Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Because you asked...

Apparently I have a few fitness buffs on my Facebook friends list, because I got half a dozen messages yesterday after posting a status update about Prograde's new "Fusion" sports drink mix. The biggest question was about my comment that Prograde uses "the highest quality ingredients, shunning the toxic fillers most store-shelf companies like to use."

What ingredients? And what's left out?

Well, for the sake of interest I took a peek at a couple of other labels online, just to see what was going on. Probably the most popular commercial brand out there is IsoFlex. I'll grant that as a nutrient profile, IsoFlex is pretty good. Each 30g serving delivers 27g of protein in 111 calories. What I can't figure out is their Carbohydrates. The label says 0.5g of carbs, but lists 0.5g sugar and 0.3g fibre (uh...that's 0.8g carbs, by my math). They also give other nutrients (Vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron) as percentage of "daily intake." This is a deceptive number, because there are so many variants of "daily intake" there's literally no way of knowing what the value actually is.

If you don't know, it's because there's a Daily Value, Recommended Daily Intake, Recommended Daily Allowance, and Optimal Daily Intake as baselines for different levels of nutrition and fitness.

Anyway, here's what's in IsoFlex:
Whey Protein Isolate Complex [Whey Protein Isolate, WPI97 (Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate), Alpha-Lactalbumin-Rich Whey Peptides, Synermune(TM) Colostrum], NOS Complex [Hyrdolyzed Vegetable Protein, Folic Acid, NAC], Glutamine Complex [Glutamine Peptides], IS Complex [Alpha Lipoic Acid, d-Pinitol, 4-Hydroxyisoleucine], real orange pieces, natural and artificial flavour, lactoferrin, acesulfame-potassium, sucralose, guar gum.

So, on the surface there's a lot of science-y sounding stuff in there. Basically, it's protein complexes enhanced with flavour (including artificial flavours) and sweeteners (neither is good for you...acesulfame-potassium is a known carcinogen, and sucralose, made from sugar and chlorine, has shown clinical relationships to shrunken thymus glands in rats). There's evidence, apart from these findings, that artificial sweeteners actually increase the risk of diabetes by "tricking" the body into thinking it's getting something sweet. Insulin is released, but it has nothing to bind (i.e. sugar). I'd argue the sweeteners are the most noxious of the ingredients on this list.

The fibre content likely comes from the guar gum, a plant-derived thickening agent. The most common reaction to guar gum is diahrrea and gas, but only because it is a dietary fibre. It doesn't appear to have any toxic side effects. Don't know if I'd say the same for "Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein" or "NAC" (what is that anyway?).

On to Prograde Protein (vanilla, for this note).

Each serving is 32g, delivering 24g of protein in 120 calories. It contains 2g of carbs, listed as 1g sugars and 1g "other," which means fibre and starch. It also lists actual amounts of other nutrients (you can read the label on the website).

Here's the ingredients list:
Whey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, natural flavours, Aminogen(R) (maltodextrin and protease enzymes derived from Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus oryzae), rebaudioside A stevia extract, soy lecithin and salt.

Kind of a shorter list, eh? The maltodextrin and protease are enzymes necessary in the breakdown of protein. The nutrient profile also lists lactase, which is an enzyme used for breaking down lactose, the sugar in milk. Since whey is a protein derived from milk processing, both are valuable in improving the digestion and absorption of the product.

For what it's worth, the salt on the list provides 65mg of sodium.

The sweetener is stevia, a plant-derived sweetener that so far has not shown any negative side effects. The one time an experiment on rats did show toxic effects, the rats were fed half their body weight in stevia leaves daily. No human would ever consume that much, and of course that much sugar would lead to shock as well. By contrast, replacing the average amount of sugar in a North American diet with stevia would require consuming only four leaves a day. I will admin that there hasn't been enought testing to say it's 100% safe, but even empirically there haven't been any reported side effects linked to this product. The fancy name, "rebaudioside A stevia extract" is just a name for the extract itself. The plant is also called "rebaudiana," and this extract is one of two glycosides (sweeteners) produced by the plant.

Replacing two teaspoons of sugar with one packet of stevia in my coffee each day has contributed dramatically to my own weight loss. It has no insulin response, and so far appears to leave no traces or chemical residue in the body. It's not metabolized as far as anyone can tell. But the benefits profile is starting to stack up.

Anyway, the only other questionable ingredient in here is lecithin. Because it's soy-based, some folks might get their dander up. But soy allergies are usually caused by the protein, not the fat (which is what lecithin is). Lecithin is an emulsifier, so it keeps the components of the powder from separating when mixed with water or milk (basically serving the same function as guar gum). It's also a liptropic factor, being high in choline. This actually assists with fat transport, although here it's not used in high enough quantities to be a supplement on its own.

So there you have it. Prograde Protein is composed of seven ingredients, mostly protein, vanilla and stevia, with a few enzymes tossed in for easier absorption. This is what I mean by high quality ingredients and nothing toxic. And, for what it's worth, anyone who's tried one of these shakes has agreed it's by far the best tasting protein supplement out there.

Any other questions?


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