When it comes to protein powder supplements, separating the chumps from the chumps is a tough business. Yes, I’m being sarcastic; but it should be noted that my sarcasm is, of course, rooted in reality. The protein supplement market is ripe with dirtbags. However, for those of us looking to achieve real legitimate gains from our workouts, we must deal with the dirtbags.
If you don’t already know, protein powder supplements are rather necessary to both gains and recovery processing. If you perform strenuous workouts and rely on the hippie notion that a chicken breast will fuel your success, you are living in fantasy land. I’m not saying that chicken breast isn’t healthy, not by a large margin. Chicken breast is healthier than most protein powder supplements, that’s not the issue.
The issue is protein density. Man didn’t evolve lifting massive stone after massive stone until his or her body ballooned up into a Greek God(des). Animal meat supplies us with more than enough protein to survive and thrive on. But it doesn’t give us enough protein to achieve the maximum gains we are looking for after a hard-fought session with weights in the gym.
Don’t kid yourself.
Because of this, we’ve been subjected to negotiating with a bunch of protein supplement dirtbags that realize our precarious need for their product. They want to make as much money as possible. This often means using subpar ingredients as a way to maximize their profitability.
This is capitalism. I love capitalism. You just have to know what the heck is happening.
How The Protein Powder Scam Works
So, what the heck is the protein powder supplement scam? You need to look no further than the ingredients to find where the battle lines have been drawn. Supplement companies want to boast high protein serving sizes as a way to be more competitive. The way they achieve this is by using inferior versions of protein. In this way, the manufacturer saves money using a less viable protein source but at the same time, they increase their serving size numbers.
Buying a protein powder supplement based on the serving sizes alone is like buying a car based only on the payments and not on the total realized price of the vehicle. You’re getting scammed.
There are three distinct protein powder types to look for on a protein powder supplement’s label:
- Whey Protein Hydrolysate
- Whey Protein Isolate
- Whey Protein Concentrate
Whey protein concentrate is the most egregious example of beefing up a serving size label. Concentrate versions of protein are garbage. Florida orange juice commercials famously feature the line, “never from concentrate.” Maybe protein powder supplements should be forced to do exactly the same thing.
The top protein type is, without question, whey protein hydrolysate. Whey protein hydrolysate is also the most expensive version to utilize in a supplement.
Now, before we go any further, let me make an incredibly important distinction for clarity’s sake. The only protein powder supplement on the market that uses ONLY whey protein hydrolysate is Hydro Whey 100. They are one of the more pricey experiences due to this, but they are also the only legit manufacturer.
Whey protein isolate is a middle ground ingredient. It’s good. It’s beneficial.
How To Not Get Scammed
The most effective defense against being scammed by a protein powder supplement company is to learn to read the labels. I should note, as long as a protein powder supplement discloses ingredients clearly, it is really your job as a consumer to figure out the rest by reading the label. Their job is to sell you the product, your job is to hold them accountable. When supplement companies are held accountable, they increase the quality of their product as a way to become more competitive.
Let’s look at two labels from two protein powder supplement companies so we can see working examples. Hydro Whey 100 and Whey Gold Standard are both considered two top protein supplements. In the rankings, they are relatively close. But how close are they in terms of protein quality?
In the two below examples, I will draw you a line from the protein serving size down to the ingredients which tell you which protein versions are being used.
Here is Whey Gold Standard’s ingredient label.
Here is Hydro Whey 100’s ingredient label.
So, what did you notice?
Both powders have just south of 30 grams of protein in their respective servings. The difference, of course, is the type of protein used. Hydro Whey 100 only uses whey protein hydrolysate. This means that 29 grams on the serving size is all top level stuff. Whey Gold Standard, on the other hand, uses both whey protein hydrolysate (good) and whey protein concentrate (bad).
You are now probably asking yourself, how much whey protein hydrolysate is present in Whey Gold Standard? That’s another rub…
By the logic of their label, whey protein hydrolysate should be the top amount of protein present in the formula (that’s how FDA approved labels work, at least). But even if the best case is reality, Whey Gold Standard would only have to put in 50.01% of the 29 grams serving size as whey protein hydrolysate.
In such a case, they’d be half as good as Hydro Whey 100.
Do you see how labels matter now?
If you’d never read the labels on these two supplements, you might have considered them rather equal contenders and simply purchased based on price. That’s what most consumers do with any product, they look at the price first. Manufacturers of protein powder supplements know that fitness supplement consumers are likely to look first at price and second at serving size, this allows them to “hook consumers” by label manipulation.
Protein Grade Not Only Consideration
The quality of the protein in your protein powder supplement is the most important aspect of the product, but there are other considerations to be made. Does your supplement contain BCAAs? Does it use a lot of artificial ingredients? If you care about GMOs, how about that?
In the case of Hydro Whey 100 and Whey Gold Standard, they both contain BCAAs. Aside from their protein grades, they are both rather evenly matched, which is why I used them as an example. Whey Gold Standard could charge you just as much for their product as Hydro Whey 100, but offer you half the value. All because you never read the label.
Always Read Labels (on anything)
The lesson of reading product labels should not stop with protein supplements. The lesson learned from the above comparisons can be replicated across almost any genre or niche that is competitive. Understand what’s under the hood, locate the value first, then look at the price. You’d be surprised by how much money you can end up saving yourself in the end. Buying low-grade products over and over actually end up more expensive.