What to look for when buying a (whey) protein shake?

Buying a protein shake can be difficult nowadays with all those shops offering many choices in different kinds of proteins. Whey protein is the most bought products and for a reason. Whey concentrate is the basic form you can buy and is the cheapest. But you can also buy whey isolate, hydrolysate or a mix from 2 or 3 of these products. Casein for a slower digestion of the protein/release of amino acids to the bloodstream is also available and many vegetable proteins for the lactose intolerant or vegans.

Whey protein

What kind of whey protein do you want? Whey concentrate will give you the most bang for the buck. Whey Isolate has a higher protein content, that is if they add the correct amount, and contains a lower fat and sugar content (lactose). Whey hydrolysate can be made from different kind of proteins (also from Casein). Made from isolate has the same composition as non-hydrolysed whey isolate, but then with shorter amino acid chains (peptides). The degree of hydrolysis indicates how small the peptides are (amount of amino acids per chain) but the more bitter it will taste. The smaller the peptides the faster your body will digest it, go in to your blood and reach your muscles.

Vegetable proteins

There also are a variety of other proteins not derived from milk available like soy protein, pea, wheat, rice and so on. These are vegetable proteins and have a less complete amino acid profile, but can be combined to adjust this. New studies also tell that a higher intake can be enough to reach the same anabolic effect from whey protein. These vegetable proteins can also be added to your whey protein and have to be listed on the label. They are cheaper than whey, but lack lactose, so for some of us a good alternative. But if you buy whey protein that is what you want without other unnecessary substances added.


The amount of sugar added is also something to look out for. Most companies use articical sugars like sucraloseacesulfame K or from plants like stevia. But dextrose, sucrose or fructose also can be added. The sugar content on the label is not always correct and depending on where it is placed on the ingrediënt list you can guess what amount is added. The rule is that what is stated first is present in a higher amount than what follows.


No taste has the highest protein percentage because of no added flavoring agents. Still, they can have a lower protein content if the nitrogen analysis has been done on dry matter, added fillers or amino acids. Then comes the taste banana followed by vanilla -> strawberry -> tropical flavors -> chocolate. The reason for this is the amount of used flavoring to create a good taste and also added (artificial) sugars of course. You can read more about this here. This is why we test the flavor vanilla and have set a maximal deviation of 7%. The higher the protein percentage with the taste vanilla the higher your other tastes will be. 

Crude protein or dry matter

Companies sometimes tell you on the ingrediënt list, in very small letters, most of the time, or not, that their protein measurement has been done on dry matter. Your whey will be heated till all of the moisture is gone. When you measure this with a nitrogen analysis you get a protein percentage 4 to 5% higher then there is in your whey. You can read more about this here. We always test on crude protein, so you know what you are really getting.

Added amino acids (Amino Spiking)

The reason why our website exists, the adding of amino acids to achieve an artificially higher protein content when measured with the nitrogen analysis. Sometimes they are stated on the ingredient list, but amino acids like glycine can be used as a flavoring agent (tastes sweet) and not listed separately but under flavor. When stated it depends where in the ingredient list it is stated. As i said before what comes first will be present in a higher amount than what follows. If it is stated on the ingredient list your protein content will almost always be lower (example). This is because a nitrogen analysis will be done on a finished product with all the ingredïents listed in it. And the amino acid profile on your label comes from the unprocessed protein.

Beef protein/Collagen

As you have read in the Amino Spiking article beef protein is always collagen hydrolysate what is made from animal skin or bone. They will add a lot of amino acids to compensate the bad amino acid profile and are listed on the label. But they can also add this to your whey or other proteins to again artificially create a higher protein content on the nitrogen analysis (the standard used to check the quality of protein products). So check the ingredient list for added collagen or 'beef protein'.


Creatine is an organic substance that is produced from amino acids in your body. It has a very high nitrogen content and when added to your whey will amount to an incorrect higher protein content. Only with an amino acid analysis in combination with a nitrogen analysis can uncover this addition when it is not stated on the ingredient list. So when it is stated on your ingredient list you can expect to have a lower protein content than the label tells you.

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Article Publish Date: 
Wednesday, May 18, 2016