Protein shakes are incredibly popular these days. The market is overflowing with a wide range of products containing various blends of different proteins derived from either plant or animal sources.
Whether you are vegan or vegetarian, working out on a regular basis wanting to build muscle or lose weight – with my tips you will find your way through the jungle of protein powders and their added ingredients – like enzymes, superfoods or sweeteners – and become empowered to select the protein or protein powder blend that will work best for you.
Plenty of protein sources are being used to produce protein powders or protein powder blends. The most common animal sources are whey and egg protein and some of the most common plant-based protein sources are soy, brown rice, pea, quinoa or chia seeds.
I am going to focus on the most common ones – whey, soy and brown rice protein – in this blogpost. We will learn about the benefits of these proteins, as well as their affects on PCOS regarding insulin spikes and estrogen levels.
Whey protein is a mixture of proteins produced from whey, the liquid created as a by-product of cheese making. There are three different types of whey protein: Whey concentrate, whey isolate and whey hydrolysate.
Whey concentrate contains the highest amount of protein (about 90%). Whey isolate contains less protein than the concentrate (about 30 to 90%). A portion of it are bioactive ingredients and carbs like lactose (milk sugar). Whey hydrolysate is more processed than the concentrate and isolate which makes it easier to digest.
Whey protein is not recommendable for people who are vegan or for those suffering from allergies or intolerances to milk (especially casein).
Since whey protein is an animal product it is important to choose a blend derived from cattle that was grass-fed and without added hormones. Choosing organic with animal protein blends is always the best choice.
Whey protein is known to work well for building up muscle mass and gaining strength, reducing fat and its activation of the secretion of a hormone called ghrelin which tells our brain that we are full. Taking protein shakes in moderation is a good way to loose and control weight.
The downside of whey protein for women with PCOS is that it has proven to spike insulin levels. Besides that, whey protein may contribute to or worsen inflammation.
Soy protein is the most common used plant-based protein in the market today, but it is also highly debatable if it is good option.
Soy protein, like whey protein, is available as concentrate or isolate. Soy protein isolate is a highly refined or purified form of soy protein with a minimum protein content of 90%. It is made from defatted soy flour which has had most of the non-protein components, fats and carbohydrates, removed. Soy protein concentrate is about 70% soy protein and is basically defatted soy flour without the water-soluble carbohydrates.
Soybean protein is a “complete protein” since it provides all of the essential amino acids for human nutrition. Soybean protein is essentially identical to that of other legumes or pulses (e.g. pea protein), and is one of the least expensive sources of dietary protein. For this reason, soy is important to many vegetarians and vegans.
One big disadvantage of using soy protein or soy in general is that it is oftentimes produced with GMO (genetically modified organisms) and contains phytoestrogens, which can influence the function of hormones, especially that of estrogen in the body.
When it comes to managing PCOS, I would recommend choosing soy products that are less refined such as organic tofu and edamame. Best options would be fermented soy like natto, miso or tempeh. The research on raising or lowering estrogen levels is somewhat contradictory. Recent studies have shown that soy can have a balancing effect on estrogen levels whether it is high or low. The only way to find out what works for you is by experimenting with a variety of quality soy products and observe how you feel.
Brown Rice Protein
Brown rice protein is a plant-based protein isolate that is a good alternative to the more common whey and soy protein isolates. Rice protein powder has a more distinct taste than most other forms of protein powder. Like whey hydrolysate, this flavor is not effectively masked by most flavorings; however, the taste of rice protein is usually considered to be less unpleasant than the bitter taste of whey hydrolysate.
Rice protein does not contain all the essential amino acids needed for human nutrition and is therefore commonly mixed with pea, quinoa or chia protein powder. The combination of rice and pea protein offer a superior amino acid profile that is comparable to dairy or egg proteins, but without the potential for allergies or intestinal issues that some users experience with those proteins. Moreover, the light, fluffy texture of pea protein tends to smoothen out the strong, chalky flavor of rice protein.
Brown rice protein supports the body in building up muscle mass and gaining strength just like whey protein does. It also enhances liver and heart function and can help lower cholesterol.
When it comes to managing PCOS, there is no studies that show that brown rice protein raises insulin levels.
Many protein blends contain additives like enzymes, superfoods, sweeteners or other substances that enhance absorption or muscle growth.
One of the more common enzymes that break down proteins and are added to whey protein blends is protease. Creatine is another substance often added and is believed to enhance growth of muscle mass and help athletes achieve bursts of strength.
Superfoods like spirulina or acai are added to give extra energy and to improve one’s overall health. They are not harmful in anyway, but a blend with too many ingredients can cause an upset stomach or problems with digestion in general.
Most blends contain sweeteners. The most common and healthier ones are stevia and sugar alcohols like xylitol, erythritol or sorbitol.
For weight loss, it is recommended to avoid sugar like glucose and fructose. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame are toxic and should be avoided at all costs.
I hope this information will be helpful to you and you will know what to look out for when buying a protein supplement.
I can recommend X50 raw vegan protein powder. It is organic, contains pea and brown rice protein and is sweetened with xylitol and stevia.
In Dubai, it is available in health food stores like Holland and Barrett and Lifestyle Nutrition or simply online.
2 of my Favorite Protein Shake Recipes That Keep Blood Sugar Stable
Strawberry Apple Smoothie (serves 1)
- 1 Cup frozen Strawberries
- 1 medium-sized Apple
- 1/4 Cup Kefir or Yogurt
- 1/4 Tsp. Turmeric
- 1/4 Tsp. Cinnamon
- 300 ml Almond Milk, unsweetened
- 1/2 Tsp. Coconut Oil
- 1 Tbsp. Protein Powder, unsweetened or Collagen Powder
Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake (serves 1)
- 300 ml Almond Milk, unsweetened
- 1 Tbsp. Peanut Butter (make sure it is trans fat and sugar free) or any type of nuts or nut butter you prefer
- 1 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder, unsweetened
- 2 Tbsp. milled Flaxseed
- 2 Tbsp. Protein Powder (unsweetened or sweetened with Xylitol or Stevia, preferably plant based)
- Some cinnamon
Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions.
Lots of love,