7 Ingredients That Should NEVER Be In Your Protein Powder

Written by Tim Skwiat


If you’ve been following our blog, you know one of the most impactful and effective strategies for improving health and nutrition is to consume a higher protein diet. Research shows higher protein diets (and supplementing with protein powders) can help enhance:1,2

  • Body composition
  • Weight loss
  • Weight maintenance
  • Appetite management
  • Glycemic control
  • Metabolic rate
  • Sleep
  • Healthy aging
  • Strength
  • Athletic performance
  • Recovery from exercise
  • And more

When it comes to “how much” protein, recommendations vary based on body composition, size, activity levels, and goals. However, a good starting point is to consume at least 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.3 For instance, if you’re 150 pounds, that would mean eating about 105 grams of protein daily.

And while it is possible to get enough protein through whole-food sources, protein powders are a convenient, cost-effective, and practical solution to ensure you’re getting plenty of high-quality protein daily. Not only that, protein powders are typically available in a wide range of flavors, and their utility can be quite versatile. For instance, you can mix them into smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, baked goods, and more.

Editor’s Note: 9 Proteins That Expand Your Waist

But here’s the deal…not all protein supplements are created equal. Not even close, as a matter of fact! Here are some of the top ingredients to watch for—and avoid—in many protein powders.

7 Things You Don’t Want In Your Protein Powders

1. Hormones and Antibiotics

Bovine somatotropin (BST) is a hormone naturally produced in the brains of dairy cows. A genetically engineered recombinant version of BST (rBST or rBGH) was developed and is injected into some cows to boost milk production. Unfortunately, cows treated with rBST are at a greater risk for infection, reduced fertility, and disability. The increased risk for infection leads to increased use of antibiotics, which can contaminate milk and lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans.

Controversial to say the least, further evidence of the potential danger of these synthetic hormones is they’ve been banned in Europe and several other countries across the globe. For us, finding a protein that’s free from rBST and rBGH is mandatory. Along these lines, animal care is very important to us. That’s why we also suggest making sure you only use a protein powder that comes from happy, healthy, humanely treated cows that have been pasture raised.

2. Artificial Sweeteners and Colors

Artificial sweeteners, such as sucralose, saccharin, aspartame, and acesulfame-K, are often added to protein powders to boost flavor without adding calories. While the rationale seems health-conscious (e.g., reducing calorie intake, helping manage blood sugar levels), emerging evidence suggests the costs may outweigh any potential benefits. Artificial sweeteners have been tied to:4–8

  • Gut dysbiosis (the increased growth of bad bacteria in the digestive system)
  • Poor carbohydrate tolerance
  • Increased hunger
  • Weight gain
  • Oxidative stress
  • Accelerated aging
  • Cognitive decline

On top of that, artificial food dyes, made from petroleum and often found in protein powders, are likely carcinogenic. Over the years, many food dyes have been banned because of the adverse health effects shown in studies. The European Union requires food manufacturers to place compulsory warnings on foods containing artificial colors. However, in the US, food dye consumption has increased five-fold since 1955, with three dyes—Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6—accounting for 90% of the dyes used in foods. These same three food dyes also contain benzidene, a known human carcinogen.910

What’s more, at least four food dyes—including Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6—have also been found to lead to hypersensitivity reactions.10 While not true food allergies, these are allergy-like reactions that involve an immune response and can lead to a wide range of symptoms (e.g., auto-immune flare-ups, skin inflammation, respiratory inflammation, headaches/migraines, mood issues, brain fog, etc.).

The consumption of artificial food dyes has been linked to hyperactivity, neurotoxicity, and neurobehavioral changes, including low frustration tolerance, impulsivity, and inattention.11,12 In Europe, foods containing artificial colors must carry a mandatory warning stating they “may have effects on activity and attention.”

For all these reasons, we urge you to choose only protein powders made with the finest natural ingredients, void of all artificial ingredients, including artificial sweeteners and colors.

3. GMOs

If you’re looking to stir things up at your next social gathering, bring up one of the following topics: 1. Politics, or 2. GMOs. Arguably one of the more polarizing and highly debated topics in health and nutrition surrounds genetically modified (GM) foods, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are plants or animals created through genetic engineering.

While there are countless concerns on the topic, one of the most relevant is that 80% of all GMOs grown worldwide are engineered to tolerate the toxic herbicide glyphosate (better known as “Roundup®”). Since 1970 when glyphosate was first brought to market, its use has increased 100-fold!13,14 Ironically, one of the proposed benefits of GMOs was that they were supposed to result in less use of toxic herbicides. Not so much.

For example, glyphosate-based herbicides are used on a wide range of GM crops, such as corn soybeans, canola, wheat, barley, and other crops. Testing by the UK-Food Standard Agency and USDA has revealed glyphosate residues in up to 90% of the crop samples. Because of its rampant use in agriculture, researchers have even found glyphosate residues in the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Here’s the deal: Glyphosate is authoritatively classified as a probable human carcinogen.15 This toxic herbicide may also be linked to Alzheimer’s disease, depression, Parkinson’s disease, autism, and other health problems. One group of researchers reported that glyphosate’s “negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body.”16 Sounds pretty scary…and it is!

That’s exactly why we feel it’s a good idea to choose a protein powder that’s made without any GMO ingredients.

4. Soy

While it still masquerades as a “health food,” soy has been linked to a number of health concerns. Soy contains estrogenic anti-thyroid compounds called isoflavones—which are natural pesticides that cause insects to become sterile—that can have a goitrogenic effect, disrupting the production of thyroid hormone by inhibiting thyroid uptake of iodine and reducing the activity of the enzyme involved in thyroid hormone formation.17,18

And speaking of GMOs, it’s also worth pointing out that nearly all (i.e., ~90%) of the soy grown in the United States is genetically engineered.19 What’s more, soy contains substances that inhibit proteases. These are enzymes that digest the proteins we eat. This can lead to poor digestion and GI distress.

Perhaps most importantly, research has shown that soy is a lower quality, inferior protein (compared to milk-based proteins, such as whey). For instance, one of the most noteworthy benefits of high-protein diets is increased appetite control. Several studies have shown that whey protein is substantially more effective than soy protein when it comes to suppressing appetite, increasing satiety (which refers to feeling full and satisfied), and controlling food intake.20–22

In the long-run, supplementation with soy protein powders has been shown to be inferior to whey protein when it comes to reducing body fat and waist circumference. On top of that, research has also shown that soy protein appears to be a lower quality option when it comes to building calorie-burning lean muscle.23–26

In addition to the above ingredients commonly found in protein supplements, here are a few more to keep a watchful eye out for:

5. Added sugar

“Eat more added sugar,” said no one ever. When consumed in excess, added sugar may contribute to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.27

6. Maltodextrin

Although it’s marketed as a “complex” carbohydrate and manufacturers can subsequently tout that their products contain “low-sugar” carbohydrates, the fact is that maltodextrin is a very easily digestible chain of sugar molecules. In fact, it has a higher glycemic index than pure glucose.28

7. Gluten

While it may not be the “avoid-at-all-costs” villain many have made it out to be, gluten really doesn’t have any place in a high-quality protein supplement. However, due to production at “cost cutting” manufacturing facilities, many products are contaminated with gluten. Even worse, some companies dubiously add gluten (as “glutamine peptides”) to their products to (cheaply and inferiorly) pump up the protein content.

So, while protein supplementation is a very good idea, you have to be vigilant when evaluating your options. Fortunately, this is something we’re incredibly passionate about, and we’ve taken all the guesswork out of it for you.

Our Top-Rated Protein Supplement:

Our top recommended protein powder is BioTrust Low Carb. Here’s exactly what makes BioTrust Low Carb stand head and shoulders above any other protein powder on the market:

It contains 24 grams of pasture raised, grass-fed protein per serving.

• It’s made with certified, hormone-free proteins (if a protein powder doesn’t state it’s hormone-free on the label, it’s not).

It’s soy-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, and made with natural ingredients. That means it contains no artificial additives, colors, flavors, preservatives, or sweeteners… at all.

It’s sweetened naturally (NO artificial sweeteners).

• It contains 4g of fiber per serving (and only 1 gram of sugar!)

• It’s built around a 4-protein time-released blend that fuels your body with quality nutrition and helps keep you full for hours on end.

• It’s cold-processed to protect the quality of each protein, unlike common high-heat and acid processing practices that denature the protein as it’s manufactured.

• It is the very first protein to contain ProHydrolase®, a natural enzyme blend that has been shown through research to substantially boost protein absorption and optimize digestion for stomach-friendly results. That means BioTrust Low Carb is maximally absorbed while being super easy on your stomach!

And did we mention it tastes incredible? Every time you mix up a BioTrust Low Carb shake, it’s just like enjoying a rich and creamy milkshake from the ice cream shop—only it comes in at just 150 calories while supporting your fitness goals and helping you stoke your fat-burning metabolism!

==>Try BioTrust Low Carb today and get up to 20% OFF + 2 FREE Bonus Reports (Limited Time)

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More From Tim Skwiat


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  • 2. Zhou J, Kim JE, Armstrong CL, Chen N, Campbell WW. Higher-protein diets improve indexes of sleep in energy-restricted overweight and obese adults: results from 2 randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;103(3):766-774. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.124669.
  • 3. Morton RW, Murphy KT, McKellar SR, et al. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. July 2017. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2017-097608.
  • 4. Abou-Donia MB, El-Masry EM, Abdel-Rahman AA, McLendon RE, Schiffman SS. Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2008;71(21):1415-1429. doi:10.1080/15287390802328630.
  • 5. Suez J, Korem T, Zeevi D, et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. September 2014. doi:10.1038/nature13793.
  • 6. Abhilash M, Sauganth Paul MV, Varghese MV, Nair RH. Long-term consumption of aspartame and brain antioxidant defense status. Drug Chem Toxicol. 2013;36(2):135-140. doi:10.3109/01480545.2012.658403.
  • 7. Madjd A, Taylor MA, Delavari A, Malekzadeh R, Macdonald IA, Farshchi HR. Effects on weight loss in adults of replacing diet beverages with water during a hypoenergetic diet: a randomized, 24-wk clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. November 2015. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.109397.
  • 8. Huang M, Quddus A, Stinson L, et al. Artificially sweetened beverages, sugar-sweetened beverages, plain water, and incident diabetes mellitus in postmenopausal women: The prospective Women’s Health Initiative observational study. Am J Clin Nutr. June 2017:ajcn145391. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.145391.
  • 9. Potera C. The artificial food dye blues. Environ Health Perspect. 2010;118(10):a428-a428. doi:10.1289/ehp.118-a428.
  • 10. Kobylewski S, Jacobson MF. Toxicology of food dyes. Int J Occup Environ Health. 2012;18(3):220-246. doi:10.1179/1077352512Z.00000000034.
  • 11. Kanarek RB. Artificial food dyes and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: Nutrition Reviews©, Vol. 69, No. 7. Nutr Rev. 2011;69(7):385-391. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00385.x.
  • 12. Schab DW, Trinh N-HT. Do artificial food colors promote hyperactivity in children with hyperactive syndromes? A meta-analysis of double-blind placebo-controlled trials. J Dev Behav Pediatr JDBP. 2004;25(6):423-434.
  • 13. Benbrook CM. Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. -- the first sixteen years. Environ Sci Eur. 2012;24(1):24. doi:10.1186/2190-4715-24-24.
  • 14. Myers JP, Antoniou MN, Blumberg B, et al. Concerns over use of glyphosate-based herbicides and risks associated with exposures: A consensus statement. Environ Health. 2016;15:19. doi:10.1186/s12940-016-0117-0.
  • 15. Guyton KZ, Loomis D, Grosse Y, et al. Carcinogenicity of tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon, and glyphosate. Lancet Oncol. 2015;16(5):490-491. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(15)70134-8.
  • 16. Samsel A, Seneff S. Glyphosate’s suppression of cytochrome P450 enzymes and amino acid biosynthesis by the gut microbiome: Pathways to modern diseases. Entropy. 2013;15(4):1416-1463. doi:10.3390/e15041416.
  • 17. Divi RL, Chang HC, Doerge DR. Anti-thyroid isoflavones from soybean: isolation, characterization, and mechanisms of action. Biochem Pharmacol. 1997;54(10):1087-1096.
  • 18. Doerge DR, Sheehan DM. Goitrogenic and estrogenic activity of soy isoflavones. Environ Health Perspect. 2002;110 Suppl 3:349-353.
  • 19. United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. Recent Trends in GE Adoption. U S Dep Agric Econ Res Serv. July 2015. http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/adoption-of-genetically-engineered-crops-in-the-us/recent-trends-in-ge-adoption.aspx.
  • 20. Veldhorst MAB, Nieuwenhuizen AG, Hochstenbach-Waelen A, et al. Dose-dependent satiating effect of whey relative to casein or soy. Physiol Behav. 2009;96(4-5):675-682.
  • 21. Tahavorgar A, Vafa M, Shidfar F, Gohari M, Heydari I. Whey protein preloads are more beneficial than soy protein preloads in regulating appetite, calorie intake, anthropometry, and body composition of overweight and obese men. Nutr Res N Y N. 2014;34(10):856-861. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2014.08.015.
  • 22. Baer DJ, Stote KS, Paul DR, Harris GK, Rumpler WV, Clevidence BA. Whey protein but not soy protein supplementation alters body weight and composition in free-living overweight and obese adults. J Nutr. 2011;141(8):1489-1494. doi:10.3945/jn.111.139840.
  • 23. Wilkinson SB, Tarnopolsky MA, Macdonald MJ, Macdonald JR, Armstrong D, Phillips SM. Consumption of fluid skim milk promotes greater muscle protein accretion after resistance exercise than does consumption of an isonitrogenous and isoenergetic soy-protein beverage. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(4):1031-1040.
  • 24. Hartman JW, Tang JE, Wilkinson SB, et al. Consumption of fat-free fluid milk after resistance exercise promotes greater lean mass accretion than does consumption of soy or carbohydrate in young, novice, male weightlifters. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86(2):373-381.
  • 25. Tang JE, Moore DR, Kujbida GW, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Ingestion of whey hydrolysate, casein, or soy protein isolate: effects on mixed muscle protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in young men. J Appl Physiol Bethesda Md 1985. 2009;107(3):987-992. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00076.2009.
  • 26. Phillips SM, Tang JE, Moore DR. The role of milk- and soy-based protein in support of muscle protein synthesis and muscle protein accretion in young and elderly persons. J Am Coll Nutr. 2009;28(4):343-354.
  • 27. Rippe JM, Angelopoulos TJ. Added sugars and risk factors for obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Int J Obes 2005. 2016;40 Suppl 1:S22-27. doi:10.1038/ijo.2016.10.
  • 28. Wikipedia. Maltodextrin. In: 2016. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maltodextrin.
  • Wrenford Rogers

    I am a vegetarian, and therefore cannot use the Whey Proteins because of the animal products contained therein. But now you are saying that the Soy Proteins I used is indeed genetically engineered if manufactured in the US, plus certain substances that may be harmful to my health. And so, it will be greatly appreciated if you may introduce some other product. Thank you.

    • Cristina

      Greetings, Wrenford. We appreciate you taking the time to review the information provided in our article regarding the ingredients that should never be in your protein powder.

      We are excited to announce that we have a plant protein that will be released this year, and I will be sure to notify you when this will be available. In the meantime, there are a few products currently on the market that I would recommend suitable for someone with your dietary restrictions and concerns.

      Genuine Health

      Plant Fusion

      Sun Warrior

      I hope this information is helpful to you, Wrenford. If you have any additional questions I can address for you, please do not hesitate to let me know.

  • Nada Lawton

    I have been on a low carb diet for about 2 weeks now. Really like how I don’t seem to get hungry plus I have done well on lbs. lost. The biggest problem is I’m not very fond of meat and now by trying to make myself eat it , it has made me really dislike it. Could I take BioTrust low carb and not eat any meat and it would be sufficient? Right now I’m taking your craveFix 96 have been using it for about 1 month and 1/2. Would the Bio Trust low carb curb my a appetite like meat does? Thank you for your time

    • Cristina

      Greetings, Nada. Congratulations on your recent weight loss while adhering to a low carb diet. Are you following a particular program? I would be interested in learning more about your current meal plan, and perhaps why you are forcing yourself to consume meat if you are not particularly fond of it?

      There are plenty of protein sources outside of meat, and of course our Low Carb Protein Blend would be one of the first recommendations I would make. The following article is a great resource for discovering some other healthy options:

      Top 10 Foods High In Protein (Other Than Chicken)

      If you are looking for low carb recipes, these may be of interest to you:

      Low Carb Recipes (That Are Not Salads)

      We have plenty more where those came from, and I would encourage you to explore our recipe section here on our blog.

      With regards to our BioTrust Low Carb Protein Blend, you can absolutely use this product whenever you feel like you have a craving coming on (instead of eating junk food). Protein has a profound effect on appetite, and when used in combination with CraveFix 96, this is a dynamic duo, which works with incredible synergy.

      Furthermore, adding our Low Carb to your meal plan would be an excellent way to keep your diet low carb diet, while ensure you are meeting your protein requirements for the day (.08 to 1 gram per pound of body weight).

      Some of the highlights:
      *It’s made with natural ingredients and contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives
      *It’s naturally sweetened with Stevia and contains no artificial sweeteners
      *It’s Certified Hormone Free and is sourced from cows not treated with dangerous growth hormones like rBST and rBGH that can pass into your body
      *It’s a good source of fiber
      *It’s a true time-released blend of 4 exotic proteins that provide your body with sustained nutrition for up to 8 hours (without the insulin spike of whey-protein-only products)
      *It’s cold-processed so the proteins aren’t damaged and remain fully in tact
      *It’s the only protein product to contain Prohydrolase; a breakthrough new enzyme blend that more that ensures 99% of the protein you ingest gets absorbed (without Prohydrolase most protein supplements leave you only absorbing 1/2 the protein…that’s a WASTE of 1/2 the nutrition you’re putting in your body…but you still get all the calories!)

      I am looking forward to hearing back from you, Nada, so we can explore your current diet, and discuss where adjustments can be made to help you to achieve your goals.

  • Cristina

    Hi there, ralphpal. I would tend to agree with you that it appears soy is in almost everything. Matter of fact, soy derived ingredients are found in thousands of foods.

    If you, or someone you know, has been diagnosed as having a soy allergy, this can become problematic as the symptoms can include eczema, hives, asthma, sinusitis, anaphylactic shock, digestive symptoms including nausea and diarrhea, acne, canker sores, and colitis.

    Often times it is not as simple as looking for “soy” on product labels, as soy can be found within other ingredients. Some of the most common soy derived ingredients are:

    Soybean Oil and partially hydrogenated soybean oil
    Soy protein
    Soy nuts and soy sprouts
    Soy sauce and shoyu sauce
    Soy lecithin
    Tofu, tempe and edamame
    Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
    Hydrolyzed vegetable protein(HVP)
    Natural flavoring and artificial flavors
    Canned chicken broth
    Vegetable broth
    Bullion Cubes (beef, chicken, vegetable)
    Tocopherol (Vitamin E)
    Magnesium stearate
    Stearic acid
    Eggs (chickens ingest soy as their feed)

    I applaud you for doing your due diligence in ensuring you are providing yourself with good nutrition. If there is anything else you would like more information on, don’t hesitate to let me know.

    • ralphpal

      Yes my friend is and that is how i notice
      I keep asking her about such and such food and she kepts telling me
      Soy is in it
      And once you notice it
      You start seeing it in every food
      I wonder how much they paid the govt for this

  • Hi ralphpal,

    Thanks a bunch for your interest and for sharing your questions; they’re great. Unfortunately, we can’t reveal all the details about our upcoming plant protein; however, I think I can provide some insight into the questions you’ve asked.

    Yes, our plant protein will be a “complete” protein providing all the essential amino acids. As far as absorption goes, plant proteins tend to be “intermediate” digesting proteins, at least relative to whey (which is a rapidly-digesting protein) and casein (which is a slow-digesting protein).

    We’ll even be including a digestive enzyme blend to make sure your body utilizes the protein most efficiently. Research shows that the addition of enzymes to plant protein essentially mitigates any differences between it and whey, which is typically considered the “king” of protein supplements.

    As far as timing, you can plan on using our plant-based protein at any time—during the day, pre/post-workout, at nighttime. Of course, depending on your goals and level of fitness, there may be certain options that may have benefit at specific times.

    Hope this helps!

    Coach Tim

    • ralphpal

      Tim that is all i needed to know and thanks i will order it when it comes out
      I would suggest you put this info on the website and each bottle when you start to sell them
      It might cost a few cents more to print but you will make it up in sales
      Because if i have the questions so do millions of others
      The more info you give out
      The more money you make
      Well thanks for answering my questions

      • Great, ralphpal; I’m glad to hear this was helpful. And I want you to know that your questions and feedback are truly helpful to us. We want to communicate as effectively as possible with our customers and knowing what’s important to you is of prime importance in doing so.

        While product label real estate is limited, we’re working on expanding how and how much information we present. For instance, our marketing team has been working diligently on creating and disseminating more images and infographics, and we’ll soon be starting a podcast. Of course, we have this blog where we provide education and answer questions, and we also make ourselves available on social media (e.g., Facebook).

        Overall, we feel very strongly about educating our customers, and we greatly appreciate awesome folks like you who are genuinely interested in learning. Along those lines, please keep us posted with any other questions that you have. Thanks, ralphpal!