Cheap protein supplements can be pretty tempting. After all, you likely burn through plenty of protein over the course of a month. The idea, then, of being able to cut some costs probably sounds amazing. And, after all, protein is protein, right? If only.
The reality is that manufacturers of cheap protein supplements use some pretty awful, counterproductive tricks to keep prices low. Ultimately, these inferior products could not only be holding you back from reaching your goals but a cheap protein may even be working against you.
Inferior Starting Point
All protein powders start with a source – the ingredient that actually contains the protein you're looking for. This can be cow's milk, goat's milk, peas, hemp, rice, soy and a host of other things. Regardless what the source is, if it is an inferior ingredient, the end product will – by extension – be inferior.
Let's take whey, for example. Whey is the liquid portion of milk and is therefore directly influenced by the quality of the milk. If the cow was grain-fed on a feed lot where it could easily be treated with hormones and antibiotics, those factors will manifest themselves in the form of a weak amino acid profile, high levels of saturated fats, low levels of healthy fats and elevated levels of certain bovine hormones.
Whey sources from grass-fed organic cows, though, won't look like that. Instead, it will be rich in amino acids and healthy fats while remaining free of excess hormones. The flavor and texture of the end-product will also be impacted with grain-fed whey being slightly bitter and thinner.
Covering Their Tracks
But manufacturers don't sell disgusting garbage. Or, at least, it doesn't seem that way. To hide the fact that they started with a cheap protein, various additives are tossed in the mix.
To fill the nutritional gaps in their source protein, companies will add amino acids back in and cleverly advertise this like it's a good thing. It's not. Not only is this the mark of a poorly made cheap protein supplement, but these amino acids are generally take from unsavory sources like the hair and nails of animals that were deemed unsuitable for the fur business. And then there are the artificial sweeteners, dyes, flavorings, preservatives, anti-caking agents and so on. Clearly, these are in the tub to make things more appetizing.
In reality, though, they are probably the biggest block that cheap protein supplements can put between you and your goals. Not only have these ingredients been linked to certain types of cancer, but they have been shown to influence your body in ways that can directly counteract your hard work in the gym.
Some preservatives have demonstrated the ability to disrupt hormone levels, thereby causing havoc throughout your system. Others somehow change the bacteria that inhabits your gut in such a way that cause it to store fat for you, against your will.
Ultimately, then, cheap protein supplements offer inferior nutrition and are loaded with additives that can actively work against your goals.