free processing, NOT Acid / Ion Exchange Processing
    Acid / Ion Exchange Processing is cheaper than acid-free processing, but it denatures the amino acid profiles by using acids and chemicals to separate the whey from the fats.
    3. Whey protein concentrate, NOT protein isolates
    Protein isolates are proteins stripped away from their nutritional cofactors.
    (Mark debunked this point!)
    There are three problems with that…
    All isolates are exposed to acid processing.
    Your body cannot assimilate proteins in isolated form.
    Due to over-processing, isolates are deficient in key amino acids
    and nutritional cofactors. (Though Mark debunked this last point!)

  49. I like to start the day with a shake but have recently developed severe bloating and other intolerance symptoms following pea/rice shakes. I am a cancer survivor and was told by the cancer nutritionist to avoid whey and soy protein powders which would be my choice.
    I at first thought I was reacting to the gum stabilizers in coconut milk and mixed the shakes with water, but it seems to be the protein powder itself. I lost 30 lbs using one shake a day with two other good protein and vegetable meals. Plus I do bullet juicing. I had been having a shake in lieu of breakfast for a good year before I developed intolerance symptoms with veg, grain powders.I would love some helpful input and guidance.

  50. The studies done in animals: don’t we have any human based personalised studies which are much more accurate than non-human animal models?

  51. I’m currently correcting my metabolism. Yes, “correcting” it! Incredibly losing inches before weight. Love it. I won’t name the system/company here, but it’s based on over 30 years of scientific research by the world-leading weight loss and metabolism scientist.

    “Our proteins are of the highest quality and were chose for their amino acid content and metabolic function for optimal fat burning. ‘XYZ’ shake utilizes a proprietary blend of animal proteins, including whey isolate, why concentrate, casein and egg that provide a unique blend of amino acids and a precise mixture of slow and fast digesting proteins…formulated to ensure the most effective muscle-nourishing and fat-burning effects possible.”

    I’d love to hear your comments!

  52. I get all the protein I need from my diet.
    High Protein, low carbohydrate, high fibre –
    vegetables, nuts, some fruits.
    My own body makes lots of protein.
    A little exercise.
    The same can be said for vitamins, minerals, etc.
    Vegetables are packed full of them.
    The only valid reason for taking supplements is to make the manufacturers/salesmen richer, and die sooner.
    1/3 of all Americans alive today will die horribly of cancer, especially liver cancer. Many others will die of heart disease.
    I have good body weight and energy levels – no supplements.
    Cancer feeds on sugar – the basic carbohydrate.
    Of all the websites selling common herbal supplements as a cancer treatment or preventative- non has had any success whatsoever. (I have only examined about 200, though.)
    The only thing I have found that helps (I did not say cures) is Chinese Traditional Medicine, which does not come in pill form and must be prepared fresh for each individual.

  53. Where did you find the info about the biological value of the different vegan proteins? I am looking for sources on the biological value of soy, hemp, pea, and brown rice protein. Thanks so much!! Great article!

  54. Very informative and good article about egg white. Thanks for sharing this useful info. It will surely gonna help those who wants to lose weight and are on diet.

  55. What about Shakeology as a meal replacement? It is packed with fruit and plant based roteobs and nutrients but has naturally occurring carbs.

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