Why Hydrogenated Ingredients in Protein Powders Are Bad
December 4, 2015
You would expect that the ingredients list on your whey protein supplement would be pretty short, right? I mean… it’s whey protein. So it really should just contain whey. But, of course, that’s not how things go.
Tons of other ingredients and additives are thrown into the common whey protein supplement. And the situation is made even more complex and confusing by the addition of countless adjectives. Ingredients can be “isolated,” “concentrated,” “hydrolysated” and so on.
For now, though, we’re going to focus on just one of the more common descriptive terms that you’re likely to see not just on your protein but in just about every processed food you pick up: “Hydrogenated.”
What is it? Should you avoid these ingredients?
Hydrogenation – An Overview
Without getting to deep into the chemistry of fats, let’s simply say this: Hydrogenated fats are those that have been treated by hydrogen. Typically, this is done to an unsaturated fat in an effort to change its chemical structure. This can produce either partially hydrogenated or fully hydrogenated fats.
More commonly known as trans fats, partially hydrogenated ingredients are semi-soft at room temperature like shortening or tub margarine. Fully hydrogenated oils, though, contain no trans fats. Instead, they are loaded with saturated fats.
Either way, this is done to improve the shelf-life and texture of the target ingredient. In the context of protein powders, this translates to a more pleasant, thick beverage when it’s all mixed and done.
Unless you’ve had absolutely no exposure to the outside world over the past few years, you likely know that trans fats are terrible for you. This class of fat has been linked with an increased risk of high cholesterol, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and even certain types of cancer.
There’s even some evidence to suggest that a diet high in trans fats can do long-term damage to your metabolism, making it difficult for your body to problem burn stored fat.
Of course, fully hydrogenated oils – or saturated fats – aren’t that great either. Granted, modern research has shown that they are not the villains that we once thought. Still, a diet high in saturated fats is a diet high calories, which can make weight control a challenge.
Looking specifically at whey protein supplements, though, saturated fats have no place. For one thing, a quality whey supplement will be sourced from grass-fed cows and therefore be rich in quality omega-3 and conjugated linoleic fatty acids – not saturated fats. But it should also be pointed out that most people tend to take their whey soon before or soon after a workout, when their digestive system tends to be more sensitive. This is not an ideal time to ingest heavy saturated fats.
Ultimately, the inclusion of hydrogenated ingredients in whey protein supplements is both unnecessary and counterproductive.