What is the best protein powder for insulin resistance?
What is insulin resistance?
Insulin resistance, also known as impaired insulin sensitivity, is a condition that occurs when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver do not respond well to insulin, a hormone made in your pancreas that regulates blood glucose (sugar) levels. Insulin resistance can lead to elevated blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia), which, over time, can lead to prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes.
If you are dealing with insulin resistance and looking to preventing diabetes, your diet can make a big difference. Eating the right balance of foods can help keep your insulin and blood sugar levels in check. In a nutshell, you should aim to eat less unhealthy fat, sugar, and simple carbohydrates, and more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean meats.
When it comes to protein powder, look for a balanced nutrition profile. Having a balanced nutrition profile means that it contains fats, and protein, and carbohydrates. Ideally, these would be complex (as opposed to simple) carbohydrates because simple carbohydrates can trigger blood sugar spikes. How to tell the difference? As a rule of thumb, less sugar and more fiber means complex. More sugar and less fiber means simple.
Does protein powder spike insulin?
The right protein powder can be a great addition to an insulin resistant diet. That said, not all protein powders are created equal, and some may actually cause hyperinsulinemia (abnormally high levels of insulin). Protein concentrates and isolates are the main reason why this happens. We will not go into the details, but protein concentrates and isolates undergo heavy mechanical and chemical processing before becoming protein powder. The end result is an ingredient stripped of everything but the protein.
While high-protein, low-carb foods like these are low on the glycemic index, they can still measure high on the insulin index. In other words, while protein concentrates and isolates do not spike blood sugar the way that most carbohydrates do, they can still result in an insulin spike. This is because protein has an insulinotropic effect (it promotes insulin secretion). You should therefore choose a protein powder made with minimally-processed real food protein sources. Our protein powders, for example, are made with egg whites and almonds. Egg whites are simply pasteurized and dried before becoming protein powder. Almonds are just roasted, pressed, and ground. Minimally-processed ingredients like these are a safe alternative to protein concentrates and isolates because they still contain the healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and other nutrients that keep insulin in check.
Why drink wholesome?
Every single ingredient in our protein powder (not just the protein) is a minimally-processed real food. Most protein powders, on the other hand, are made with ingredients that look nothing like real food. Keep reading to learn more about the dangers of ingredients like these.
Avoid food additives.
Again, most ready-to drink protein shakes and many protein powders are full of food additives. Although not necessarily bad for you in small quantities, additives can add up quickly (especially if you drink a protein shake every day) and cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, and stomach pain. This is because food additives are, generally speaking, hard to digest. They sit in your gut for longer than food should, which gives your gut bacteria more time to eat. As they eat, these bacteria produce gas, which causes bloating and stomach pain. Gas also slows colonic transit (the amount of time it takes food to travel through the colon), which can lead to constipation.
In the long term, food additives can disrupt regulatory pathways in the intestine, which can result in the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and systemic inflammatory disorders. Artificial sweeteners are among the most harmful additives in the long term as they alter the composition of your gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food). This can lead to serious, chronic GI problems and widespread inflammation. Some sweeteners, especially sugar alcohols like xylitol, are also poorly absorbed by the gut (meaning they feed those hungry gut bacteria) and cause diarrhea because they draw water into your intestine. Now you finally have something to blame for those post-protein shake trips to the bathroom!
Here is a list of the most common food additives in protein powder:
acacia gum, acesulfame potassium, artificial flavors, aspartame, carrageenan, cellulose gum, dextrin, dextrose, erythritol, gellan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, inulin, locust bean gum, “natural” flavors*, maltodextrin, rice syrup solids, soy lecithin, silica, sucralose, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum, xylitol
When it comes to identifying food additives, go with your gut. 😉 As a rule of thumb, they are the ingredients that you cannot pronounce. Food additives are not the only thing to look out for when buying protein powder for insulin resistance, however. There are several other ingredients that can upset your stomach.
egg whites, coconut, cocoa, monk fruit
Protein Matrix Comprised of (Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Micellar Casein, Milk Protein Isolate, Egg Albumen, Glutamine Peptides), Polydextrose, Sunflower Creamer (Sunflower Oil, Corn Syrup Solids, Sodium Caseinate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Tocopherols), Natural and Artificial Flavor, MCT Powder (Medium Chain Triglycerides, Nonfat Dry Milk, Disodium Phosphate, Silicon Dioxide), Lecithin, Cellulose Gum, Salt, Yellow 5, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Papain, Bromelain.
*This is the actual ingredient list of one of the best-selling protein powders in the United States.
Dairy-based proteins like whey and casein, which are byproducts of cheese and yogurt production, are known to cause digestive issues, especially for people with lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Over one in three Americans are lactose intolerant, and the prevalence of IBS is somewhere between 10 and 15 percent in the United States. It follows that you may be lactose intolerant or have IBS and not even know it. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a poorly understood condition, and it is unclear why dairy triggers symptoms. Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, is clearly understood. People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest lactose, the sugar in dairy. As you just learned, partially digested food feeds the bacteria in your gut, which produce gas.
Avoid protein concentrates and isolates.
Finding an additive-free, dairy-free protein powder is hard. Finding an additive-free, dairy-free protein powder made with real foods is next to impossible. Why? Most protein powders are made with protein concentrates and isolates, which are listed on the ingredient list as “pea protein,” for example, as opposed to “peas.” As you now know, protein concentrates and isolates undergo heavy mechanical and chemical processing before becoming protein powder. Sometimes, manufacturers use chemical solvents like hexane to isolate (separate) the protein from the food. This means that what you end up putting into your body looks nothing like real food. The potential problem here is that your gut might not know what to do with ingredients like these. Your gut prefers the real thing, not some heavily-processed imitation, so protein concentrates and isolates might be hard to digest for people with sensitive stomachs.
Again, instead of protein concentrates or isolates, we use egg whites and almonds. Unless you have a sensitivity or allergy to eggs, egg white protein is the best protein for people with sensitive stomachs. Egg whites are low in fiber, low-FODMAP, and have the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of any whole food. Our customers have experienced fewer digestive issues with egg white protein than with any other type of protein.
If you cannot eat eggs, try our almond protein powder. Unlike protein concentrates or isolates, almonds contain lots of healthy fats, fiber, and other nutrients like calcium and vitamin E. We prefer almonds to other minimally-processed plant protein sources because they are more gut-friendly. Research suggests that almonds can improve the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome. Research also suggests that almonds possess prebiotic properties, meaning they stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut.
“I just finished my first bag and ordered 2 more! I Iove this stuff! I have IBS and every protein powder hurts my stomach…except drink wholesome!”
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.