5 Reasons Why the Quality of Your Protein is Important

quality protein shakes


Hitting the gym for hours on end will be a loss if we don’t fuel our bodies correctly. When growing muscle mass, we know that protein plays an essential role, but did you know that the quality of your protein also impacts your progress in the gym?

Simply grabbing a quick whey protein shake on your way out the door will likely help you build some muscle, but if you’re not choosing a high-quality whey protein source it may be hindering your results.

Let’s look at 5 reasons why the quality of the protein you are choosing is important for building muscle and getting the most out of your workout.

Added Sugars

It’s easy to be sold on a protein shake or powder based on the advertising. But if you aren’t careful, you may accidentally be reaching for a ton of added sugars.

With protein drinks becoming increasingly popular for athletes and non-athletes alike, there are tons of options on the shelves. If you aren’t careful, you may be choosing the wrong one.

Make sure to do your research and always check the nutrition label on the back of the product. Some whey protein powders contain little sugar, some contain artificial sweeteners, and some contain large amounts of added sugars. These added sugars can increase the calorie content of your drink and lead to weight gain.

Aside from the undesirable effect on our weight, a diet high in added sugars can result in future health complications.

Because added sugars are often found alongside foods with a high-calorie content categorized as ultra-processed, a diet high in these foods can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, elevated cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer [1].

Instead, look for a protein powder with little to no added sugars and simple ingredients. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of added sugars a day for women (6 teaspoons) and no more than 38 grams for men (9 teaspoons).


Aside from the whey protein itself, do you know what else is hidden in your protein drink? Caffeine, creatine, and artificial sweeteners are common additives that are not always advertised and can have unfavorable side effects to some.

Artificial dyes are also a common ingredient found in protein shakes along with other sports drinks. These are used to enhance the appearance of food and drinks to make them look more appealing. Unfortunately, the true safety of these dyes is still not well known.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved 6 artificial food dyes that are not considered to pose a significant risk to our health however, this is still controversial to some.

The approved dyes include red No. 3, red No. 40, yellow No. 5, yellow No. 6, blue No. 1, and blue No. 2.

There have been concerns with cancer-causing contaminants that have been found in these food dyes. However, because they are present in low levels they have been allowed and presumed safe. One example of this is Benzidine found in red dye No. 40 and yellow dye No 5 and No. 6 [2].

More research is needed on the effects of these artificial ingredients on our health and wellbeing.

It’s recommended to tread cautiously when consuming foods high in these additives until we know more. Instead, look for a protein shake that includes simple ingredients, preferably ones that we can pronounce easily and are of natural sources.

Why Grass-Fed Whey Protein is Better

These days grass-fed is all the hype, but what does this mean and why does it matter for whey protein?

The term grass-fed is used when cattle are fed grass or other forages such as hay for its lifespan versus traditional feed made from corn and grains.

This means its feed is non-GMO and free of added ingredients that can negatively affect the health of the animal and the quality of the items produced from it. Livestock that feeds on the landscape provides nutritional diversity whereas grain-fed does not. This is not only impactful for the environment but also affects the nutrition of the livestock themselves [3].

Whey protein from grass-fed cows is higher in omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids (CLAs) with less saturated fat than its farm-fed counterparts. These nutrients have been shown to impart anti-inflammatory benefits that can reduce our risk of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. Not to mention it’s more humane and environmentally friendly [4].

Consider a simple protein powder such as Naked Nutrition’s grass-fed whey protein, a 100% grass-fed, single-ingredient product sourced from a small California dairy farm.

It’s simple and free of concerning additives in the product and the animal itself which is what you want to look for in a product.

Why Cold-Pressed Whey Protein is Better

Cold-pressed or processed is when the whey protein is not treated at high temperatures during pasteurization.

With cold-pressed or processed, a maximum temperature of 160 degrees is used.

Because it is a lower temperature, it is still able to kill any potentially harmful microbes while maintaining the nutritive value of the whey protein. When heated too high, the amino acids in the whey can become denatured making them less bioavailable for absorption and therefore less potent.

Growth Hormones and Health

To save time and money, many livestock farms will utilize growth hormones such as natural estrogen, progesterone, or testosterone as well as their synthetic counterparts. These hormones are what help the livestock grow at a more rapid rate for consumption as well as yield more meat for profit.

This is typically done by injecting an implant into the animal’s ear which releases the hormone throughout its lifespan.

There have been some studies that show a concerning link between various hormones used and their potential effects on the health of consumers [5].

Due to the unknown risks of consuming animal products treated with growth hormones, it’s a good idea to consider limiting exposure to these foods until more research has been done.

The Takeaway

As you can see, there are many different considerations when choosing the best whey protein for you.

Always check the label for ingredient information and be familiar with what is being added to your whey protein powder.

Choose a trusted manufacturer and look for key terms to show the quality of the whey such as ‘grass-fed and ‘cold processed’ to weed out lower quality options.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5133084/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2957945/
  3. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2019.00026/full
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2846864/
  5. http://www.ifrj.upm.edu.my/25%20(01)%202018/(1).pdf

About Theresa Duncan

Originally from Detroit, MI, Theresa has been offering health and fitness advice for the last 30 years while working as an engineer. She decided to turn her passion into a profession, and finds nothing more satisfying than helping others reach their health and fitness goals.

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