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Protein Powder Problems

Protein Powder Problems
Don't be fooled! Here's my breakdown of the tricks, scams, and schemes that might be ripping you off if you're not using a quality protein blend like Pro JYM.

Updated September 7, 2018

Despite the way my Pro JYM protein powder set a new standard in the industry, there are still companies out there using the same old tricks to cut corners and take more of your money. I've already given you the sad truth behind proprietary blends and concentrates in pre-workouts. As if that weren't enough, even protein powders are suspect—right down to lies about the amount of protein that's actually in them.

What is protein spiking?

While some companies just outright lie on the label about how much of their protein powder is actually protein, the more clever ones use a trick known as "nitrogen spiking." Nitrogen spiking, which is also known as "amino spiking" or "protein spiking," is a technique that allows supplement companies to put in less protein than what's listed on the label without actually getting caught. And you would be surprised to learn how many companies are doing this.

The problem arises from the fact that protein powder is so expensive to make these days. In turn, many companies take extreme measures to cut corners to save money on manufacturing protein powders in an effort to make more profit. Nitrogen spiking is a filthy trick. But in this article, I'll teach you an easy way to tell if a protein powder is nitrogen spiked. Once you know what to look for, you can spot it a mile away. And they're out there, trust me.

A Lesson on Nitrogen Spiking

Nitrogen spiking is simply a way to manipulate the test used to measure the protein content of protein powders. The current method used to measure the amount of protein in a protein powder involves measuring the nitrogen content, which is then converted into protein amount. Nitrogen is used because protein is made up of amino acids that are strung together in a chain, much like a pearl necklace. Every amino acid contains nitrogen, so measuring nitrogen content of a protein powder can indicate the amount of protein it contains per serving. But that's assuming that the protein powder contains just complete proteins, such as whey, casein and/or egg protein. Unfortunately, many protein powders not only include these complete proteins, but they also have "extra" amino acids added to them.

Most people think that having extra amino acids added to their protein powder is a good thing. After all, I recommend taking extra branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) before and after workouts in addition to protein powder. However, the major problem with protein powders that have added amino acids is that the aminos aren't added to provide any benefit to the product. Instead, they're only added for their nitrogen. Most amino acids, such as taurine and glycine, are much cheaper than whey protein, casein protein, milk protein or egg protein. Even highly beneficial amino acids, such as BCAAs and glutamine, are cheaper than protein powders. So by adding a bunch of cheaper amino acids to their protein powders, supplement companies can boost their nitrogen content, which technically means they boosted the amount of protein per serving – at least according to the nitrogen test.

Because the added amino acids are not complete proteins, though, the protein content of a protein powder with added aminos is not what the test claims it to be. For example, a whey protein powder may claim to contain 20 grams of protein per one scoop serving. If they added 5 grams of glycine per serving, then you are only getting 15 grams of actual whey protein and 5 grams of glycine, which would read as 20 grams of protein per serving in the nitrogen test. At least glycine is one of the 20 amino acids used as the building blocks for protein. However, having an extra 5 grams of this non-essential amino acid is not going to do you any real benefit when it comes to muscle growth. So that serving of whey protein is really only 15 grams of actual whey protein per serving.

A bigger problem arises when amino acids are used that aren't proteinogenic aminos. Proteinogenic amino acids are the 20 amino acids used as building blocks to form proteins in the body, such as muscle protein. Conversely, non-proteinogenic amino acids are ones that aren't used as protein building blocks. When companies add non-proteinogenic aminos to a protein powder, those aminos aren't providing any direct muscle-building benefits at all—they're just boosting the nitrogen ("protein") content of the protein powder.

Taurine is a popular non-proteinogenic amino that's added to protein powders for its nitrogen. You may think that having taurine added to a protein powder is a great bonus because taurine helps with energy production. And that's exactly what shady supplement companies want you to think! However, if 5 grams of taurine has been added to your protein powder that claims to contain 20 grams of protein per serving, then you're only getting 15 grams of real protein and 5 grams of taurine. The taurine is at the expense of total protein!

How to Spot Protein Spiking

So how do you know how much of a protein powder that has added amino acids is true protein and how much is just amino acids? You'll NEVER know. That's why supplement companies only list the amount of total "protein" on the label and not the amount of each type of protein and each type of amino acid added. But there are certainly some red flags to help you determine if your protein powder has been spiked.

If your favorite protein powder has taurine and glycine listed in the ingredients list, you're better off throwing it out. That brand is simply lying to you about how little protein is actually in that protein powder. And if they're willing to go to the extent of nitrogen spiking to lie about protein content, then there's no telling where they're buying their protein from. So not only are you getting less protein than listed on the label, but you're likely also getting very low-quality protein to boot.

If your favorite protein powder lists BCAAs, glutamine, beta-alanine, betaine (trimethylglycine), and/or creatine, you might think it's a great product because in addition to protein you get all those key amino acids and amino-acid-derived nutrients. And yes, you're getting those additional key nutrients, but you're getting them at the expense of the protein, NOT in addition to the protein. All those ingredients are nitrogen-containing compounds that count toward the total protein amount listed on the label. You might be getting up to 10 grams less protein per serving than listed on the label thanks to these "bonus" ingredients.

If you're looking to take extra BCAAs, glutamine, beta-alanine or creatine, get them from a different product, not from your protein powder. When you buy a protein powder, you ONLY want real protein and nothing else added. That includes fat burning ingredients like green tea, carnitine, and CLA. I won't go off here on a rant about the so-called "fat-burning" protein powders on the market today. But suffice it to say that they're just another way for supplement companies to screw you with underdosed fat-burning ingredients in addition to less protein than is listed on the label.

Look for Transparency in Labeling

The widespread use of nitrogen spiking is the main reason why I list the precise amount of each type of protein that's in every 24-gram serving of Pro JYM. Whey protein isolate makes up 7.5 grams, micellar casein makes up 7 grams, milk protein isolate also makes up 7 grams (5.5 of those grams being micellar casein and 1.5 of those grams being whey), and the remaining 2.5 grams comes from egg white protein (egg albumen). That totals 24 grams, all coming from complete proteins with no added amino acids to pull one over on you.

Pro JYM is the only protein powder that lists the exact amount of protein from each protein source. Yes, other protein powders list the percent of protein from each protein source, but that doesn't really tell you if that all adds up to the total listed on the label. For example, let's say that Brand X has a protein blend of whey, casein and egg protein that claimed to have 20 grams of protein per serving. They claim that 40% of the protein is from whey, 50% is from casein and 10% is from egg protein. You would assume that means 8 grams is whey, 10 grams is casein and 2 grams is egg protein. However, you don't really know that for a fact. They may only list the percent from each protein and not the total grams from each because the total doesn't add up to 20 grams.

For example, if Brand X had 6 grams of taurine added to each serving, that would mean that the whey, casein and egg protein make up only the remaining 14 grams. So in reality, there would only be 5.6 grams of whey (40% of 14), 7 grams of casein (50% of 14), and 1.4 grams of egg (10% of 14). But you wouldn't know that because the company only listed the percent of each protein, not the total grams from each type of protein. With Pro JYM, I list the total grams from each protein. I want you to rest assured knowing that there is no sneaky business going on and that you're getting not only the highest-quality sources of each protein, but that you're also getting the exact amount listed on the label.

Just Say No To Nitrogen Spiking

Unfortunately, due to legal reasons, I can't list which protein powders on the market today use nitrogen spiking to trick you—and there are a lot of them! But you're now armed with info that can help you know what to look for on a protein powder label. So go out there and make wiser and savvier protein powder purchases. It's up to you to make these companies stop the lies and the nonsense. And you can only do that by being smart with your supplement purchases and not buying spiked protein powders.

Don't be lured by the cheap price of a particular protein powder. If the price is much cheaper than most of the other protein powders, then there's something fishy going on. Read the label and look for the mention of amino acids or other "bonus" ingredients. If you keep buying crap, they're going to keep making crap and selling crap. Force the rest of the supplement industry to step up and formulate better protein powders and better products all around. Enough is enough!

Proprietary Protein Blends

When it comes to proprietary blends, you likely think about pre-workout supplements, fat burners, post-workout supplements, testosterone boosters, and the like. You probably didn't know that almost all protein powder blends are proprietary blends! This is the unfortunate truth.

Take a look at the label of any protein powder blend, except Pro JYM. We'll look at the Pro JYM label later. A protein powder blend is a protein powder that uses more than one form of protein. For example, it can be a blend of whey and casein protein, or a blend of whey, casein, and egg protein. Or it can even be a blend of different whey proteins, such as a blend of whey protein concentrate and whey protein isolate.

What you will realize when you take a close look at protein powder labels is that 99% of the protein powder blends sold on the market today do not list the exact amount of each one of those proteins. All they list is the total amount of protein in the Supplement Facts panel. In the "Ingredients" list (image below) you will find each type of protein used, but that's it. All they tell you is the type of protein used, but not the amount of each one. To me, that is simply ridiculous!

Here's an example of where you will find the ingredients in your protein powder:

ingredient_facts.jpg

Pro JYM, on the other hand, lists the actual amounts of each protein on the front of the tub. Check it out:

Let's say you bought a protein blend that was whey and casein. If it only listed the total amount of protein per serving as 20 grams and only listed the two types of protein in the ingredients list, then you have no idea how much of that 20 grams of protein comes from whey and how much comes from casein. And that should be a concern to you, a huge red flag.

Take a look at the label of Pro JYM You don't even have to turn the tub of Pro JYM around and find the Supplement Facts panel because I list the exact amount of each type of protein in Pro JYM right on the front label so that it's plain to see. That's the only way that you will know what makes up the 24 grams of protein in each serving of Pro JYM: Precisely 7.5 grams of whey protein isolate, 7 grams of micellar casein, 7 grams of milk protein isolate, and 2.5 grams of egg white protein. Add that up and it totals 24 grams.

Since milk protein isolate is about 20% whey and 80% micellar casein, on the back of the Pro JYM tub I further give you the exact amount of whey, casein, and egg protein in grams. That 24 grams of protein per serving of Pro JYM comes out to be:

I believe that you should know how much of each protein you are getting. I know I want to know that type of info. And since you are also consuming this product, it's only fair that you also know exactly how much of each protein you are consuming. The other reason I do it is so that you can see that when you add each protein together, it totals the 24 grams of protein listed in the Supplement Facts Panel. That way you know that I did not do any protein spiking. If you do not know what protein spiking is, click here to read my eye-opening article on a major problem with protein powders.

Misperceptions About Protein Percentages

A few other companies are listing the percent of each type of protein that is in their protein blend. For example, a protein powder blend that is whey, casein, and egg protein might list that it's composed of 40% whey, 40% casein, and 20% egg protein. But that is NOT listing the exact amount of each one of those proteins.

If a company is so proud of their protein blend, then why wouldn't they list the amount of each protein in grams?! You wouldn't buy a pre-workout supplement that lists the ingredients as percentages. Could you imagine if a pre-workout supplement listed its ingredients as 30% BCAAs, 20% creatine, 20% beta-alanine, 29% citrulline malate, and 1% caffeine?! You would not buy it! At least I hope you wouldn't be dumb enough to buy it. So why should you not expect much better for protein powder blends? If they only list the percent of each protein source and do not list the precise grams of each protein source, then that protein powder is a proprietary blend. Sorry, but it's true.

Some would argue that listing the percent of each protein source does tell you how much of each protein is in there. But it does not. For example, let's say that a protein powder blend lists 20 grams of protein per serving. For simplicity's sake, let's say it's a whey/casein blend and it lists 50% whey protein and 50% casein protein. That should mean that 10 grams is whey and 10 grams is casein. The key word here is "should". So does it contain 10 grams of whey plus 10 grams of casein? I don't know because they didn't list the grams. But I do know that you have to wonder why they wouldn't just list the grams of each protein the way that I do. It's very simple to do.

Why wouldn't a company list the grams of each protein source? One reason may be that the percent of each protein source listed in these other protein powder blends does not represent the total protein listed on the Supplement Facts Panel. One reason for this could be protein spiking referenced above.

If a protein powder that lists 20 grams of protein on the label is spiked with 5 grams of taurine. Then it's only really 15 grams of true protein and 5 grams of taurine. That means that that 50% whey and 50% casein represents 15 grams total, and each equals 7.5 grams (half of 15) and not 10 grams. So that could be one reason that a company would put the percent of each type of protein versus listing the exact grams of each protein.

Another issue is that some companies simply lie on the label. Some protein powders that have been independently tested were found to contain significantly less total protein than listed on the Supplement Facts panel and significantly more carbohydrates than listed. If this was the case, then you could understand why the company would only want to list the percent of each type of protein versus the grams of each type of protein.

With Pro JYM, you know exactly how much of each type of protein you are getting in every serving, and you can be sure that the 24 grams of protein listed as total protein in the Supplement Facts panel is true because you can see that when you add up each type of protein they equal 24 grams.

With Pro JYM you can rest assured that there is no protein spiking and no lying. Just quality that you can count on. Quality that you can literally COUNT on!

Digestive Enzymes and Pro JYM

If you look on the Supplement Facts Panel and Ingredients List of Pro JYM, you will notice that I didn't bother to add any enzymes—specifically proteases that work to digest protein.

Some of you may be shocked to find that I failed to include protease enzymes in my high-quality Pro JYM protein-powder blend. After all, everyone knows how important enzymes are for digesting protein, right? Wrong! If you're surprised that my Pro JYM lacks digestive enzymes, then you will likely be even more surprised to hear that the science on digestive enzyme supplements is almost non-existent.

Support for Digestive Enzymes is Scarce

Except for the clinical use of prescription enzymes for those with pancreatic insufficiency, and the use of lactase for those who are lactose intolerant, the research on digestive enzymes and their ability to aid food digestion and nutrient utilization in normal, healthy subjects, is very scarce and unreliable.

There is so little science on this category of supplements that it's actually quite scary when you consider how many enzyme supplements there are on the market and how many people assume that they need them.

There are basically two documented studies on enzyme supplements and digestion that I am aware of. Yes, only two! The first study was done in 1999 at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center. They fed subjects a meal of cookies with placebo pills or with enzyme pills containing lipase, protease and amylase (for fat, protein and carbs, respectively).

The subjects taking the enzyme pills reported less bloating, gas and fullness than those taking the placebo pills. The two main problems with this study: 1) the enzyme pill used was a prescription enzyme product and 2) the researchers didn't actually make any true measures of digestion. All that they recorded were the subjective measures of gas, bloating and fullness reported by the subjects. That hardly is considered science.

The only other study on digestion and enzymes investigated the influence of taking protease enzymes with a protein powder. This study did actually measure digestion of the protein, but the study was funded by the manufacturer of the enzyme supplement used.

Could that influence the outcome of the study? I'll let you make your own decision on that one. This was done on the patented protease enzyme supplement Aminogen from Triarco Industries. They reported that when they supplied subjects with 50 grams of whey protein concentrate after an overnight fast, with Aminogen or without, the Aminogen supplement increased the rate of digestion of the whey.

Now I might be able to accept the data from this study showing that supplying a protease enzyme with a large dose of whey protein concentrate could increase the rate of digestion of the whey protein. But what I really question is whether or not this actually offers any true benefit. I should also mention that this study was done in 2008. That was back when most scientists still thought that whey protein by itself was the most anabolic protein due to its rapid digestions rate.

Faster Protein Digestion Isn't Necessarily Better

The newer research on protein powders finds that going faster with the digestion rate of whey is not the way to go. Going slower with the digestion rate of the protein is actually your best bet for better gains in muscle protein.

Research studies are show that using a blend of fast-digesting whey and slow-digesting casein protein, plus a medium-digesting protein such as soy or egg, works significantly better than whey protein alone at prolonging muscle protein synthesis and increasing net protein balance (how much of that protein is retained and put into muscle building), as well as leading to bigger gains in muscle mass.

The problem with using whey alone is that its fast digestion rate is the main benefit, but also the main downfall. Whey's fast digestion rate is important for spiking muscle-protein synthesis, but it also causes the spike in protein synthesis that it initiated to rapidly drop.

Yet when you consume a little bit of whey along with more slower-digesting proteins, the whey spikes the muscle-protein synthesis and the slower proteins maintain that higher protein synthesis for longer. This leads to greater muscle growth. So given what the new science is now showing in the lab, as well as what I am seeing in the gym, it makes no sense to further speed up the rate of whey protein, or any protein for that matter.

This is also why I didn't bother to include any hydrolyzed whey protein in Pro JYM. Hydrolyzed whey protein is whey protein that has been predigested so that it digests a bit faster than whey protein isolate. Yet as I said, there is no point in further speeding up the rate that whey protein isolate digests at. It's fast enough. The better strategy is to complement whey protein isolate with medium- and slow-digesting proteins.

To learn more, check out my article on why protein blends are better than whey alone. 

Despite what I said above, the researchers in the Aminogen study did report that nitrogen retention was increased better when the subjects consumed the Aminogen with the whey. Nitrogen retention is a measure of how much of the protein is put to use in the body versus it being excreted.

This data I have a hard time fully accepting. This is mainly due to the newer studies that I discussed above showing that adding slower digesting proteins to whey protein actually increased muscle protein synthesis for longer and led to greater net protein balance and muscle growth.

Given all the new science, speeding up the digestion rate of whey protein does not seem like the way to go for greater nitrogen retention. I have to really question this finding from the Aminogen study. Plus, there has yet to be a follow-up study to this one that was performed many years ago. When there is a lack of supporting studies to follow up on one single study, you have to take the data with a grain of salt.

The only follow-up study done on Aminogen was a safety study done in 2013 that investigated the effects it had on liver and kidney function, metabolism, and cardiovascular health. They reported no adverse effects of Aminogen on any of these measures. Fair enough. However, they also reported that the subjects consuming 40 grams of whey protein concentrate without the Aminogen for 30 days experienced a significant increase in total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, yet the group taking Aminogen with the whey protein did not experience any negative rise in cholesterol.

Hold up a minute! Whey protein raised cholesterol levels?! If you look at the research on whey protein and cardiovascular health over the years, you would find that taking whey protein does NOT raise cholesterol levels. In fact, you would find quite the opposite. Whey protein has been shown in numerous studies to provide heart-health benefits, including a lowering of cholesterol and blood pressure.

So the data from this Aminogen safety study is highly questionable. And that does not leave me very confident in the data from either one of the Aminogen studies. Which bring us back to the point that I was making at the start of this article – there is no real research on enzyme supplements and their benefit in the digestion and utilization of protein. Period!

No Need for Enzymes in Pro JYM 

So given that there is zero reliable data on protease enzymes, and the fact that increasing the digestion rate of whey protein offers no true benefit, I did not bother to include them in Pro JYM. Plus, including enzymes in Pro JYM would potentially increase the digestion rate of the slow-digesting micellar casein and the medium-digesting egg protein. That is the LAST thing that you would want to do in a protein powder blend.

You want the slow-digesting protein to be as slow digesting as possible. Speeding up the digestion rate of casein is counterproductive. In fact, if you see digestive enzymes added to any protein powder blend, then you know that the formulator had no idea what they were doing. They simply added the enzymes just because they are popular and hoped that it would increase the sales of the product.

Besides providing no proven benefits, another problem with adding digestive enzymes to a protein powder is that they leave a nasty aftertaste that's hard to mask. If you have already tried Pro JYM, then you know that its taste is unrivaled by any other protein powder and it treats you well in the gastrointestinal department.

If you haven't tried Pro JYM, then prepare to be blown away by the highest quality protein powder ever developed that includes all the critical ingredients you need, avoids any unnecessary and/or counterproductive ingredients, delivers unparalleled results, is the absolute best-tasting protein powder that you have ever tried, and leaves you with no stomach discomfort. In fact, even those who are lactose intolerant have zero stomach issues with Pro JYM. That's because each serving of Pro JYM has less than 1 gram of lactose to avoid such stomach issues.

One of the many things that set JYM Supplement Science apart from the rest of the supplement industry is the selection of ingredients that I use in each JYM product. I don't choose ingredients just because they're popular buzzwords and are supplements that people think they need. I only use ingredients that have a proven track record in the lab and in the gym ... my own gym.

I also use ingredients that provide a true synergy when used together with the other ingredients in the product. That is a science that no laboratory scientist can duplicate. It's part science and part art form, and is an ability that I have developed over decades of studying supplements in the lab and in the real world. And the results speak for themselves.

Here's a video I did on this same topic:

References

Organic Pro JYM?

If you're wondering when I'm going to come out with an "organic" version of my Pro JYM blended protein powder, don't hold your breath. Before I explain, let me first give you some background on the topic of organic dairy items.

If we were talking about organic dairy products like milk, cottage cheese and Greek yogurt (coming from organically raised, grass-fed cows), I would say yes, go organic. Same goes for organic fruits and vegetables – definitely worth it due to more micronutrients being present and fewer pesticides.

But in the case of organic whey protein powder… no, absolutely not.

I can understand how some might find this “thumbs down” on organic whey contrary to my “thumbs up” on organic dairy products in general. Since whey protein comes from milk, whey protein powder manufactured from milk that comes from organically-raised/grass-fed cows must be better than whey protein processed from milk that comes from conventionally-raised cows. Right? Nope, wrong. And here’s why…

First, you must consider where the benefits come from in milk sourced from organically-raised/grass-fed cows, as well as how whey protein is manufactured.

The main health benefits of milk that come from organically-raised/grass-fed cows are the higher amounts of essential omega-3 fats, CLA and vitamin E (a fat-soluble vitamin). But whey is processed to isolate the protein from the carbs and the fat. In fact, a quality whey protein isolate has close to 100% of the fat removed. This means that if a protein powder manufacturer is using whey protein from organic milk, just about ALL of the extra omega-3 fats, CLA, and vitamin E have been removed during the manufacturing process anyway!

So it actually makes zero sense for the manufacturer to pay more for whey protein from organic milk given the fact that all the additional health benefits are going to be completely removed in the manufacturing process.

Well, what about the protein? Good question. The protein in milk from organically-raised/grass-fed cows has the same amino acids and structure as protein in conventional milk. Let me repeat: The protein quality is the same whether it’s organic or not. Amino acids are amino acids.

What about the antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides, then? Here’s the deal with that: None of those chemicals alter the structure of the whey protein molecules that are isolated from milk protein. And due to the rigorous processing that whey protein undergoes to isolate the whey protein from everything else in the milk, none of those contaminants should be left behind to make it into the jug of protein powder you're buying. So again, there's no difference between regular whey protein and organic/grass-fed protein in regards to any contaminants.

All of which begs another question: If organic/grass-fed whey adds none of the beneficial nutrients to whey and removes no more of the negative components, why do some protein manufacturers even bother to offer it? It's most likely due to the fact that the manufacturer is ignorant regarding the benefits of organic/grass-fed milk and how the benefits fail to carry over to isolated whey protein. In a few cases, it may be that the manufacturers actually do realize the lack of benefit but are riding the wave of the organic movement and are assuming that the customer isn’t educated enough to realize that organic/grass-fed whey provides no true benefit over regular whey. And since the consumer is paying the higher price for it, it's an easy way for companies to make a buck.

Don't get sucked into this organic trap and waste your money on organic whey protein. Sure, the milk that it was manufactured from was from organically-raised/grass-fed cows. But the benefits from that superior milk are NOT carried over to the whey protein powder. Those benefits are literally flushed down the drain in the manufacturing facility. The only thing that does carry over is the price.

For more on this topic, read what I have to say on The Best Organics Money Can Buy. Spoiler alert: Organic whey protein powder isn’t on the list!

 

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