Look out! Are any of these ingredients lurking in your protein powder?

Protein powders

Protein powders, shakes, whey protein drinks and protein blends are terms that can be applied to products that vary enormously in terms of ingredients and quality.

This to me is a problem.

You see when I started Reflex Nutrition I did so with one aim, to make the best. That ethos has not changed but many other companies do not work with that view. Instead, they are driven by accountants rather than passionate product experts.

Reflex Nutrition is in the business of making first class supplements and I could take you through the entire range to demonstrate the point but let us take Growth Matrix as an example. It is a post workout recovery product aimed at an almost immediate delivery of whey di and tri peptides in combination with high dose L-leucine and glucose polymers. I remember nearly ten years ago to the day formulating this amazing product but realising that it tasted really challenging. We even ended up putting a note on the product label to forewarn people of the taste that is associated with using such an extreme hydrolysate as the sole source of protein. Given the performance consideration, I simply would not compromise and that formula is still nearly identical to how it was when it was first sold.

The point is this; at no point would there be a compromise, it was possible to make it for less and make more profit, but we would not use an inferior hydrolysate, we would not use less L-Leucine, nor would we lower anything, cut ingredients in favour of flavour so that we could sell more. I would be selling my soul to the devil. I’m a firm believer of getting what you pay for, if you think Reflex products are expensive there is a reason for that, you are getting the best. If you don’t like the price I’m certainly not offended if you buy another brand’s offerings, but I can guarantee it will be the expense of something else.

The industry today is flooded with protein powders and it must be a minefield for any newcomer to sports nutrition to make any sense of it all. What I can say is that there seems to an ever growing emphasis on flavour and as a result we’re seeing widespread use of fillers to make products taste better. But they are ALL at the EXPENSE of the nutritional profile. Protein content will go down and the compromises will increase.

There are a number of ingredients you can add to a protein powder that will improve the flavour and mouthfeel of the product, but at the expense of the nutritional profile and sometimes potentially your health. I want to point these out to you today so that you can make an informed choice the next time you buy a protein powder. And you will not find any of these ingredients in a Reflex product.

What you don’t need in a protein powder or your label:

Creamer or Non Dairy Creamers

A very popular ingredient that can make just about any protein shake taste better by adding fat, flavours and sodium which makes your protein shake taste more creamy and smooth. However it’s not what you would call healthy, some are laden with trans fats, some are not. Many are made from palm oil and that immediately rules it out for us because of the deforestation that occurs to grow palm oil. Here is a typical ingredient list for a non dairy creamer; CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, VEGETABLE OIL (PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED COCONUT OR PALM KERNEL, HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN), SODIUM CASEINATE, AND LESS THAN 2% OF DIPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, SODIUM ALUMINOSILICATE, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, ANNATTO COLOR.

It is like someone has made a competition to make the worst possible concoction of ingredients and this won! Needless to say we’re no fan of creamers, and you don’t add milligrams, you need grams per serving to having a noticeable effect on flavour.

Soy Protein, especially GMO Soy Protein.

Lots and lots of protein blends contain soy protein, as do meal replacements, protein bars, flapjacks and all in one bodybuilding supplements. I wrote a whole article about why we don’t use soy protein you can read that here in the blog.

Protein % less than 70%

A lower protein % is the direct result of adding fillers or using cheaper proteins. If you add highly quality sources of protein to make a quality protein blend and add some flavour, colour and a small amount of thickener you should end up with a protein powder of 70%, even for chocolate! As an example, our 100% Whey Protein product delivers 70% protein for all flavours, and this is our entry level product using WPC as its only source of protein, that’s as low as we go!! But if you are paying a premium then it should be at least 75% protein, especially if you are using whey isolates, egg white and micellar casein. As an example our protein blend Peptide Fusion is 78% protein.


Fructose has a place in energy drinks in specific ratios for people exercising more than one hour. That’s the only time it offers value in sports nutrition, and its scientifically proven. However, throwing it into a protein shake to sweeten it is simply madness in my opinion, dextrose would be better.

Sodium Chloride

Lots of brands add additional sodium to boost the flavour profile of their shakes. We all love salt on our foods but it is simply not needed in a shake, there are novel ways of adding flavour (yet costly) to shakes without having to add plain table salt sodium chloride.

Artificial Colours

Certain USA brands seem to love adding all manner of artificial ingredients. I understand its use because you literally need only add 0.01% to make a shake go bright pink, probably very necessary if you have already lowered the protein content by adding creamers, fructose and sodium chloride!

Glycine, the protein spiker’s delight!

Protein spiking, a hot topic! Some companies will use glycine in their protein powders. Why? It’s cheap, it tastes quite sweet and carries with it a very high nitrogen content. This will boost protein content dramatically with minimal cost. It’s about one third the price of whey protein and contains nearly twice as much nitrogen. Even though there is some evidence to support its use to elevate growth hormone levels there is a lack of clinical data. Why is it used in a protein powders today? Why not ask the supplement companies who make such products.

Protein listed on a “dry basis”

Meaningless and totally misleading to the consumer. Do you know what it means? The “the dry basis” info comes from a Certificate of Analysis that dairies use to show the amount of moisture in their raw material. I’ve never seen the point because moisture is always listed separately and usually represents about 5% of the protein powder. But what they also do list is the actual protein content “as is” it looks like this;

Protein (on dry basis) 85%

Protein (as is) 80%

Moisture 5%

If you ask the dairy which protein figure represents what’s in the product it’s the “as is” figure, it’s the same answer they gave me 20 years ago and it’s the same today. We test in house all of our suppliers proteins and it’s always the figure that matches our own test results. Why use the “dry basis” figure?? Go ask those supplement companies that use it. I know it is illegal to label a food product in the EU using such terminology so I’m guessing that those companies are just not aware of the laws that protect consumers. Labelling has to be accurate in every detail.

Other stuff

I’m sure there will be ingredients I’ve missed out, so if there are any that come to light in the coming months I’ll amend this blog with additional information.

Something is coming!

If you have read this far, then great, thank you for your time and I hope that the information has been useful. As always I’m here at Reflex Nutrition focusing on improvements and advances in sports nutrition so do not be surprised to see a new protein blend very soon with a protein content that’s minimum 80% protein derived from a unique whey isolate not found in any other protein blend in the world, micellar casein and egg with absolutely none of the ingredients mentioned above!


James Phillips

Founder of Reflex Nutrition in 1996. James Phillips has arguably more first-hand knowledge with regard to the manufacture and design of whey protein and sports nutrition products than anyone in the industry today. There is little this man does not know about supplements during his 20 years in the business.

One thought on “Look out! Are any of these ingredients lurking in your protein powder?

  1. Josh Upton says:

    Being someone that’s only started using protein whey about 6 months ago I was lucky enough that I was recommended your one stop extreme. Really good and informative article, and also great products thanks again!

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