We have all heard of it, we all sort of know what it is, but what is the whole story behind the paleo diet?
Short for the Paleolithic diet, this restrictive diet was first traced back to a book by Walter Voegtlin in 1975 and revived by another book by Loren Cordain in 2002. The basic premise of this diet is to eat only foods that our ancestors ate during the Paleolithic period about 2.6 million years ago up until 12,000 years ago.
By eliminating grains, dairy, refined foods, legumes, tubers, alcohol, and artificial oil/preservatives, the thought is that by changing our foods from artificial and refined to raw and organic it will lead to a better overall lifestyle as well as weight loss and better digestive rates.
While the claims made by the founders of this diet have no backed studies and some foods that are excluded from consumption are questionable, there are still some high-quality products being introduced because of it. One of which is “paleo protein powder” which contains ingredients to correspond with the restrictions of the paleo diet.
What makes paleo protein paleo friendly? How is it made? Is it better than other forms of protein powder? Read on to find out!
How Is Paleo Protein Different?
Since the paleo diet is quite restrictive, most forms of protein cannot be used, including dairy (whey and casein), soy (GMO and GMO-free) and Pea. This only leaves a few sources of protein that can be used including egg protein and beef protein (making most brands of paleo protein not vegetarian or vegan-friendly).
The egg protein is usually sourced from both the yolk and white, but certain boiling techniques eliminate most of the fat found in the yolks. The beef protein is usually taken from already lean sources and is also boiled down to remove most of the excess. Surprisingly there is little to no cholesterol claimed on the nutritional labels on most of these products even though both egg yolks and beef is quite high in dietary cholesterol.
For flavorings, the choice is quite limited due to the exclusion of most sweeteners, but few do remain. Cocoa powder is used for chocolate flavors and vanilla extract (labelled as natural flavoring) is used for vanilla flavors. Egg protein and beef protein are both quite bitter so stevia is used as a sweetener because it is sourced naturally from the stevia plant. While most won’t even notice, some who have an advanced palate can notice a bitter aftertaste in stevia meaning they will most likely not enjoy the taste of paleo protein.
Lastly, sunflower lecithin replaces soy lecithin as an emulsifier, which lowers the chance of GMO’s being used to almost zero. The ingredients lists in most paleo proteins never usually go longer than a line or two, which is a good sign that there is not much filler or amino spiking present.
Paleo Protein Vs. Dairy Protein
While paleo protein is the best option for those adhering to a paleo diet, is it also better than dairy protein powders for those who don’t follow a specific exclusion diet? While there is no solid answer, I will give you the information to help you decide for yourself! Looking at the protein sources this will mostly come down to personal opinion.
A 30-gram scoop of the paleo protein has close to 25 grams of protein, which is about the same as most whey isolate variations that have around 20 grams per 25-gram scoop. Fat and carbs in both are less than a gram while calories in both are close to around 120-130 in a serving size. It’s once we get into the composition of the proteins that variations come into play.
Both beef and egg proteins digest very slowly in the body (in about two to three hours), not as slowly as casein powders (which take close to eight hours), but much slower than whey which is digested in about 30 minutes. While some argue this doesn’t matter as long as the amount of protein digested is adequate, some like to have a quick digesting protein after a workout for the possibility of increased nutrient uptake.
Some also do not like a lot of additives or fillers in their protein powders, something that many companies are guilty of. When it comes to artificial sweeteners and flavors, it is unlikely that any of them that are approved by the FDA will cause negative side effects, but for those who still have concerns should lean towards companies that are open about their ingredient lists (something most paleo protein companies are).
Another concern involves something known as amino spiking where shifty companies will fill their protein powders with cheap amino acids that do little to nothing for helping to build muscle. By doing this, these companies can cut costs and sell a cheaper product that boasts a higher, low-quality protein count. Most, if not all paleo protein companies will not be guilty of this practice where numerous other companies have been caught. This is not always the case though, as many companies have high-quality whey and casein protein powders.
Finally, the cost will be a big factor for most fitness enthusiasts. If the above criterion does not matter and cost per gram of protein is the biggest factor for you, dairy protein will win almost every time. While paleo protein is very high quality, almost every brand of it boasts various labels including “gluten-free”, “hormone-free”, “antibiotic-free”, “grass-fed”, “organic” and so on. What all this amounts to is a hefty price tag of $30 to $40 dollars for two pounds (or one kilogram) of powder. There is no contest as most whey and casein products are about $10 cheaper on average.
Take Home Message
At the end of the day, paleo protein is a very viable option for those who follow a hardcore paleo diet or no diet at all. While it can be a bit pricey, most brands have a solid amount of protein, a good ingredient profile and limited fillers.
While you have probably heard this before, I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on it, protein powders are always a great way to get those last 20 or 40 grams in, but it should never be your primary source of protein. Whole protein sources are the best way to stay satiated, meet your daily goals and give your wallet a break.
With that being said, there’s no reason to not go out and try every kind of protein powder and see which one works best for you!