Infinit Nutrition Canada - Premium Sport-Specific Nutrition

Friday, March 31, 2017

Decoding Your Protein Label

So you have a favourite protein powder to take post workout. 25+ grams of protein per serving and low carb, sounds great right? But do you really know what you should be looking for on a nutritional label for a strength recovery drink?

A number of the popular whey protein drinks on the market today are filled with non-essential ingredients, like artificial sweeteners and flavours, gums, thickeners and more. Learn to decode your nutrition label so you can ensure optimal gains with no side effects.

Above is the nutrition label for a popular strength recovery drink you can find at most supplement stores. We've decoded the label for you so you can get a better understanding of what you should and shouldn't be looking for in a protein supplement.

Most people shy away from carbohydrates due to a fear of weight gain. However, carbohydrates are essential for your post-workout shake in order to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, or growth and repair of muscle. A good protein recovery drink will have a 2:1 carb to protein ratio, like Rescue.

"Don’t be fooled and think that protein alone is enough to recover from your workouts. I often see clients mixing just whey protein with water. However, you need some carbohydrates in your post workout nutrition to repair muscle. After a strength workout, a ratio of 3:1 or 2:1 grams of carbohydrates to protein is recommended. Whey protein is a good choice and is a convenient option. Whey protein is rapidly digested and absorbed by muscles, and is high in the branch chained amino acid leucine. 2-3 g of leucine post workout has been shown in research to stimulate protein synthesis and promote muscle growth. This amount of leucine is found in a serving of whey protein..." - Andrea Docherty, Registered Dietician

If your protein recovery drink doesn't have at least double the amount of carbohydrates as it does protein, you best look for a better alternative so your hard work in the gym doesn't go to waste.

Whey Protein
Not all proteins are made equal. This topic is a whole other topic in itself, but for the sake of this post, we will provide you with a rundown of what whey proteins you should be supplementing with.

There are three main proteins you will see on a label - whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate and whey protein. Each has a different level of purity that can affect the way the protein tastes and mixes, as well as the amount of protein you will get per serving. An isolate is the purest form of protein you can find being >90% pure. Infinit Raw is a whey protein isolate that is sourced from New Zealand, which holds the highest standards for dairy production in the world. A serving of Infinit Raw at 21.5g contains 20g of protein, ~93% purity.

Whey Protein concentrates are the second most pure source of protein, but they are only between 80-90% pure protein. Whey protein by itself, without the addition of concentrate or isolate to the name, is less than 80% pure. You want to try to avoid these two proteins, and invest in a pure isolate, ideally sourced from grass-fed, GMO free cattle in New Zealand.

Artificial Sweeteners and Flavours
Many people shudder at the thought of sugar, or sucrose. But are the sweeteners in your favourite drink a better alternative to sugar? Most often not, especially when carbohydrates (sugars) are necessary for growth and repair of muscle tissue.

At Infinit we use two products to sweeten our drinks, either sucrose or natural stevia. But many companies will plaster their website and packaging with phrases and buzz words such as "No Added Sugar!" or "Sugar Free" but their blends are still very sweet. What do they turn to? More often than not - artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame and acesulfame potassium, to name a few. Some studies say that artificial sweeteners are actually worse for you than sucrose, and can even lead to adverse health effects.

At Infinit, we value natural, quality ingredients which is why we choose to use sucrose and natural stevia to sweeten our products, and only use natural flavours.

The FDA defines natural flavours as:

"Natural flavor is the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional."

The FDA's definition of an artificial flavor is any substance that does not meet the definition of a natural flavour." - Business Insider

So why use artificial flavours? Cost is the main reason. It is generally cheaper to use an artificial flavour over a natural one. However, there are a number of health effects that can result from the use of artificial ingredients. Just a simple google search will bring up loads of information on the side effects of artificial flavours. 

Gums and Thickeners
Gums and thickeners are often used in food products to enhance the mouth-feel of a blend - improving texture and thickening the product. Most of these additives have no nutritional value and some had some relatively bad press, like guar gum. Read more on this gum here. Another popular thickener is xanthan gum. Gums and thickeners can also interfere with the very nutrients we are trying to ingest. We recommend avoiding additives whenever possible, as they are generally just that - an additive to improve the texture or mouth feel of a product, when this can be achieved by using the right raw materials in the first place.

There are 3 main enzymes you will find in your sport nutrition drink - protease, bromelain, and lactase.

Protease - there is little to no research supporting the use of supplemental protease as a digestive aid in breaking down protein.  Protease is naturally produced in the pancreas and stomach at a level capable of digesting high quality protein.  Patients who suffer from Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) associated with lower enzyme products could benefit from supplementing with Protease.  This is best prescribed by a physician, no benefit for healthy individuals.

Bromelain is touted to prevent muscle soreness after intense exercise. This use has been studied and the evidence suggests bromelain doesn’t work.

Lactase is another enzyme that you will find added to protein products.  As you may think this enzyme is to help break down the lactose contained in milk or whey proteins.  This enzyme Lactase is only required if you are using an inferior whey protein that has low protein purity and high levels of Lactose.  For every 100g of Infinit Raw (Whey Protein Isolate) there is only 0.3 g of Lactose - this is the lowest on the market.  This means it is easy to digest, no GI distress and it tastes great.

Moral of the story - be aware of what you are consuming. If you don't know how to pronounce or have never heard of an ingredient, odds are you shouldn't be consuming it without more in-depth research. Be aware of buzz-words and phrases, as they often are hiding the use of artificial ingredients, and always ensure you are supplementing with the highest quality protein available and are getting a 2:1 carb to protein ratio in after each intense strength effort.