I am sure we have all tried a protein shake here and there, some more religiously than others. I myself was into the horribly nasty SlimFast right out of high school, thinking that it would some how magically make me skinnier. Later on I tried other whey proteins from the health food store, never being too religious about it until I learned the dangers of protein shakes and that all along the soy and whey isolates (along with all the other junk) may have been contributing to my adrenal fatigue and infertility. So I chucked these nasty shakes with false promises out the window.
* I use Shakeology as my main example because it seems to be the latest and “greatest” on the market. I feel that their marketing is the most deceiving with all the added superfoods, the regular shakes contain harmful whey isolates and therefore I can not recommend them.
I do not recommended protein shake programs like Shakeology, Visalus, Shaklee, Reliv & other protein shakes.
Contamination found in protein shakes is reason enough for concern.
Consumer Reports did a study on 15 different protein shakes and this is what they found,
Our investigation, including tests at an outside laboratory of 15 protein drinks, a review of government documents, and interviews with health and fitness experts and consumers, found most people already get enough protein, and there are far better and cheaper ways to add more if it’s needed. Some protein drinks can even pose health risks, including exposure to potentially harmful heavy metals, if consumed frequently. All drinks in our tests had at least one sample containing one or more of the following contaminants: arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. Those metals can have toxic effects on several organs in the body.
Cadmium raises special concern because it accumulates in and can damage the kidneys, the same organs that can be damaged by excessive protein consumption. And it can take 20 years for the body to eliminate even half the cadmium absorbed today.
“This is a highly toxic metal, and while there are some cases where decisions have to be weighed against relative risks, accepting that you have to be exposed to any cadmium at all in your protein drink after your workout is definitely not one of them,” says Michael Harbut, M.D., director of the Environmental Cancer Initiative at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Royal Oak, Mich.
“When these toxic heavy metals are combined in a product that is marketed for daily use, that raises serious public health concerns, especially for pregnant women, children, and young adults,” says Burns, who has been a toxicology consultant to state and federal government agencies.
For most people, protein drinks are not the only possible source of exposure to heavy metals, but they are an easily avoidable one, since most people can meet their protein needs, help minimize exposure to contaminants, and save money by choosing the right foods.
You can check the report online to see if your protein shake is listed. The testing was done on random shakes that Consumer Reports collected around “the New York metro area or online and tested multiple samples of each for arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. The results showed a considerable range, but levels in three products were of particular concern because consuming three servings a day could result in daily exposure to arsenic, cadmium, or lead exceeding the limits proposed by USP.”
Because they did not test “all” protein shakes on the market I think it is safe to assume that others products with the same processing methods will have some level of contaminants. Just to be clear, Shakeology was not included in this testing, however it is highly possible that their shakes or “meal replacements” could contain some level of contaminates as well.
Soy & Soy Protein Isolates
Many protein shakes use soy protein as the main protein source. Consuming a diet high in processed soy products has been linked to a multitude of health problems including but not limited to:
~ Breast enlargement (gynecomastia)
~ Decreased facial and body hair growth
~ Decreased libido
~ Mood swings and frequent crying jags
~ Erectile dysfunction
~ Lowered sperm count
~ Infertility in both woman and men
~ Hormonal disruption and miscarriages
~ Birth defects
According to Dr. Mercola soy can also suppress thyroid function,
“Unfermented AND fermented soy contains hormonal mimics in the form of isoflavones which can not only disrupt delicate hormone systems in your body, but also act as goitrogens, substances that suppress your thyroid function. When the thyroid is suppressed, a host of health problems result, namely:
~ Anxiety and mood swings
~ Difficulty losing weight
~ Difficulty conceiving children
~ Digestive problems
And so much more. No wonder soy can lead to thyroid, esophagus and stomach cancer! Unfermented soy is also chock full of phytic acid, an “antinutrient” responsible for leeching vital nutrients from your body. Phytic acid also blocks the uptake of essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc especially.”
Shakeology does not use soy as the main protein source in their shakes, however if you look at their suggested diet plan they do however encourage the consumption of soy in the diet (tofu, soy milk and so on) without any nutritional information about what soy does to the body. They also do not tell you that almost all soy products unless specifically labeled are from genetically modified crops which have been grown with pesticides. They also make no difference in showing what soy products are in fact “healthier” options and which ones are not. If you are going to consume any soy products it should be in very limited quantities and it should be from non-GMO, organic soy that has been traditionally fermented such as fermented products like temp-eh, fermented tofu, miso, and nama shoyu soy or tamari sauce. All other forms of soy wreck havoc on the body and should be avoided.
If you would like to learn more about soy check out the Whole Soy Story.
Whey Protein Isolates or Putrid Protein (RANCID!)
Whey protein is also used like soy as a primary protein source. Similar to the highly processed soy isolates, whey also is being derived from whey isolates, which makes it no longer a wholefood. Shakeology uses whey isolates as their primary protein source in their regular style shakes. This is what Shakeology has to say about why they use whey isolates:
~ Whey protein is a high-quality complete protein with rich amounts of all the
essential and branched-chain amino acids.
~ Isolates are purer than concentrates, containing 90% or more protein.
~ Concentrates contain between 29% and 89% protein.
~ Whey protein isolates are the purest form of whey protein, which is why they’re assimilated so quickly and efficiently into the body.
~ Isolates contain very little, if any, fat and lactose.
~ Isolates are a great choice if you’re lactose intolerant, or if you experience bloating or other problems associated with concentrates.
Here is what you need to know about processed whey & whey isolates…
To start off with whey proteins (unless organic -which at this time Shakeology does not claim to be organic) are being processed from ultrapasteurized milk that has been produced from sick conventional cows who are eating diets heavy in soy and corn. Most of the milk is filled with bovine growth hormone and antibiotics. The whey is extracted during a high heat process which leaves the whey rancid. Dr. Mercola says that this form of whey should be avoided at all costs,
Most whey proteins are processed from ultrapasteurized milk and many are exposed to acid processing. Heat and acid damages the protein and makes it insoluble in water. This is one of the key ways to differentiate high quality whey protein from inferior ones.
But the whey manufacturers know this, and know that insoluble powders are not appealing for a variety of reasons, so they add chemical flavors and detergents to restore flavor and solubility. They put in genetically modified soy lecithin, and also dump chemical surfactants, which are used in soap, like polysorbate 80, propylene glycol, and ethoxylated mono-diglycerides along with maltodextrin, caseinates, and hydrolyzed proteins, which are really disguised MSG. They also use artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and sucralose.
The overheated whey protein is a clearly inferior form of whey that should be avoided because it contains putrid proteins, which are actually more damaging to your health than rancid fats. They also change their molecular shape to the wrong form. If you have taken biochemistry you will be familiar with optical isomers. Proteins in foods and in your body are in the L form, but processing used to produce whey isolates produces damaging D optical isomers, which are not designed to be in your body. Depositing these D proteins in your bone, brain and muscle is associated with accelerated aging. Accumulation of D proteins in the brain has been linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson.
As a result of the high heat, a natural creation of MSG is formed, and because it is not being “added in” to the product, no labeling is required.
…high protein processed foods contain potentially large amounts of MSG in the form of protein isolates. Separating protein from its food source during manufacturing results in the creation of MSG – the amino acid glutamic acid gone bad. Therefore, MSG is present in high protein processed foods but it is not on the label because it is not technically added to the final product. It is only created during manufacturing and therefore can be conveniently unlisted on the label.
Whey protein isolates is not a wholefood and should not be consumed according to Dr. Mercola,
All whey protein isolates are devoid of nutritional co-factors including alkalizing minerals, naturally occurring vitamins, and lipids, which are lost in the processing… This renders them deficient and overly acidifying. Unlike whole protein food concentrates which does not acidify your body due to its alkalinizing minerals, whey protein isolate are over acidifying.
Whey isolate can be a serious liability.
If chronically consumed in large amounts (such as with bodybuilders or athletes) without alkalizing foods, it can acidify your body and over time may lead to metabolic acidosis with consequences that include waste of muscle and bone tissues, total metabolic shut down, and increased vulnerability to degenerative disease.
Many cheap whey protein isolates are produced from acid cheese; they’re byproducts of acid processing, which is a cheap way to separate whey from the curd. Most of these whey products are rated below pet foods because of the inferior quality of the protein, which is actually more of a nitrogen waste product than one that will produce health benefits that are mentioned in the featured study.
Additionally once the fat has been removed from whey protein isolate, you lose some of the most important components of its immunological properties, such as phospholipids, phosphatidylserine and CLA. All of the IgG immunoglobulins, which are an excellent source of glutamine and glutamylcysteine, are also bound to the fat globule, and therefore lost in the processing of whey isolates.
So the bottom line is that if you want to use whey protein, PLEASE do not use an inferior whey isolate as there is no doubt in my mind it will cause more damage to you than benefit.
Sources of the ingredients unknown
Shakeology specifically is very deceiving especially with the long list of super foods that they have packed into the ingredients list and the claim that they are being derived from wholefoods. However, no where on their website or in the ingredient list do they state that the ingredients are being taken from wholefoods that are free of toxic pesticides, GMO’s or being grown organically. They mention 1 ingredient being GMO-free, and that is the “naturally occurring fructose.” Because they do not flat out say anywhere on the site if their products are organic or GMO-free I can only assume that they are not. On the surface the vegan option looks like it may be a good protein source, however I can not recommend it simply because the source of the ingredients may be chalk full of pesticides and GMO’s.
Promotion of a low-fat/high protein diet
Shakeology in particular recommends and encourages a low-fat diet. If you look at their detailed diet plan you will see that they promote the consumption of low fat or reduced fat dairy products. The only whole food fats that they suggest are coming from sources of fish, which they do not give any information as to what type of fish (wild caught, farmed and so on) you should be consuming safely, once again leading costumers astray possibly adding more toxicity to their bodies with the improper consumption of unhealthy fish. Low fat dairy on the other hand is not a wholefood and should never be consumed. Processed pasteurized dairy products are extremely toxic in the body. The proteins in processed dairy products have been destroyed during the pasteurizing process making them very difficult to digest and creating mucus in the body. Not only that but dairy that has been fortified with Vitamin D2 will cause hardening and clogging of the arteries. Pasteurized milk has been associated with a number of illnesses:
~ Diarrhea, cramps, bloating and gas
~ Heart disease
~ Recurrent ear infections and colic in infants and children
~ Type 1 diabetes
~ Rheumatoid arthritis
Shakeology makes no health statements in regards to the health risks for consuming pasteurized low-fat dairy products (which are filled with fillers and sugar to make up for the missing fat) or farm raised mercury laden fish.
A low fat diet high in protein has other health risks such as depleting the body of a vital vitamin called Vitamin A. In this article The Healthy Home Economist explains the dangers.
“Whole foods containing large amounts of protein naturally include protective amounts of fat such as eggs, grassfed beef and other meats. On the other hand, high protein processed foods are devoid of any fat in most cases making them particularly dangerous.
Depletion of Vitamin A stores during pregnancy is a dangerous problem as Vitamin A is critical to preventing birth defects such as cleft palate, cleft lip, major heart malformations, and hydrocephalus. Vitamin A is also the “beauty vitamin” responsible for symmetry in physical and facial features.
Vitamin A deficiency from consumption of high protein foods is not assisted by prenatal vitamins either as these worthless pills do not contain true vitamin A but instead the synthetic version, Vitamin A Palmitate or the plant based version beta carotene – little of which is converted to true Vitamin A.
Vitamin A depletion when consuming high protein processed foods is also risky for the average individual as well. Symptoms of Vitamin A depletion include:
~ Heart arrhythmias
~ Kidney problems
~ Autoimmune disease
~ Thyroid disorders
Negative calcium balance is also a risk with high protein, lowfat diets which means that more calcium is lost than what is taken in. Consequences of negative calcium balance include bone loss and nervous system disorders.
Know anyone who drinks a high protein smoothie everyday for lunch who develops a bizarre neurological disorder out of the blue? I personally know several.
I’ve wondered about the stories in the news recently of young, healthy, vibrant male athletes, some only in high school, who inexplicably drop dead during competition. Could these young men be eating lots of protein, much of it processed, while on a lowfat diet in order to build muscle and strength as recommended by bodybuilding magazines? Such misguided advice would rapidly deplete Vitamin A stores which could potentially lead to heart arrhythmia and sudden death.”
Protein shakes are not a wholefood
To conclude protein shakes are not a wholefood. The majority of the ingredients are being derived from soy or whey isolates which are toxic to the body, rancid and highly processed. Some companies may be deriving some ingredients from wholefood forms and like Shakeology the ingredients may look like a healthy option. However, when you take a closer look you realize that they are really no different from all the other shake companies on the market. They only seem on the surface like a better healthier option because of all the “superfood” ingredients they have included. But what I want to know is, if 1 serving is 170 calories, what percentage of the protein powder actually comes from the 70+ superfoods that they list out in the ingredient list?
Instead I recommend eating those wholefoods simply by themselves in their whole form. Shakeology includes some amazing ingredients, however we have no idea where these ingredients are being sourced from. Source your own super foods and source them from trusted organic growers and skip the protein shakes that make large claims to weightless at the risk of damaging your health. I also recommend that all super foods be consumed in a on again off again method in order to give the body rest. Varying the super foods you use is also very important. Eat in season and eat locally. For more info on including super foods into your diet check out this article here.
Because most of us live sedentary lives we really do not need as much protein has body builders and fitness experts claim we do. A high protein diet combined with low fat not only drains the Vitamin A reserves but it also creates a very acidic body. Choose your protein sources wisely, choose what works best personally for you. What works for one person may not be the best for another. Play around with “how much” protein your body needs to be well. Eating 70-80% alkaline will help you slim down and will keep your body slightly more alkaline. Cancer can not grow in a alkaline body. However cancer thrives in a constant acidic state. There are many amazing wholefood sources of protein that are cheaper and far less toxic. Just to name a few healthy options:
~ Hemp Seeds (a complete vegan protein)
~ Quinoa (a complete vegan protein)
~ Chlorella (a complete vegan protein)
~ Chia Seeds (a complete vegan protein)
~ Raw grass fed organic Whole Milk
~ Gelatin found in homemade bone & chicken broths or taken as a supplement
~ Milk Kefir or homemade yogurt made from raw organic milk
~ Pasture raised organic Eggs
~ Organic farm fresh pasture raised meats
~ Wild caught Pacific Salmon
If you feel the need to use a whey protein supplement I highly advise using a product that has been produced from organic grass fed cows and is GMO free, and is from whey concentrate versus whey isolates. Check out Dr. Mercola’s article about clean whey protein sources here.
Many protein shakes make many promises of increased energy, muscle mass and weight loss. In many ways protein shake programs like Shakeology, Visalus, Shaklee, and Reliv are just “another diet.” You will follow the program, lose the weight (most times too quickly) and after the program is over go back to your normal diet only to gain the weight all back. These types of programs do not teach us anything truly healthful about how to listen to our bodies, care for it, and make the changes it needs in order to be healed and healthy.
These easy fix shakes and diets defiantly do not look at or deal with the emotional reasons behind why we eat and why we struggle with controlling our binges. This is why diets don’t work and they don’t stick. Healthy lifestyle changes come from ones eagerness to learn about proper nutrition, listen to the body and get the support they emotionally need in order to make slow lifestyle changes that will result in long healthy life.
So skip these toxic unhealthy protein shake with false promises for the sake of your future health and spend some time discovering what your body needs to be truly healed emotionally and physically.