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How To Read A Protein Label

How To Read A Protein Label

Avoid the Scams and Get Maximum Value
From Every Gram of Protein You Consume

It’s not always fun being a protein manufacturer. Every day brings new challenges, whether they’re raw materials shortages, budget constraints, or the ever-increasing marketplace dominance of one particular gigantic online retailer. (Is that a smile on the box? Or a smirk? We never know.)

Always there’s the pressure of the bottom line. Can you get the protein into the jug and make enough of a sliver of profit to survive another day? There is one aspect of the marketing process that many protein manufacturers absolutely love, however. That’s designing a new label for a new or already existing product.

That’s where the fun is! Bring in some designers. Have them compete with each other to create the most exciting and dynamic design concepts. Make the labels engage the eye and really stand out on a store shelf. Add some swoops and slashes, some bursts and splashes! Make the background bright and cheerful! Or, no, dark and menacing! It’s gotta look good when that famous athlete is holding it on TV!

Many manufacturers spend more time designing the label than they spend researching and developing the protein. But there’s one part of the label they’d prefer to escape your notice.  That’s the Supplement Facts panel. Right, all that unadorned tiny type on the side or back of the jug. It’s here where you’ll find out how much fat and carbs and protein can be found in each serving of the protein you’re holding. Typically speaking, for pure whey protein products, the fat and carbs should be very low. For more wide-ranging, “full-spectrum” protein blends, you might find fat and carb content creeping up. For “weight gain” powders, the sky’s the limit for these quantities, and calories as well.

What’s Really In That Jug You’re Holding

Below these utilitarian numbers you’ll find the real meat of the matter. Many manufacturers actually tag this section “Other Ingredients,” as if what followed was a list of mere incidentals. They’re not. These are the actual ingredients, listed in strict order of their proportional content in the jug. This is what you’re taking.

Given an opportunity to quantify exactly what all the excitement on the front of the label is about, many manufacturers suddenly grow very shy here. Gone is the bravado and suddenly the language is very bland. You might find: Whey Protein Blend (whey isolate, whey concentrate, whey peptides). Sometimes “whey concentrate” is listed first. A wider-spectrum protein might have this: Protein Blend (whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, whey protein hydrolysate, micellar casein, calcium caseinate, egg whites).

Not very enlightening, is it? How were these proteins sourced? How were they processed? Advanced crossflow microfiltration or coarser, more damaging ion exchange? If whey protein concentrate is listed second, does it compose 15% of the total blend? Or 49%? Unanswered questions like these might send you scurrying back to the promotional copy on the opposite side panel for more information. But often all you’ll find there is more confusion.

Let’s take one particular mega-selling whey protein (which we won’t name here) as an example and look for clues. The front of the label tells us “Whey Protein Isolates – Primary Source.” Well, that’s reassuring, but we knew that when we read “whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, whey peptides” in the Supplement Facts. In the promotional copy on the side panel, things get a little dicier. Suddenly we’re confronted with some unhelpfully generalized information about how whey is among the best proteins you can buy. And then we’re informed that using whey protein isolate “along with whey protein concentrate” allows the manufacturer to “pack 24 grams of protein into every serving” of this protein. This is true, it does. And the reason is because it’s cheaper. Whey concentrates, particularly crudely processed ones, are much less expensive to purchase from protein wholesalers than whey protein isolate. This savings allows manufacturers to top off their jugs with lesser-quality protein and undercut competitors on pricing, which goes a long way toward explaining the “mega-selling” status of this particular product.

Superior Sourcing Makes a Superior Protein

Now let’s compare this protein to our own ProSource Original NytroWhey. First of all, Original NytroWhey contains only superior-quality whey protein isolate and absolutely no whey concentrate. So already you’re getting a higher quality protein which contains approximately 90% protein and only about 0.5% fat and 0.5% lactose. Whey protein isolate is utilized more quickly and efficiently by the body and promotes greater lean mass and strength gains. Whey protein concentrate, on the other hand, is derived from liquid whey (not to be mistaken for pure whey protein) and is concentrated via spray drying (under low temperatures) or ultrafiltration. Depending on the quality of the product, whey protein concentrate can range from 35% to over 80% protein (on average about 75%) and contains varying amounts of lactose and fat.   

How about the content of Original NytroWhey? Check our label and you’ll find that it’s Whey Protein Isolate (beta-Lactoglobulin, Glycomacropeptide, Alpha-Lactalbumin, Immunoglobulin, Bovine Serum Albumin, Lactoferrin, Lactoperoxidase, Protease Peptone). This is more information than you’ll find in typical Supplement Facts, and it’s important because alphalactalbumin is the primary protein found in whey and is rich in amino acids needed for muscle growth, while helping enhance the immune system. Glycomacropeptides are high in branched chain amino acids and have been scientifically documented to induce muscle growth, and may help with diet support by surpressing appetite. Lactoferrin is found in high levels in colostrum (mother’s milk) and has been shown to help boost the immune system and intestinal tract, among other related benefits.

Now we won’t lie, it can be a challenge competing with popular whey-concentrate-loaded protein formulas on price. The way we do it is to eliminate any and all costs not associated with the research, development, and manufacturing of our products. That means no big ad budgets, no celebrity spokespeople, and, most importantly, no shipping of our products out to chain-store retailers who are free to mark up prices to inflate profits. We manufacture our premium-quality proteins, store them in our own warehouse, and ship them directly to you without a single unnecessary price mark-up along the way. There’s a lot of savings to be had by operating this way, and we pass those savings on to you.

The Facts About Protein Blends

The depressing state of affairs associated with common whey protein products applies even more so to “wide spectrum” protein blends, which incorporate lower-quality milk proteins, calcium caseinates, and even soy protein in their formulas. Some of these products contain multiple blends, which makes it even more difficult to determine actual utilizable protein content.

Indeed, once you begin slicing and re-slicing the ingredient pie, the amount of whey protein isolate or high-quality hydrolyzed whey in a particular product can become almost comically low. When a manufacturer is only providing 20 to 25 grams total of protein per serving, while offering a laundry list of fast- and slow-acting proteins, it means they’re providing micro-doses of the most important proteins. Meanwhile, some of those other ancillary proteins offer little biological value.

Milk protein concentrate, for instance, is a common ingredient in protein bars and meal-replacement powders because of its low cost to produce, but its anabolic power is fairly negligible. Calcium caseinates are a lesser form of micellar casein, produced via enzymatic modification of milk or isoelectric precipitation with an acid, but again, has little muscle-supporting value. Finally, the less said about soy protein, which has been link to hormonal irregularities and decreased mineral absorption and utilization, the better.

A Protein Blend Done The Right Way

Again, a comparison to a flagship ProSource product is illuminating. ProSource’s NytroWhey Ultra Elite is a protein blend. But the content of its protein blend is vastly superior to those of competing protein blends in every way. The Supplement Facts panel defines NytroWhey Ultra Elite’s “Ultra Anabolic Matrix” as  (Provon® Cross Flow Microfiltration (CFM) Whey Protein Isolate, Leuvon™ 590 Cross Flow Nanofiltration (CFN™) Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate and L-Leucine, and TherMAX® Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate). Note the brand-name attributions. Provon®, Leuvon™, and TherMAX® are trademarks of Glanbia® Nutrition, universally recognized as America’s foremost manufacturer of high-quality proteins. Note, too, the complete lack of inferior protein sources. No whey concentrates, caseinates or soy.

The whey protein isolate found in NytroWhey Ultra Elite is the ultimate premium-grade CFM whey isolate, which swiftly delivers a full spectrum of superior protein content to your muscles. Likewise, the whey hydrolysate incorporated into NytroWhey Ultra Elite is a rapid-action amino source that provides instantaneous aminoacidemia (flooding of amino acids into the blood) upon ingestion, all the while maintaining blood amino acid levels for hours.

And then, finally, there’s the Leuvon™ 590 leucine peptide technology in NytroWhey Ultra Elite. Leucine is an essential amino that functions primarily as a catalyst that flips the muscle building metabolic switch. The muscle-building effects of leucine supplementation at a molecular level are mediated through the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) pathway. Studies have shown that peak activation of muscle protein synthesis is proportional to the leucine content in muscle tissue. All protein formulas contain some amount of leucine, though dosages are often so low as to be all but clinically insignificant. The leucine-bound leucine peptide technology in NytroWhey Ultra Elite ensures that both overall leucine content and bioavailability are maximally optimized.

The Scourge of Protein Spiking

We’ll touch briefly here on another form of labeling dishonesty that isn’t immediately discernable by looking at a label. It’s called “protein spiking.” If you’ve never heard of protein spiking, we suggest you try Googling the term some time. You’ll be surprised to see some of the reputable brands associated with it.

Protein spiking is a sophisticated practice that entails measuring the nitrogen content of lesser ingredients (such as glycine, taurine, low-quality creatine, or even the simple sugar maltodextrin) and using that deceptive figure to stand in for whey protein content. The result is that independent third-party measurements of best-selling proteins show huge discrepancies between the amounts of total protein cited on Supplement Facts panels and actual content in the jug. Protein formulas boasting 40 grams per serving of whey protein actually have 19. Whey protein powders claiming 25 grams of protein have less than 10.

ProSource condemns this deceitful practice, and never has (and never will) participate in it. You have our guarantee that every product we manufacture and retail contains every microgram of pure, unadulterated protein content cited on its label.

An Informed Athlete is a Better Athlete

The more you know, the better off you are. That’s true in any field of endeavor, and it’s especially true when it comes to pursuing an ideal physique and maximized performance. Every gram of protein you consume should move you closer to your goal. Every empty calorie—in the form of inferior protein sources—not only slows your progress, it wastes your hard-earned money. Learn to read and understand a protein label and you’ll reap the benefits of better nutrition.

Read more about NytroWhey Ultra Elite here.

Read more about Original NytroWhey here.

Use as directed with a sensible nutrition and exercise program. Read and follow all product label instructions and warnings thoroughly before use. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

The articles featured herein are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Specific medical advice should only be obtained from a licensed health care professional. No liability is assumed by ProSource for any information herein.