Whey protein powder is the not-so-secret supplement that is almost non-negotiable in the fitness world. It is the highest-selling sports nutrition supplement in the world and with good reason; it’s a pretty affordable and efficient way to hit those protein numbers.
It’s also probably the highest, mainstream source of the amino acid leucine you can get packed into a single scoop and leucine is necessary for muscle growth and maintenance.
However, as the market has ballooned, so have the different types, brands and varieties of protein powder on the market, making things super confusing for the consumer in recent years.
Therefore, there’s been some debate about the best type of whey protein powder. Recently, protein powder companies have found it necessary to raise prices by about 4 times the normal amount by marketing “grass-fed” whey protein.
But does the price justify the benefits?
If you’re unfamiliar with the term of grass-fed, it pertains to meat and milk from cows that have been fed with their natural diet of grass rather than the conventional grain-based feed given to the majority of cows in farming.
This means that the cows store less fat and the fat they do store is better for our bodies than the conventional versions. In fact, studies show that grass-fed beef and milk have more nutrition than their grain-fed counterparts. They have more anti-inflammatory and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids as well as a higher Vitamin E content.
Enough said, right? Before you blast off to Whole Foods, though, there’s a major catch.
The nutrients mentioned above are found in the milk fat and beef fat.
This is important to know because, by definition, whey is a protein. High-quality protein powders are processed to isolate the protein with as little carb and fat content as possible and this is understandable given that when you pay for protein, you expect to get protein.
Okay, so. No fat means no extra nutrients. But the quality of protein in grass-fed must be higher right?
There has been no research to show that the amino acids in grass-fed whey are superior to regular whey, which makes sense given that it has not been proven that the diet of a cow affects the quality of its milk protein.
Basically, the quality of protein in grass-fed milk versus traditional milk is pretty much identical.
The bottom line? If you choose to pay extra for grass-fed whey protein powder due to ethical or environmental reasons, that’s your choice!
However, if your impression is that you’re consuming a superior product, it appears you’re mistaken.
Due to the process by which whey is made and no research showing that protein quality is superior in grass-fed whey, you won’t be getting any extra health benefits for that extra cash.