Often, people assume that their protein powders contain... well, protein. And little else. In reality, there are lots of other things that companies throw into the mix for myriad reasons. These additives might be there for flavor, texture, shelf-live, appearance or a host of other uses.
Either way, they probably shouldn't be in your protein powder. But what fillers should you look for in particular?
Both in protein powders and many other processed, pre-packaged foods, carrageenan is a surprisingly common additive. What is it? More importantly, what's it doing in protein powder? Carrageenan is a compound derived from seaweed that serves many purposes in processed foods. For protein powder, though, it's generally there to improve mixability and enhance the smoothness of your drink once it's all blended together.
What makes carrageenan particularly tricky, however, is the fact that is a complete natural ingredient. In fact, it can legally be mixed into organic products if it's sourced properly. But why is that a concern? Because carrageen has been shown to cause major digestive problems, including ulcers and bleeding. There is even some research to suggest a link between carrageen and certain types of cancer.
All The Rest
The truth is that we could not possibly give you a list of all of the other potential fillers that are out there. And whether or not you chose to avoid many of them will depend on lots of personal factors. In reality, though, there is no reason for your protein powder to have all of those fillers in it.
But, what exactly, are we talking about when we say “fillers?” Put simply, a filler is anything that does not naturally occur in the protein source. The obvious examples are flavorings, preservatives, dyes and related chemicals. Other, more subtle fillers can even be fats, sugars and amino acids that are added later to improve the nutritional content of the end-product.
Why is that a problem, though? Don't you want a nutritionally rich protein powder? Yes, but if the protein needs things added to it, then it's a low-quality supplement to begin with. In some cases, for example, fillers are literally added just to give bulk to the product and make it seem like you're getting more than you really are.
If the ingredients list contains anything more than the protein source, you should dig a little deeper into the product before investing. Of course, you might find protein powders – like those provide by Naked Nutrition – that only use organic, natural flavorings when any flavor is involved at all.