Protein powder may be one of the biggest subjects to tackle in our modern age. There are so many different kinds, processed in various ways, derived from countless sources, and on and on. When you pick up a product that has protein added, or the powder itself, it’s a wise idea to investigate. Protein isn’t as simple as it appears on the surface, unfortunately, and we want to talk about the potential harm a haphazard protein source can cause.
Perhaps the biggest controversy surrounding protein powders, whey specifically, is the idea of denaturing. That’s a fun word that just means that the protein is broken down from excessive heat and is not the same as it was before. The devil is in the details on this one, and those details are hard to find.
The level of denaturing depends on the process. You can have a protein powder that’s been slightly denatured, and possibly fine. You’ll still get the benefits of the protein, and in fact, the process helps break down the amino acids so that they are more easily digestible.
But wait. Is that really better? Like we said before, it’s complicated and the science isn’t quite settled yet.
Let’s think about this for a second. When you heat any food, not just protein, what happens? You break down the chemical structure. Heat up a veggie, it’s softer. Why? The chemical structures that make up the food are looser. This is, like we’ve said before in other blogs, oversimplifying but we’re trying to speak in laymen’s terms so you don’t have to dust off the medical dictionary.
What happens when you “loosen” chemical structures? You introduce the chance for oxidization. That’s why your zucchini turns more and more brown in the hot pan the longer you leave it there. It’s oxidizing and turning to sugar, a process that is known to be carcinogenic.
Now, that’s not to say that we should eat everything raw. In fact, please don’t. Some things have to be cooked. Like protein, particularly in the form of meat. You should cook that.
Now that you’re thoroughly confused, let’s get back to it.
Protein structures breaking down from heat and making the amino acids more readily available can be a good thing, but it comes with bad things. There are other chemicals here to consider, and one of those is the fat. When you denature protein, you’re also denaturing the fat that comes with it. Those two, in whey form, are pretty hard to separate. So what does that mean? See our blog on Good Fats VS Bad Fats for more info on the oxidization of fat and why you don’t want that.
We’re not here to bash protein powders. They are very useful, beneficial, and a great tool for muscle growth and many other things. What we want to do is warn you about the different ways a protein powder can go wrong.
Because the subject is so vast, it would be quite the endeavor to get every detail. Our intention is to throw out a warning, encourage you to do your own research, and seek secondary advice when purchasing any powder supplement. Dig deep and find out exactly what happened to that protein to get it into its current form. And remember, the more you heat it - the higher the risk of inducing harmful toxins.
Be sure to check out our sources below for more info, if you like the science stuff.