If you have gluten intolerance or celiac disease, it is important that you stick to a gluten free diet. This applies to supplements too, meaning your choice of protein powder should be free of gluten.
Being gluten free shouldn’t mean you don’t get to enjoy all the benefits of protein powder. Protein powders offer numerous benefits in your fitness journey. A good protein shake can help you to recover from exercise, build muscle mass, develop strength, and even lose weight. They also help to boost metabolism and regulate appetite.
The good news is that if you’re looking for gluten free protein powders to supplement your dietary protein intake, there is a wide range on the market. In fact, most types of protein powders are gluten free already and are okay to consume if you have gluten sensitivity.
Gluten Free Protein Powder Buying Guide
Since there is a wide range of gluten free protein powders on the market, it can be challenging to choose the right one.
Technically, all protein powder is inherently gluten free. However, you should always consult the label to ensure no ingredients were added that contain gluten to the powder.
Consider the following factors to help you narrow down to your best options.
Types of Gluten Free Protein Powder
Protein powders can be broadly classified as either animal-based or plant-based.
Animal-based proteins include whey protein and casein protein. They contain the full spectrum of essential amino acids you need in your diet. Let’s learn more:
Whey Protein Powder
Whey powder is arguably the cheapest and most common type of protein powder. It is readily available in most grocery stores and online shops. It is a dairy-based protein derived from cow’s milk. There are three main types of whey protein: hydrolyzed, isolate, and concentrate.
Whey protein concentrate is the most basic form. It contains 30% to 90% protein content and has a high level of fats and carbohydrates. Whey protein isolate is a more processed form of concentrate to remove all the fat and carbohydrates. Whey protein hydrolysate is hydrolyzed to make it more digestible.
Whey protein has shown great effectiveness in stimulating muscle growth and repair. As such, it’s quite popular among recreational gym-goers and pro-athletes. It is mainly used as a post-workout supplement, taken within 2 hours of completing your workout.
Casein Protein Powder
Like whey protein, it is derived from cow’s milk. However, it has a more complex formula that digests much slower to release essential amino acid and protein. Therefore, it is best used in situations where slow digestion and release of nutrients is preferred e.g if you will be working for a prolonged time without eating.
There has been a debate on whether it is efficient as a post-workout supplement due to the slow release of nutrients. However, some research findings indicate that it is equally efficient in providing optimum nutrition and supporting muscle recovery several hours post-workout.
Plant Based Protein Powder
Plant protein powders are commonly preferred by vegetarians and vegans looking for a vegan protein powder. The most common types are derived from soy, brown rice, hemp, and peas. The more unique types of plant-based protein powders are made from chia seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and quinoa. Some manufactures make combination protein powders, incorporating different plant sources.
This type of protein powder is easy to digest as it contains fiber. It also contains phytonutrients that are anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidizing. Studies show that it is effective at promoting muscle synthesis.
The exact nutrient composition and protein content will depend on the type of plant the protein powder is derived from. Aside from soy, which provides the full range of essential amino acids, other plant protein powders have a narrower range. Even soy protein powder has lower levels of amino acids than animal-based protein proteins.
Most soy protein powders have been stripped of fat and carbohydrates, leaving their protein content at 90-95%. Although the exact protein content varies from one brand to another, one serving delivers approximately 20 g of protein.
Pea protein has a considerably high protein content of about 15 g per serving. It is also high in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are effective at promoting muscle protein repair for faster recovery. Some studies indicate that it is as effective as whey protein in muscle building and repair.
Brown rice protein powder does not contain high levels of protein (4-6g per serving) and neither does it contain high levels of BCAAs. However, it is quite easy to digest and can help to alleviate digestive issues.
The price of gluten free protein powders varies depending on the type, quality of ingredients, complete protein content, and manufacturer’s standards.
Whey protein concentrate is usually cheaper than its isolate and hydrolyzed options. A whey protein concentrate with 50% protein content delivers good results but might not be suitable for people who are lactose intolerant.
Whey protein isolate is the purest form and the most expensive but delivers high ingredient quality. Hydrolyzed whey protein is in the mid-range price point and is most suitable if you are prone to gastrointestinal issues such as indigestion, bloating, and constipation.
Since there are more mass producers of animal-based protein powders than plant-based, animal protein is generally cheaper. Brown rice protein powder is the cheapest in the plant product category while hemp protein is the most expensive. Also, those that are made of organic and non-GMO ingredients without preservatives are pricier.
3. Ingredient Quality
When looking for a gluten free protein powder consider one that has the highest quality of ingredients. You want to go for one that uses organic, non-GMO, and ethically sourced ingredients. It should not have artificial sweetener, additives, or fillers.
Be mindful of powders that have a long list of ingredients and long ingredient names and they may contain harmful chemicals. Some protein powders may be fortified with other nutrients to enhance their nutritional value. You should always check the label to ensure none of the additives contain gluten.
4. Third-Party Testing and Certifications
The FDA does not regulate nutrition supplements. Therefore, protein supplement companies are not required to seek certification.
However, those that go out of their way to get certified and be tested by third parties indicate that they are committed to producing and selling high-quality protein supplements. Therefore, ensure to look out for a third-party testing certification label in the gluten-free protein powder you are looking for.
The most reputable certification standard is by NSF (National Sanitation Standards). It ascertains that the specific protein supplement is free of contaminants and is safe for human consumption.
Is Protein Powder Safe?
When shopping for any protein powder, look at the type of protein powder you want and see whether you are allergic to the ingredients used.
Whey and casein may cause bloating, gas or stomach upset if you are lactose sensitive or intolerant. They are also not suitable if you are keen to avoid animal proteins. Plant-based gluten-free protein powder may contain allergens such as nuts and soy. Note that some protein powders may also contain sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, which can cause bloating and diarrhea.
In terms of dosage, there are no clear guidelines on protein powder limit. Most studies show that a majority of people can tolerate high protein intake without a problem. However, to be on the safe side, it is best to keep your protein intake within your daily recommended amount depending on your calorie needs and physical activity level.
Generally, protein powders are safe. There is no evidence that indicates that they are harmful to your health. Although they are not essential, they help to boost your strength by optimizing muscle growth and repair. As with other types of supplements, consult your doctor about taking supplements.
Who Can Use a Gluten-Free Protein Powder?
Gluten-free protein powder is suitable for most adults ranging from pro-athletes to seniors. They are a convenient way to get in your protein, especially if you have a higher daily intake requirement than usual. They are most popular among athletes and lifters as they need more protein to repair muscle tissues that are damaged as a result of exercise-related hypertrophy.
However, not everyone needs to take protein powder supplements. If you can achieve your daily recommended intake dietary, you do not have to use protein powders. They are discouraged among teens unless for those who are involved in rigorous sports.
Gluten-free protein powders offer you the benefits of regular protein supplements without the downside associated with gluten. There is a wide range of products available on the market, including plant-based and animal-based options. Consider the factors discussed above to determine which type is best suited for you.