Restoration Health

Whey Protein Powders

Protein powders have become popular as meal replacements and as supplements for building muscle quickly. But what’s really in them? Highly processed whey, usually. Added sugar, very often. Artificial flavors, almost always. After all, who wants to drink a glass of yummy whey all by itself? Maybe that one guy who sometimes indulges in a glass of watered-down Elmer’s Glue. The rest of us, not so much.

That last part should give you a clue as to how healthy whey protein powders really are. As a rule of thumb, if you have to add a bunch of artificial flavors, sugar, and other assorted stuff to a food in order for it to be palatable (using a very loose definition of the term), you probably shouldn’t put it in your body in the first place. You probably shouldn’t even call it food.

However, if you do opt for commercial protein powders, you should know that the added ingredients can wreak havoc on your blood sugar. They can also thicken your waist, thanks to unnecessary calories.

Worse, many of these powders are made from something called soy protein isolate, which you can pretty much count on being made from GMO soy. If they’re not made from that, these powders are often made from peas, rice, and other vegetables. Again, you may be looking at GMOs. And your body will not thank you. Not that it will have time, anyway, busy as it will be trying to get your blood glucose back under control.

The news isn’t all bad for protein powders, though. They can be a reasonable choice when used for a specific purpose and for a limited duration, such as when you’re resting your digestive system during a three-week whole-body cleanse. But even then, there are better options.

The fact is, our bodies need natural sources of protein. Real food. Not manufactured junk. Grass-fed beef. Wild fish. Organic chicken. All of these contain nutrients – hundreds of them – that aren’t found in protein powders.

Stick with real proteins. Include healthy fats (saturated fat is best) in appropriate amounts. Eat lots of veggies and some fruit. Enjoy robust digestion. Free yourself from heartburn, reflux, and bloating. That’s all there is to it, really. There is no substitute for the real food your body needs. No need for one, either: you can reach all your goals without ever turning to imitation food. In fact, you’ll reach them in a way that’s sustainable and healthful your whole life long.

Ronda Nelson

Ronda L. Nelson, PhD, MH is a holistic nutritionist and master herbalist who started Restoration Health, Inc. to help support and restore optimal health for those who are looking for alternative options with regard to their overall health and well-being.

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Annette Arsenault August 12, 2017 - reply

My sons use a lot of whey protein powders as they work out and are building muscle for weight lifting competitions coming up. I am getting certification to be a health coach and have not had the time to study this out but I am afraid they could be doing more harm than good with some of these products? Can you suggest an alternative for them to use for the amount of protein they think they need to consume to build the muscle mass they are looking for. Or is this a subject for a different practitioner? I am a concerned mom that just wants them to be safe and healthy.

thanks for any info you can give me on this topic.


  • Ronda Nelson September 27, 2017

    Hi Annette, Whey protein powder should never be a long-term substitute for other forms of protein (which would include high-quality animal proteins) however, as long as the protein powder is of good quality, there shouldn’t be a problem using it for shorter periods of time. Encourage your boys to use animal protein as often as possible and then use the whey as needed for the extra protein requirements.

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