Have you every turned your bottle of protein powder over only to be shocked at all the additional ingredients? Yep. Us too! When we first set out, we were bound and determined to provide products with no additional ingredients. Protein powder should only be protein powder.
However, we quickly discovered that pure protein powder tastes disgusting and that most people don’t like this. Now we work to find a delicate balance between great tasting products, while keeping the number of ingredients to a minimum.
Here are some of the ingredients we use to keep our protein powders tasting great:
Lecithin (whey protein isolate)
Pretty much every whey isolate on the market contains some form of lecithin. The most popular is soy lecithin followed by sunflower lecithin. So what is it here for? Well protein powders don’t actually mix with liquid very well at all. Through a process called agglomeration, the protein particles are stuck to lecithin particles and this allows it to mix nicely into your choice of liquid. Even unflavoured whey protein contains lecithin.
Gums (guar gum, xanthan gum, etc)
Gums are also included in most powdered products to thicken, stabilize and emulsify. This is what allows the protein powder to form a shake-like consistency. Guar gum, which we use in our products, is derived from the Guar bean and is a type of soluble fibre. This means it absorbs water to bulk up and thus thicken the product when it is mixed with water. Why did we choose guar gum over the other options? We like that guar gum is derived from an actual plant source, as opposed to xanthan gum which is actually produced by bacteria.
We will preface this section with the following quote from Canadian legislation:
“Nature,” “Natural,” “Mother Nature,” “Nature’s Way” are terms often misused on labels and in advertisements.
Labels and advertisements should not convey the impression that “Nature” has, by some miraculous process, made some foods nutritionally superior to others or has engineered some foods specially to take care of human needs. Some consumers may consider foods described as “natural” of greater worth than foods not so described.
That being said, we have taken the time to flavour our protein powders with natural flavours… but what exactly does that mean? This is where things get very murky.
According to Canadian legislation:
“Substances that impart flavours that have been derived from a plant or animal source may be claimed to be “natural.”
This all seems well and good, until you really start to think about this. Derived from a plant or animal source. So this means that any flavour derived from ANY plant or animal source is natural. We are sure some of you have seen the article flying around the Internet talking about all natural vanilla from beaver butts. Yes, that is a real thing. Here is a link to the article in case you missed it. Don’t worry though; our natural chocolate and vanilla are both vegan friendly, no beaver butts (or other sketchy animal fluids or parts) here!
We took an extremely long time sourcing our flavour ingredients to keep our product as natural as possible, we believe anyone would be hard pressed to find a more natural option.
Fruit Powders and Other Additional flavour Enhancers
We use banana fruit powder in our vanilla flavour to enhance sweetness and add a richer flavour. The powder we source is organic and is made through freeze-drying, as opposed to heat drying.
Along the same line, our chocolate protein contains raw cacao powder that is imported from France. This addition brings out the rich chocolate taste and has the added nutrient benefits of cacao.
You may see different brands including different fruit powders to enhance flavouring and also to adjust the colour of the product. Beet root powder is especially popular for turning beverages a bright pink. Think the colour of your food doesn’t matter? Think again. Here is a link suggesting the importance of colour perception in what you eat and drink.
Our proteins are flavoured with the natural sweetener, stevia. As far as protein powders go, they can be sweetened with anything from aspartame to coconut cane sugar. Within this spectrum of sweeteners, the properties of each provide advantages and disadvantages.
Sugars – Pure and Simple
For example, coconut cane sugar is by far one of the best tasting options because…well it is just sugar plain and simple. However, this sugar packs a hefty caloric punch and significantly increases the carbohydrate content of a product. In addition, coconut cane sugar likes to absorb water… a lot. This means it can cause the protein powder to clump up unless additional desiccants are added to the bottles or silicon dioxide is added to the product itself.
Sugar Alcohols – Low Calorie
Sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol, xylitol and mannitol are low calorie sweeteners that do occur naturally, however, most are now created in a lab. These sweeteners tend to be less sweet than sugar, and have significantly fewer calories. These are often combined with high potency artificial sweetners to provide a final product that is sweet and low in calories. Sugar alcohols do affect blood glucose levels, but to a lesser degree than normal sugars. As a disadvantage they often cause gas, bloating and digestive upset so are generally used in lower quantities.
Artificial Sweeteners – Super Sweet, zero calorie
This category includes sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose. These are synthetic sweeteners that are super sweet and contain no calories, however they do have that medicinal taste to it. Though regarded as safe, these sweeteners tend to be the ones that garner the most negative attention.
Stevia – Naturally Super Sweet
Stevia is a sweetener derived from Stevia rebaudiana. Stevia is considered ultra sweet, being 150x sweeter than sugar and also tends to cause fewer gastrointestinal issues. Stevia is believed to activate both the sweet and bitter taste receptors so it needs to be used sparingly to prevent a bitter and medicinal after taste.
Overall, we strive to have the simplest, cleanest product available and have carefully chosen our ingredients to try and ensure this.
A good rule of thumb, if you are really concerned with additives, always select an unflavoured option. Our unflavour Organic Brown Rice protein contains only that. Our unflavoured whey protein isolate contains whey protein and lecithin. Fair warning though… they don’t taste great.