Submitted by Hao-Yi Sim, Human nutritional Sciences Student
Protein powder is one of the most common and popular supplements among the fitness population, ranging from gym rats to elite competitors. However, the quality of the protein powder you are purchasing may not be as pure as listed on the label.
There is a phenomena known as “protein spiking” in the industry. For background information, protein in foods is commonly measured with the Kjeldahl method, where a food sample is “digested” by a strong acid. Protein is composed of nitrogenous compounds, so when the food is digested with this acid, it releases a nitrogen gas that can be used to estimate the amount of protein in the food.
The problem is while it measures the nitrogen count of a food sample, it doesn't measure the exact nitrogen compounds themselves. This means that the protein count on a food item may not reflect the “quality” of amino acids you may be getting.
Taurine for example is a sulfuric amino acid that does not significantly contribute to muscular repair and development, but would contribute to nitrogen counts under Kjeldahl methods.
This can become misleading, when companies advertise that their product will give you 30g of the highest quality protein, when in reality you could be paying for cheap, filler amino acids and other nitrogenous compounds. Several 3rd party tests with lawsuits attached allege that several companies “fill the tubs with far cheaper free form amino acids”, misrepresenting company claims and charging customers more money than what they are paying for (Forbes, 2015).
LabDoor has a public database for those who are curious about the quality of protein powder they are interested in purchasing. Labdoor is an independent 3rd party lab testing organization, who buys and tests various health and fitness products, like protein powder, in FDA-registered analytical laboratories. For protein powder, they use a method different from the Kjeldahl method, and evaluate the protein content based on the amino acids, not the overall nitrogen count.
Visit LabDoor: https://labdoor.com/about
Now, this doesn't mean one shouldn't purchase protein powder, rather, it just means one has to be a little critical of whatever supplement they are thinking of purchasing, be it a new vitamin, or a cool looking protein powder at your local store. And of course, at the end of the day, protein powder is just a supplement, and one should always make sure that they’re getting all the nutrients they can from proper, whole foods!
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