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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Clean Protein Powders 101

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Clean Protein Powders

Many of you have been asking about clean protein powders lately and are overwhelmed by all of the products on the shelves – which brand do I buy? Where can I find it?  How much protein do I need?  This article will provide some helpful tips as to which ingredients are to be desired from a clean protein powder.

Stay tuned for a post on which ones taste the best.  I’ve tried several different brands and types over the years, some of which made me want to gag and others that made me feel as though I’m drinking a real cookies n’ cream milkshake that I used to drink when I was plump (see Our Story).

Why should I use Protein Powder?

If you are an active adult and you are trying to build lean muscle, trim your waistline, or just live a clean and healthy lifestyle then protein powder is a convenient protein source.  It is best to eat whole foods but that is not always possible.

Protein is comprised of important amino acids that are the building blocks of human growth and development.  They help muscle tissue repair and recover…precisely how muscle growth occurs (hypertrophy).  Not only that, protein will help you maintain healthy hair, skin, teeth, gums, and fingernails and boost your immune system.  Needless to say, getting the recommended amount of protein is vital to a healthy lifestyle and proper recovery.  It’s like taking your dirty car in for a wash and coming out with a nice shiny ride that is sure to turn heads!

One important thing is to treat protein powders as supplements to an already healthy diet full of lean protein, plenty of vegetables, fruit and complex carbs.  You should be consuming the bulk of your protein from whole food sources like all natural chicken, turkey, lean and grass fed red meat, and eggs. Also, you should try to avoid deli meats as they are highly processed, loaded with sodium and (most brands are) laden with preservatives.  With an active lifestyle, busy schedule, and limited budgets, protein powders are a necessity for most people.

How much Protein do I need?

We aim for 1-1.5 grams per pound of body weight (at least 0.8 grams per pound and as much as 1.5 grams if you are engaging in intense exercise for more than 1 hour per day and 6-7 days per week).  The FDA recommends only 50 grams per day based on a 2,000 calorie diet but that simply isn’t enough, in our opinion.  FDA recommendations are nowhere close to what the top trainers, dietitians, and nutritionists recommend.
Types of Powders:

It is important to point out that there are several different types of protein powders on the market and they are all designed to cater to your needs.  Here are some of the different types:
  • Whey protein – this is by far the most popular and prevalent type on the market.  It is derived from milk and is absorbed by the body quicker than other protein sources (high biological value) which makes it great for morning shakes on the go or peri-workout nutrition (peri-workout means before, during, and/or after a workout).
    • Whey can be broken down into concentrate, isolate and hydrolysates (listed in order of purity).  Most whey protein powders consist of concentrate, but high quality brands will include a higher amount of isolate.  Hydrolysate is the purest form of whey protein and is absorbed the fastest in your bloodstream…if you have the budget, hydrolyzed powders (hydrolysates) are the optimal source for peri-workout nutrition.
  • Casein protein – this is also another popular protein source and is the other portion of the milk protein that is not used to make whey.  Casein is the protein source you will also find in cottage cheese and greek yogurt.  It is known for slow digestion, so it is very beneficial in shakes that are used as meal replacements or a bedtime shake, but it is not favorable for peri-workout nutrition.  Casein will satisfy your appetite and stay with you much longer than other protein sources.  Our Bedtime Builder shake uses casein...try it out, it is delicious!
  • Blends - many products on the shelves use a blend, which is basically a mix of whey, casein, and egg albumen.  By having the different sources combined into one powder, you get different rates of absorption and create steady flow of amino acids.  Personally, I don’t use blended powders because most of them are loaded with artificial sweeteners or other unhealthy ingredients…I prefer to make my own blend with the whey and casein we have and add it to a few ounces of liquid egg whites and almond milk (as done with our Bedtime Builder)
  • Soy – I’ve never tried any soy protein powders and would advise against using soy protein powder.  If you are on a vegan diet, there are other high quality protein powders that you can use such as hemp or pea protein.  Most of the soy in the US is genetically-modified and even though there is conflicting information out there, I’d steer clear of soy.  The reason it’s so prevalent and used by major brands (some companies use it to enhance the protein content of their cereals and snack bars) is because it is a subsidized commodity in the US, thus it is very cheap to produce.  Men should avoid soy at all costs due to the potential effects on hormones.
  • Other - you can find several other protein sources such as egg white protein, hemp, pea, brown rice, and gluten.  Gluten, above all, should be avoided as it is highly inflammatory to most individuals.
The main thing to look for in a clean protein is lack of artificial sweeteners and information on the label stating that the protein is derived from cattle that has not been exposed to synthetic hormones, chemicals or medications. 

We have several different protein shake recipes posted on our recipe page!

UPDATE:  Click here for our review of protein powders!

- Scott

78 comments:

  1. What do you think of Shaklee's protein powders? Thanks!

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    1. I've never tried the Shaklee, but it looks like it is a soy protein, which I'm not a fan of. There are much better protein sources out there and soy is highly inflammatory. According to the label it's made up of about 33% sugar (fructose and dextrose). Dextrose is VERY high on the glycemic index, so I wouldn't recommend this protein powder at all. You'd be better off with MRM or Only Protein.

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    2. Shaklee's Soy proteins are glycemically balanced and COMPLETELY NON-GMO. Guaranteed. The Attached URL is an article you may find interesting about the myths of Soy. (I think you click on my name to see the URL). Happy researching. Thanks for the insights on your site.

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  2. Thanks for this overview ... very helpful! I also wanted to get your opinion on the protein bars made from Think Thin. I know that protein bars are usually too high in sugar, but Think Thin have 0 grams of sugar and 20 grams of protein. I am a vegetarian and sometimes I just need something I can grab and take with me when I'm running my kids around ... which I know SHOULD be something I make at home, but it doesn't always happen! Your opinion on those bars would be great!

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    1. I checked out the Brownie Crunch protein bar and it looks like it's disproportionately high in carbs (about 42% of the calories come from carbs). The carbs come from maltitol, which is a sugar alcohol and has a pretty high glycemic index. Sugar alcohols have been known to cause stomach discomfort. TT bars also seem to have a large amount of soy and, again, I'm a firm believer that everyone needs to reduce their soy consumption. I think you'd be better off trying out the all natural Quest Bars...you can find them at GNC and Vitamin Shoppe and I haven't tried a single flavor that I don't like. They have 20g of protein and 18g of fiber...you can heat them up in the microwave for about 8-10 seconds and they taste just like a fresh baked cookie!

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    2. Thanks for the quick feedback! I will check out Quest!

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    3. You will love them...head over to www.strongernutrition.com and order some boxes of your favorite flavors...it's much cheaper to buy in bulk. You can also type in the referral code "EATCLEAN" for 10%, which basically covers your shipping.

      My favorites are the lemon bars, cinnamon roll, and coconut cashew.

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  3. I would be interested in feedback from anyone that has tried "About Time" protein...according to the label it is 100% Whey Protein Isolate, no artificial flavorings/ growth hormones/ or artificial sweeteners, lactose free, gluten free, zero carb and zero fat, 25g protein and 103 calories per scoop...I've never taken protein supplements but want to start and have been researching...this seems like one of the cleanest...thoughts? Has anyone tasted it?

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    1. YES! I've tried the birthday cake flavor and it is delicious...the only thing I don't like about it is the cost, but you get what you pay for.

      Best place to get it is from amazon...

      http://www.amazon.com/Whey-Protein-Isolate-Birthday-Pounds/dp/B002UTNTAW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338323483&sr=8-1

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    2. Omg, THANK YOU!! Gnc.com is offering buy 1, get 1 half off right now but I've been afraid to order, I was afraid it would be gross...I will be trying it out, thanks again!!

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  4. What do you think about Intek's Isolate Evolution?
    1g Fat, 0g carbs, 30 g protein
    The ingredients say: "undenatured cross flow microfiltered ion exchange whey protein isolate, hydrolyzed whey protein isolate, viatmin/mineral blend, citric acid, natural and artificial flavors, soy lecinthin, Acesulfame Potassium, Sucralose"

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    1. I don't like artificial sweeteners in something that I use on a daily basis. Acesulfame Potassium (a.k.a. Ace-K) and Sucralose (marketed as Splenda) are artifical sweeteners. Soy lecithin is an emulsifier and, again, I try to avoid soy as much as possible.

      Thanks for your question.

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  5. Do you know anything about NOW protein isolate?

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    1. The unflavored variety appears to be VERY clean; however, I have never tried it.

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  6. Thanks for the great article and well researched information! I've been really enjoying your site!
    Any thoughts on Visalus Protein Powder? It's made from a combination of Non-GMO soy and whey protein. Would you consider this to be slightly better?

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    1. It's a little better because it's non-GMO soy. One thing I do like is that they've removed the isoflavones from the soy and that is the troublesome component of the soy plant. I haven't tried it, but it's not too bad even though it's sweetened with sucralose.

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    2. One serving of the ViSalus protein powder has .03 grams of sucralose, which is 1/3 of the amount of that in a can of diet pop. I try to avoid artificial sweeteners, but love the Visalus protein shake because it tastes good and has <1 g of sugar. So for me it is worth the .03 grams!

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    3. I LOVE the Body by Vi shake mix and saw great success with it. Unfortunately, I have a sucralose sensitivity and even the .03 grams was enough to send me into a full-blown migraine so I had to discontinue it upon the advice of my doctor. :( If you have any type of sucralose sensitivity, use caution.

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  7. What are your thoughts on ViSalus (Vi-Shape) shake mix ?? Most know it as "Body By Vi" .............

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    Replies
    1. I didn't see Amy's post re: this protein shake before I posted !! Sorry for the duplication !!

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  8. Arbonne offers a protein powder that is pea based. Do you see any downsides with this powder?

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    1. Pea protein is very good. Just make sure it has rice protein included to complete the amino acid profile, but even if it doesn't it's still good. Avoid artificial sweeteners too. I've tried the MRM veggie protein and it's very good and probably the most trustworthy product on the market. Go to the link below and type "EATCLEAN" in the referral code box for a 10% discount.

      http://www.strongernutrition.com/Products/Veggie-Protein-930521.aspx?vip=EATCLEAN

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  9. Thanks for your comments about soy protein. I jumped in on a recipe on another Clean Eating site that had TVP which is about as far from clean as you can get. They defended it and trashed me for even mentioning it.

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    1. Sorry to hear about that...we are not tied to any products. All of our reviews are unbiased and based on different sources of research. Stay tuned for the reviews!

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    1. Absolutely! Thank you for visiting our blog!

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  11. My husband and I really like Whey to Go by Solgar. No artificial sugars and great flavors!

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    1. Thanks for the tip - we will need to check out that protein powder!

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  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  13. Great read! Thanks for sharing what you've learned over the years on protein supplements. I'm interested in hearing your take on Beachbody's Shakeology. I've tried it before and it is filling and makes a great meal replacement... but after reading some of points you've highlighted, I'm questioning if this is the right protein/meal replacement for me. Nutrition Info: http://shakeology.com/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=1d66051a-61fd-4199-841b-16d24dae4c7b&groupId=59860

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    1. I've actually tried the chocolate version and it's pretty good...I mixed it in unsweetened vanilla almond milk. I'm not sure of the source of the fructose used to sweeten it, but it's non-GMO, so that's good. It also deems itself low glycemic index, but doesn't disclose the number. I also don't like to see a ton of ingredients added to my powders because that means further processing and other hidden dangers...if you're eating a well-balanced diet, then you don't need all of those added ingredients. I prefer to blend some spinach and fresh fruit into my smoothies for micronutrients.

      All in all, it's not that bad. I wouldn't be too concerned about any negative effects from it as it looks pretty clean overall.

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  14. I am just wondering about oh yeah! bars. Are they really that good for you or are they more of a chocolate bar?

    Thanks,
    Amanda

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    1. Although they taste good, they are very similar to a candy bar!

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  15. What are your thoughts on Garden of Life's Raw Protein Powder?

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    1. I have never tried it, but it looks to be a very good choice for Vegans or Vegetarians. If you are sensitive to yeast, you will want to be careful though as an ingredient is Brewer's yeast.

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  16. Thanks for taking your time to answer questions, I'm really enjoying your blog. Any thoughts on ADVOCARE meal replacement shakes?

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    1. Gina, we don't have a lot of experience with Advocare products; however, some of their ingredients are not considered "clean."

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  17. My body cannot tolerate any artificial sweetener, even Stevia (or Stevia extract). Do you have any recommendations for completely unsweetened powders? For some reason, every one that I find is either not of good quality protein, or it's been sweetened--with something that makes me ill (which is basically everything other than basic sucrose). Many, many thanks!!!!

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    1. NOW Foods makes a GREAT organic whey powder that is free of any flavorings and sweeteners. You can buy it from Amazon by copying and pasting the link below:

      http://amzn.to/NjAM8l

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    2. NutriBiotics Organic Brown Rice Protein is one of the only ones I can tolerate. I mix it with Now! pea protein and Living Harvest Plain Organic Hemp Protein. No GMOs, no artificial sweeteners or sugars. And since all dairy makes me so sick and even casein I dont tolerate, I have been told that the Brown Rice Powder is the best vegan/organic/unsweetened option for slower absorption, and the most absorbable of all veg powders.

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  18. Such a helpful post! I noticed in the description for MRM's 100% Whey Protein on Strong Nutrition (your favorite protein mentioned above) it says "do not use for weight reduction". I am trying to lose weight, and do not expect any protein powders to cause weight loss w/o honest efforts in all areas on my part! But will this stunt my weight loss or effect it in anyway? Kinda worried! :)

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    1. It isn't a mass gainer, so it shouldn't add any weight to you. It will encourage muscle growth, which does weigh more than fat - your scale could go up, but your body fat will most likely go down!

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  19. What is your take on CytoSport's Muscle Milk protein powder? I am trying to get out of this funk of not eating clean and not working out. I find it difficult to eat as soon as I get out of bed but this is the only time of day I will be able to work out. I've drank this before a workout with no stomach issues but I was interested in how "clean" this would be.

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    1. Muscle Milk isn't too bad, especially the natural version, but we prefer MRM Whey. I don't know much about the source of MM's protein, but I know MRM is antibiotic and hormone free.

      Hope this helps!

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  20. i'm gonna follow the hurd here and ask about PVL's ISO gold all natural whey protein pow?

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    1. Contains soy lecithin (not that bad, but I prefer no soy). It's also artificially sweetened, so I would not recommend it...the ones I listed above would be better protein powders.

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  21. I am lactose intolerant, and am concerned with using Whey Proteins. Can you recommend any clean, lactose-free protein powders?

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    1. Yes, there are plenty of veggie proteins available out there that you can try. MRM makes a pretty good chocolate and vanilla veggie protein that is loaded with antioxidants and fiber as well as high quality veggie protein sources like hemp, brown rice, chia, etc. Sunwarrior also makes a very good powder as well...I've only tried the chocolate and it's pretty tasty.

      If you have the budget, Vega One and Vega Sport are delicious and are of very high quality. You can find them online or at Vitamin Shoppe.

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    2. Thanks so much! I will definitely look into those suggestions.

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    3. Try Nutribiotics Organic Brown Rice Protein. Living Harvest makes a great hemp protein...with very good essential fatty acids. If you want an easily absorbable one, try Now! pea protein (but high in sodium so might pose a problem to cardiac patients) and Ive heard Sun Warrior is excellent! but have not tried it myself.
      If you have colitis or IBD issues beware Garden of Life products...

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  22. Have you all checked out http://www.swansonvitamins.com/swanson-ultra-grass-fed-certified-rbgh-free-vanilla-whey-protein-powder-420-grams-14-8-oz-pwdr? I like it and it appears to be clean.

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  23. I am totally confused as to which protein powder I should buy. Can you recommend some "clean " ones ie no soy gluten etc thxs

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  24. How about the designer whey protein?

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  25. Thanks for the information. I'm confused as to how Whey protein powders are clean. Isn't Whey dairy? Thanks in advance.

    Steven

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  26. Thanks for this post! I have been struggling to find a quality protein powder to use post workout. MRM looked like a great option until I saw carrageenan in the ingredients. What are your thoughts on carrageenan?

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    1. I do not see any replies to this post but I am interested to know your thoughts on carrageenan. It is listed as an ingredient in mrm whey. Pls help. In researching some doctors are advising against it and it can be considered an allergen and possibly cancer causing.

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  27. But I am lactose intolerant and Whey powder is powdered allergy :( I am not vegan, and everything you said that was not a milk derived was bad. So I eat the soy.

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  28. I follow a strict kosher diet (for religious reasons)and the only whey protein powder available lists the following as ingredients:
    All natural concentrated and Isolated Whey Protein, Fructose, Natural Turmeric Color, Natural Vanilla Bean Extract

    Yes or no? I eat all clean and need some protein options!!

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    Replies
    1. I'm assuming the color and fructose may be bad. How about non-gmo soy lecithin? Is that something to stay away from?

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  29. I am lactose intolerant, but can eat cheese and yogurt. Have you heard of anyone being lactose intolerant and having issues with whey or casein? or anyone have any experience with this?

    Thanks so much!

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    1. try medigourmet they use pea protein which is better then whey. Pea protein is good for diebetics and lactose intolant people. Whey causes bloating, constipation. Pea protein is easier on the stomach.

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  30. Do you know much about IsoPure Protein powder by Nature's Best?

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    1. Yes, I've tried it and it's probably one of the cleanest that still uses artificial sweeteners. I'd try to change to a more natural brand if you can.

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  31. I'm sorry, how do you feel about Arbonne Protein powder? Not sure if you already mentioned this.

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  32. It would be nice if there were reviews on products without ANY artificial sweetners. Stevia is not natural. It has the same after taste as the other artificial sweetners do.

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    1. Stevia is natural. It may be somewhat processed, but natural nonetheless.

      Aftertaste does not define whether or not something is natural. Dirt has a bad aftertaste and it's completely natural!

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  33. Are there any protein powders on the market that are completely sugar free, including ones that do not contain any artifical sweetners (aspartame, stevia leaf extract, etc) I want a completely unsweetened powder, but am unable to find any....help!

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    1. Stevia is not artificial. Processed, yes, but it's definitely not a synthetic compound created by someone wearing a lab coat.

      NOW brands has unflavored protein powders and so does Sun Warrior and Nutiva (hemp). I wouldn't be afraid of stevia unless you just don't like the taste...it's been safely used in other countries for thousands of years.

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  34. I am allergic to milk protein and have been using soy milk instead. As soy is not supposed to be good for you anymore, are there any protein powders that do not use milk or soy?

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  35. I was wondering if the Oh yeah protein powder is good to use...I tried the sample and it tasted great. But I want to know health wise if its a good choice before I go and buy a tub of it.

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  36. Have you ever tried BIOTRUST protein powder mix?

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  37. What about optimum nutrition powders? I currently use the 100% whey.

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  38. Amazing how they took the natural sugars from the aloe and isolated a new class of nutrient. I knew that aloe was excellent for the immune system and to create a product so natural that can do so much for the body is great. As I am getting older I'm paying more attention to what I put into my body.
    immune system booster supplements

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  39. Im wondering about Tara's Whey protein powder. Anyone?
    I have a severe lactose intolerance but am looking to find an all natural, non GMO, no artificial sweeteners, no preservative shit parties (lol) unsweetened casein powder.
    Even with all the best organic vegan powders I am still losing muscle while sleeping. I have tried casein before with bad reaction, but as this one is derived from goat milk (which I can tolerate in small amounts) and has no fake sweetener/preservative shit fest waiting to happen ingredients???
    can anyone tell me, if you might have a similar issue...did this one irritate/cause extreme pain/bloat/nausea?

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  40. Someone commented above about Shakeology but I was wondering if there were any good ALTERNATIVES to Shakeology, that would give the same results, while maintaining a clean eating lifestyle, but cost less? There are reviews on protein shakes, but Shakeology is a meal replacement. Suggestions? Thank you !

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  41. I was drinking the Special K and HEB brand protein shakes daily. I quit eating beef, pork, & chicken so I needed the protein. Long story short, my stomach started swelling up/was bloated the whole time. I then found out that carrageenan is one of the ingredients. Are there any ready made shakes or protein powders that you recommend that don't have that chemical in particular, and all the others you are saying we can do without? I just want something that tastes good, gives me protein, and is easy to drink/prepare. A girl can dream huh?!? Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. You can email us at thegang@heandsheeatclean.com and we can try to help!

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