If you want to know more about the ingredients I work with in my protein powder recipes and why, you’re in the right place. I cover in detail categories like protein powders, sweeteners, dairy, eggs, flours & grains, oils & fats, nuts & seeds, fruits & vegetables, and high impact flavor boosters.
I also give links to pages that focus on ingredients for vegan, gluten free, raw, and paleo diets, as well as for general ingredient substitution guidelines, and where to buy ingredients.
- Unflavored Whey Protein – Whey is the most common protein powder you’ll find, and I use it a lot. Unflavored whey protein isolate is what I prefer these days – plain, pure, unadulterated – it gives you complete control over the flavor, sweetness, texture, and additives (or lack thereof) in your recipes, where the flavored powders can’t. It’s also MUCH CHEAPER than any other protein powders, especially if you buy in bulk. I try to find the most natural, highest quality whey protein possible. Ideally, a grass fed, free range source with no hormones, antibiotics, or GMO feed. A tall order but, they’re out there. Also worth noting is that whey protein comes in both isolate and concentrate form, buth with their advantages and disadvantages. I’d like to do an in depth article on whey protein soon so I’ll cover that there.
- Flavored Whey Protein – For speed and convenience I do use the flavored powders on occasion, chocolate and vanilla mostly. And I have to mention my all-time favorite for shakes: Whey Gourmet’s Arctic Frappe. Not a necessity, but so good!
- Casein Protein – Casein is another dairy protein I use. It’s lactose free (double check that the brand you purchase claims this), so it might be a good choice if you’re sensitive to dairy.
- Beef And Egg Protein – Beef and egg protein powders are other animal sources, and are Paleo friendly. I’m not super familiar yet.
- Goat’s Milk Protein – I’ve never used goat’s milk protein, but I’ve heard good things about it.
- Vegan Protein – Vegan proteins like hemp, pea, brown rice protein, and vegan blends that often contain all three, are all great options, but have a stronger flavor, and react differently in recipes than whey, so I’ll have to experiment more to be able to give some specific advice.
- Soy Protein – Soy protein exists, but unless you can get organic GMO free, I’d stay clear. There are also some hormonal effects of soy products that I’m not really comfortable with too, so beware.
I do have most of these non-whey proteins and plan to do some experimenting with them soon, but as of yet I’ve been mostly working with whey, so I can’t vouch with certainty on substituting other proteins into my recipes. I know from what I’ve tried so far, that the taste of the hemp and pea proteins are a bit stronger, they might be better suited for savory applications, or chocolately tastes.
After much experimentation I have found the winning combination of sweeteners. Erythritol and Stevia, a match made in heaven!
- Erythritol – This stuff is a godsend. It’s a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in fruits like pears, melons, and grapes. It has 95% less calories than sugar, it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels or cause digestive upset like some sweeteners AND it actually functions like and tastes almost identical to sugar. (I use both the granulated and powdered forms, depending on the recipe) It is 70% as sweet as sugar per volume, so I fill in that gap with powdered stevia. Erythritol is paleo friendly, if you can find a no GMO brand. I’ll look into finding some brands I can recommend for you guys.
- Stevia – Stevia is natural and calorie free, but lacks the “gurth” so to speak of regular sugar, which is why I combine it with Erythritol. At the moment I’m using Now Foods Stevia Balance which comes in individual packs, but I’d like to look into some bulk stevia to reduce packaging waste and cost. Also worth noting, stevia is paleo friendly in it’s minimally processed forms, like stevia leaves, and pure stevia powder which is green instead of white, and has more of that bitter taste from what I hear. I’ll have to test it out and see.
Other sweet stuff I use or am not opposed to using include blackstrap molasses, honey, maple syrup, coconut palm sugar, and xylitol. I have yet to try beet sugar, but I hear it may be good as well.
- Blackstrap Molasses a wonderfully deep, rich flavor and is high in vitamin B6, iron, calcium, magnesium, and manganese.
- Honey contains powerful antioxidants, and has antiseptic and antibacterial qualities.
- Maple Syrup is full of trace minerals like manganese, B2, and zinc.
- Coconut Palm Sugar has a rich full flavor and boasts a low glycemic index, high levels of iron, zinc, calcium and potassium, along with some short chain fatty acids, polyphenols, antioxidants, and inulin.
- Xylitol has about one third less calories than sugar and even boasts antibacterial and dental benefits
Stuff I DON’T use (or as much as I can avoid doing so) include, any form of refined white sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), sucralose, and aspartame. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the negative effects of these guys, diabetes and obesity are linked to high intake of sugar, as well as HFCS, and sucralose and aspartame have side effects ranging from headaches to cancer. Not good. I do on occasion use sprinkles on cookies or cupcakes for decoration, or some granulated or powdered sugar to coat a donut. I’m only human! The goal for me isn’t perfection, but striving for optimal health. Sometimes taste and visual appeal are worth that 1 gram of sugar :)
Dairy is naturally high in protein, which makes is a perfect addition to many Protein Buff recipes. Milk, greek yogurt, cheeses like ricotta, cream cheese, cottage cheese, quark, and mascarpone go well in sweet dishes. I usually use the lower fat versions as they tend to have more protein, but whole fat is fine. I don’t have anything against using butter as a fat source either, actually love it. A lot haha.
I use eggs and liquid egg whites a lot. A great source of protein, and a vital binding agent for most baked goods. For Vegan egg substitutions, check out the Protein Baking For Vegans page.
FLOURS & GRAINS
Health-wise, the higher a grain is in protein and fiber, the better. If you can match that with a flour that has a taste and texture that works with what you’re baking, you’ve got a winning combination. Keep in mind that the higher fiber grains a slightly grittier texture, and absorb more moisture. Oat, almond, and coconut flours are my favorites, and are also gluten-free.
Quinoa, bulgur, buckwheat, amaranth, sorghum, whole grain rice, and organic corn are other healthy gluten-free flours that I’d like to try working with (more info on Gluten-Free Protein Baking here).Whole wheat, barley, and rye are fine if you don’t mind some gluten in your diet. When I’m trying to closely replicate the taste and texture of certain recipes (like sugar cookies), I use regular white flour. The closest match I’ve found is oat flour, but nothing is quite the same, sigh.
OILS & FATS
Coconut oil, cocoa butter, macadamia nut oil, nut butters and oils, butter and other dairy products are great sources of healthy fats. We’ve been somewhat programmed to fear fats. They are the most energy dense macronutrient, however, they perform essential functions in our bodies, as well as essential functions for flavor and satiety. Fats are your friend! Some things like muffins can do with less, but some things like shortbread cookies cannot. Do not be afraid.
NUTS & SEEDS
Nuts, seeds, nut butters, nut flours, and nut milks are all great ingredients to work with. They add flavor and texture, and are a great source of fiber, vitamins and minerals, protein, and healthy fats. Almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds are all excellent. Let your taste-buds be your guide.
FRUITS & VEGGIES
Pretty much any fruit or vegetable you love can be baked into these recipes stealthily, or for a boost of flavor and texture. Bananas, pumpkin, and sweet potato are favorites of mine, as they have a great consistency and moistness that make them perfect for muffins, cakes donuts etc . Beets, carrots, and zucchini are great for adding burst of color, nutrition, and texture. Even beans and lentils can be used! (pureed of course) Pretty much any berry or fruit is an option, dried fruits like craisins, raisins, goji berries, dried cherries, and dates offer sweetness, texture, and fiber.
HIGH IMPACT FLAVOR
I avoid artificial flavors and colours, but nature has provided us with plenty of options to work with. Cocoa powder, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, lemon zest, orange zest, espresso, ginger, and peppermint oil offer high impact flavor and health benefits with little to no calories. Dark, milk, and white chocolate, especially if you can find unsweetened, or stevia sweetened varieties, are great for coating bars, or melting into any recipe for some healthy fats and antioxidants.
Cacoa nibs are are broken up pieces of cocoa beans and are the purest form of chocolate you can use. There are also flavored stevia powders which I’ve been meaning to try. Generally, my only rule of thumb for this kind of thing is to aim for natural, and stay away from artificial flavors (and colors). No blue raspberry or cotton candy flavors for me :(
LINKS TO OTHER INGREDIENTS RELATED PAGES