Strength and endurance athletes frequently include protein powders in their diet. They need the extra boost of branched-chain amino acids such as isoleucine, valine and leucine – the specific types of proteins that muscles burn for energy.
Most of these products are sourced from protein-rich natural sources like milk, eggs, legumes and grains. Some of these powders are packaged pure while others do contain additional ingredients. Sweeteners are some of the more frequently used additives, as these concentrated forms of protein don’t really taste very good on their own. A hard workout can be punishing enough without starting or finishing it off with a harsh tasting drink.
The use of artificial sweeteners in commercial processed food products, even in health supplements or pharmaceuticals is widespread. The advantages often sited are their reduced cost and their low to zero calorie content. But as you may well know, the safety of artificial sweeteners is still questionable despite official acceptance.
Read further to discover more about the negative effects of protein powders with artificial sweeteners and why the Superhuman Food Pyramid recommends you avoid them as a source of protein.
Risks of Protein Powders with Artificial Sweeteners:
Aspartame, acesulfame and sucralose are three examples of artificial sweeteners that you might occasionally encounter in protein powder products. The following is a brief summary of their possible negative effects.
Aspartame itself is composed of two amino acids with the addition of methanol. It’s this last component that can pose a health risk. When the body breaks down methanol it turns into formaldehyde and formic acid. Both are naturally present in the body in low manageable levels but a small additional amount is all it takes for formaldehyde to start becoming toxic.
Acesulfame also carries the risk of breaking down into a potentially dangerous substance when metabolized. Acetoacetamide is the resulting compound when this artificial sweetener is digested and some animal studies have looked into how it can affect thyroid glands. The safety claim is that acesulfame simply passes through the digestive tract. But this doesn’t actually happen consistently, it’s more of a 85 to 100 % chance.
The same residual issue happens with sucralose. Again about 85% passes through undigested but the remaining portion will likely be metabolized. This might still be small enough not to show any impact on calorie intake. But then again, the danger isn’t so much added calories as absorption of potentially harmful chemicals that make up these artificial sweeteners.
If you’re really worried about additional calories, there are so many far safer ways to adjust your daily diet in order to balance calorie intake and output. You can even simply increase your workout and burn off added calories because you used real sugar to sweeten your protein shake.
On the other hand, if taste is the issue, there are also safe and natural sweeteners you can use as an alternative. Stevia is one of the more popular plant-based sugar substitutes. Just like the artificial substitutes, stevia is several times sweeter than sugar but provides lesser calories, this time without the risk of potentially harmful chemicals.
You can also just take advantage of the natural sugars in fruits. You’re probably going to be using a blender to thoroughly mix the protein powder into an acceptable consistency anyway. Adding a bit of fruit into your protein shake doesn’t just improve the taste, it adds a host of other nutrients like vitamins and fiber to what would otherwise be a one-dimensional health beverage.
In the next post, I’ll tell you the negative effects of textured vegetable proteins and why you should avoid it to succeed in your quest to Become Superhuman.
You can also get more complete proteins, without added artificial sweeteners, which are safe to consume and taste good. To learn more about that, read “How To Choose A Protein Powder“.
In the meantime, if you care to jump ahead, here is a complete listing of the protein sources on Superhuman Food Pyramid:
• Organic Yogurt (Full-Fat)
• Soaked or sprouted beans and legumes
• Raw seeds and nuts
• Roasted Seeds and Nuts
• Regular or Canned Beans and Legumes
If you have questions, comments or feedback about the negative effects of protein powders with artificial sweeteners, the Superhuman Food Pyramid, this website, or other aspects of Becoming Superhuman, then leave your thoughts below, as well as any tips you have on the negative effects of protein powders with artificial sweeteners.