Nutrition and Fitness with Randa

Protein Powder: What To Look For

Some protein powders contain harmful heavy metals

A while ago I posted on Facebook about an investigation that Consumer Reports had done revealing that some of them may pose health problems over time, especially at a consumption level of three or more servings a day, due to the potential to consume harmful heavy metals and excessive protein.

All of the protein drinks tested by Consumer Reports had at least one sample containing one or more of the following contaminants: arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury, which can have toxic effects on the body, including several organs.

As I, and many of my clients, use protein powder on a regular basis, this was worth looking into. Studies found that "levels in three of the products were of particular concern because consumers who have three servings daily could be exposed to levels of arsenic, cadmium or lead that exceed the maximum limits for one or two of those contaminants in dietary supplements proposed by the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP)." These three products are ones that are very commonly used:

  • Ready-to-drink liquid EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake
  • The samples of Muscle Milk Chocolate powder contained all four heavy metals.
  • Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème

The concern regarding excessive protein consumption is also valid - I find that people either eat too much protein (think an 8 oz steak) or not enough (think bagel and cream cheese for breakfast). A general "rule" to follow in determining how many grams of protein you need is to multiply your body weight by .4.  For athletes, the general rule of thumb is about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day.  So for an average, 130 pound woman, 52 grams of protein a day would be a sufficient baseline protein consumption.

So what protein powders are safe? Until more reports are released to tell us otherwise, many of my clients enjoy cost-friendly Designer Whey Protein Powder*, Jay Robbe's Whey, Egg or Soy based powder, or plant-based Life Basic Plant Protein Powder in vanilla, chocolate or non-flavored. Two things to look for when choosing a protein powder are: 1) I should have at least 15 grams of protein per serving and 2) It should contain 5 or less grams of sugar.

*After looking at the more extensive list, I need to clarify that the Designer Whey 100% Whey Protein in Chocolate is on the list, though the amounts are very minimal. They did a study on 15 powders, and this was one of them. Whether that means because it made the list it should be avoided, or it was simply chosen at random, I don't know. It does not mention the vanilla.

Please share this information with anyone you know who uses protein powder, especially those who consume three servings daily. And if there is a protein powder that you love, please share it with us.

Source: Consumer Reports Investigation: Tests Reveal Contaminants in Many Protein Drinks- Release Date: 06/01/2010

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  1. Right now I’m using Gold Standard 100% Whey protein powder, vanilla ice cream flavor. Have you heard of this brand? I bought a giant container of it on sale at 24 hour fitness and I like the way it mixes and the taste is pretty good 🙂 Nutrition is 24g protein, 3g carbs, 1g sugar, and 120 cal.

  2. This one looks good in a good price range. I researched it for its heavy metal content and the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Extreme Chocolate was on the list but the levels are minimal per three servings.

  3. Do you have a recommendation for a powder that doesn’t taste grainy? I hate when it is so obvious in smoothies…

  4. I use Nutribiotics Brown Rice protein powder and love it! I initially bought it for Collin since it is dairy, soy and gluten free, but now I use it for my smoothies. Yum!

  5. Sounds great, Sara, for anyone who has food restrictions. Thanks for sharing.

  6. One that tastes great is EAS 100% Whey Protein in vanilla – not chalky or grainy at all. I wouldn’t consider it the most natural or top quality, but it does a great job and is a good price.

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