If I need some motor oil or a copy of the latest Bruce Springsteen CD, I have no problem going to Walmart. And even though it’s certainly possible that Nordstrom’s sells a superior quality of boxer shorts, I don’t wear underwear outside my pants, so I also don’t have any problem buying boxer shorts at Walmart. As for protein powders – well, that’s a different story.
Yes, we’re all dealing with a struggling economy, but buying a protein supplement primarily on the basis of cost can only end badly. Take it from Genghis Khan.
A Brief History of Protein Powders
Although powdered milk may seem like a relatively modern invention, it actually has its roots in the Mongols and their powerful leader Genghis Kahn. The Mongols would evaporate milk by allowing it to dry in the sun, and would reportedly take the chalklike substance with them on long journeys of conquest. Here is an interesting excerpt from Jack Weatherford’s book Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, which suggests that a low-carb, high-protein diet with an emphasis on milk protein was one of the reasons for Khan’s success in battle:
“The Chinese noted with surprise and disgust the ability of the Mongol warriors to survive on little food and water for long periods; according to one, the entire army could camp without a single puff of smoke since they needed no fires to cook. Compared to the Jurched soldiers, the Mongols were much healthier and stronger. The Mongols consumed a steady diet of meat, milk, yogurt, and other dairy products, and they fought men who lived on gruel made from various grains. The grain diet of the peasant warriors stunted their bones, rotted their teeth, and left them weak and prone to disease. In contrast, the poorest Mongol soldier ate mostly protein, thereby giving him strong teeth and bones. Unlike the Jurched soldiers, who were dependent on a heavy carbohydrate diet, the Mongols could more easily go a day or two without food.”
Moving forward in time, the individual responsible for inventing powdered milk was most likely Gail Borden, who was nicknamed the “Father of the Modern Dairy Industry.” In 1856 Borden received a patent for condensing milk that involved boiling the milk in airtight vacuum pans. When Confederate troops attacked Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, signifying the start of the Civil War, there was a huge demand for Borden’s product. In 1867, another market opened up when Henri Nestlé added flour and sugar to powdered milk to create the first infant formula.
Protein powder was the first supplement embraced by the bodybuilding community, because after all, muscles are made of protein. Contrast this philosophy with that of endurance athletes, who go the opposite route by focusing on carbohydrate diets and supplements to fuel their long runs, swims and bike rides. In looking over the advertising slogans used for carbohydrate-based products such as PowerBars©, I’ve yet to find one that says to the effect, “Want budging biceps? Then bite off a hunk of a PowerBar!”
Many brands of protein powders came onto the market in the early days of bodybuilding, but unquestionably one of the most popular was Blair’s Protein. This product, which was relatively expensive compared to other protein powders on the market, was developed by Irvin Johnson, who changed his name to Rheo H. Blair based upon the advice of his astrologer.
Blair’s Protein was a high-protein, high-fat powder made of milk and eggs that was often described as having the taste of soft ice cream. Blair promoted the product as being identical in composition to human breast milk (which it was not), and the top bodybuilders, including six Mr. Olympias, swore by it. The product got a big boost by being endorsed by Vince Gironda, a bodybuilding and nutrition guru who trained the first Mr. Olympia, Larry Scott.
Interestingly, Scott is a member of the LDS church, which has traditionally recommended that their followers keep a two-month supply of products such as powdered milk in their homes for emergency storage. With powdered milk there is little risk of bacterial contamination because of the lack of moisture. However, you need to pay attention to the expiration date, as the proteins will oxidize, reducing the quality of the protein. Of course, when water is added to the product and allowed to remain at room temperature, the bacteria will have a new place to play!
To recap: Protein powders can be used to help conquer the world, win civil wars, feed infants, ensure the survival of the human species, and add protein to the diet. But there are many other good reasons that protein powders are valuable, especially for those interested in increasing athletic performance and looking good naked.
The Protein Powder Advantage
A major advantage of protein powders is that they are convenient. In a world where everyone is overwhelmed with a busy life, it often becomes difficult to find the time to prepare high-protein meals of fish, lean meats, and eggs. This is especially true for bodybuilders and elite athletes who follow lifestyles that have them consuming five to six meals a day. Powders can be easily stored without refrigeration (because the moisture is removed, bacteria do not have an environment for growth), so putting a few scoops into a shake, or just mixing with water, will get the job done.
Because of my travel schedule, having a protein powder mix with me enables me to eat well. I often hear that when clients go on vacation, this provides them with an excuse to forget everything they’ve learned about nutrition and just pig out on junk food. Because I believe in walking the talk, I can’t afford the luxury – nor would I want to – of slacking off on my diet every time I go on a trip.
Another benefit is that powders enable you to precisely follow a nutrition program. For example, when someone reduces their calories to try to lose weight, their protein requirements increase. If you don’t get enough protein during a weight loss program, you can experience a loss of muscle mass – in addition, protein tends to help with food cravings because it helps stabilize blood sugar levels and creates a sense of fullness. Sure, eating steaks and ice cream will give you protein, but they also give you a lot of fat and calories that you may not want during a weight loss program. There is also the issue of lactose intolerance.
Besides containing eggs, which can easily cause food allergies if consumed too frequently, Blair’s Protein also had the problem of being approximately 25 percent lactose, which is a sugar that causes gastrointestinal distress in much of the world’s population. The enzyme that breaks down lactose is called lactase. If an individual is not producing enough lactase, the result is lactose intolerance. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include bloating, gas, cramps, diarrhea and even nausea. Lactose intolerance is one reason for the popularity of soy protein powders, but I have a laundry list of problems with using soy products, including its potential to reduce testosterone in men. By the way, it’s rare that a child is born with complete lactose intolerance, as the problem usually develops after adolescence. Taking a lactase supplement can help, but it’s easier to avoid lactose intolerance altogether by using protein powders that are lactose free.
Another great thing about protein powders is that the quality of the product can be strictly controlled. In 2007 the United States Dairy Industry estimated that 17.2 percent of cows in the US were given recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which is a protein hormone given to cows that increases milk production by 11 to 16 percent. That may seem like good news, but read on.
The bad news is that there are many potential health risks associated with drinking milk from cows that consume rBGH, including links to breast-, colon- and prostate cancers – oh, and it also can cause a lot of health problems in cows. (For more on the effects of this hormone, pick up a copy of Andrew Kimbrell’s book Your Right to Know: Genetic Engineering and the Secret Changes in Your Food.)
In my Biosignature Modulation seminars I provide precise protocols to deal with the health problems that are associated with consuming products made from animals raised on hormones such as rBGH. Obviously, one of my most important recommendations is to stop putting this crap in your mouth in the first place! And having said that, I would like to add that my protein powders are made from milk that comes from New Zealand dairy cows that graze on grass pastures that are pesticide- and chemical-free. The milk is free of rBGH and is tested for antibiotic residue by laboratories run by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority.
One question that must be asked in any discussion about protein powders is “Why use milk as a source for protein in the first place?” There are many good reasons.
Rating the Protein Powders
The first reason that milk is used in protein powders is simply that it contains a lot of protein. Beef, chicken and eggs are considered very concentrated sources of protein, but consider that just one cup of milk contains as such protein as one ounce of beef or one ounce of chicken – whereas a whole egg contains 6.5 grams of protein.
The next reason to use milk as a protein source is that it’s very digestible. Just because the label of a protein powder says it contains a certain amount of protein, that doesn’t necessarily mean your body can use all that protein. There are protein powders made from peas (good luck trying to mix it!), soy, rice and even hemp seeds. But these proteins are of inferior quality. Let me explain.
There are several methods of ranking the quality of a protein, and one of the most recent is called the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS). The highest value that a protein can receive in this type of measurement is 1.00. Milk and whole eggs earn a perfect score, and beef looks good at .92, but peas (not pee!) drop down to .67, and Mr. Peanut has no reason to smile, as he only earns a .52 score.
Of course, there are other ways to judge the protein quality of food, such as a measurement called biological value (BV) that looks at nitrogen retention and absorption. With this measurement, milk earns a score of 91 compared to whole eggs, which max out at 100; but milk still wins out over beef, which achieves a BV score of only 80. And with the plant proteins, you have to consider that these are considered “incomplete proteins” in that they must be combined with other sources of amino acids to be used by the body. For example, to make a complete protein source you can spread peanut butter on a rice cake.
Finally, I have to mention soy. I have a lot of issues with soy. For one, it is one of the most-sprayed crops and it picks up a lot of aluminum during processing – this may be good for sales of my detoxing supplements, but it’s certainly not good for you. Soy-based infant formulas are linked to attention deficit disorder due to their high manganese content, which is linked to neurotoxicity. Soy formulas also contain hemaglutinin, which makes the platelets in the blood clump together, and has been shown to reduce testosterone levels in males – and the list goes on. If you want to know more about why soy is the Devil, pick up a copy of Dr. Kaayla Daniel’s book The Whole Soy Story.
Although this discussion has been primarily about powdered milk, I’d like to take it a step further and talk about whey protein.
Getting Whey Stronger
Milk contains two types of protein, casein and whey. Whey is a higher quality of protein than casein (it is equal to milk in PDCAA scoring and higher in BV), and during the separation process the lactose can be removed. Whey protein can be separated from lactose – good news for those who are lactose intolerant.
When you go shopping for whey protein powders, you’ll see that they come in categories such as concentrates, isolates and hydrolysates. Isolates contain more protein and less fat than concentrates, and hydrolysates contain digestive enzymes. Isolates cost more than concentrates, and hydolysates cost more than isolates.
With whey protein, the axiom “You get what you pay for” often holds true. I’ve always said that if you buy supplements from a discount store, you’re probably buying an inferior product that could be tainted with things you don’t want in your body – consider the recent lawsuit filed in California when high levels of the toxins known as PCBs were found in popular brands of fish oils. That’s not the way I operate.
In addition to getting the best raw source of milk (i.e., happy and healthy cows from New Zealand), my product Whey Stronger is independently lab-tested for the following: whey protein authenticity, protein potency, melamine, solvent residue, heavy metals, herbicide and pesticide residue, stability, bacteria, yeast and mold counts. Is such testing expensive? Yes. Does this expense mean my product costs more than many whey proteins on the market? Yes. But my goal is not to offer my customers the best-selling whey protein, but the best quality whey protein. Gail Borden would love Whey Stronger – Genghis Kahn would demand it!