‘Whey’ing In: Are Protein Powders Paleo?

This is a story about a guy I know – we’ll call him ‘Magnus’ (he’d like that).  He likes to lift heavy things and has been known to grunt and swear while lifting these heavy things.  When he opens his (massive) gym bag it’s like taking a trip to GNC (if GNC also sold chalk) – there’s the pre-workout drink mix, the during workout potion, the protein packed post-workout magic muscle builder, a plethora of other random pills/powders and the mandatory ‘shaker bottle’.  Let’s just say ‘Magnus’ is VIP at GNC.  Now, I’m guessing you all have a picture of ‘Magnus’ in your head right now and maybe he looks a little like the dude on the cover of this month’s Muscle & Fiction Magazine…  Well, I hate to break it to you but ‘Magnus’ stands about 5’11” and likely tips the scale at a solid 160 (after lunch).  Yeah, downright burly – or something…

Alright, so my guess is you all know at least one ‘Magnus’ and even if you aren’t “that guy or gal” there is a pretty good chance you too own a ‘shaker bottle’ and massive tub of some type of protein powder.  Why am I assuming this?  One of the MOST common questions I get and see goes something like this, “What’s a good Paleo protein powder?” or  “What protein powder do you recommend?”  Well folks, here I am, once again ‘raining on your parade’.  Now granted in some situations – few and rare – a protein powder and/or liquid meal may have a place; but for the general population that’s Crossfitting, going jogging, lifting weights, etc these magic powders are not all they’re ‘shook’ up to be and in every case REAL FOOD is always the BEST choice!

Now you’re all thinking, but they sell it at my gym and everyone else says it’s good and it works for muscle building, fat loss, leaning out, recovery, energy, weight gain, insert your goal here___________.  That right there should be your first clue – one powder/shake that fits everyone’s goals – how does that work?  Sure, there are ‘lite’ and ‘mega-growth’ formulas – but when it comes down to the stick – they all ‘shake’ out about the same.  One may use a sugar substitute instead of sugar or have a different amino acid breakdown, but in truth you can’t trust what the label says anyway…

Supplement ‘Facts’

Let’s look at the label – sure it says it has 20 grams of protein, all the essential amino acids, is 100% ‘pure’ – blah, blah, blah…  Unfortunately, what you think you’re getting and what you’re actually getting can be two very different things.  Protein powders fall under the realm of ‘supplements’ in the eyes of the government and therefore are not regulated nor checked for purity or content.  A Consumer Reports investigation uncovered concerning amounts of arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium  in several well known and darn right popular protein powders – we’re talking ‘exceeding maximum’ pharmacologically deemed ‘safe’ numbers here.  And do you really know what else could be in there?  There have been several cases and reports of seemingly innocent ‘protein powders’ being contaminated with anabolic steroids or like substances which have resulted in positive ‘doping’ test results.

Have you ever went to the meat counter and asked the butcher to cut you off a big slab of whey or cracked open an egg to be greeted with a white powder?  I’m guessing it’s a great big negatory on that one.  Believe it or not protein powders are a processed food.  Yes, you heard that correctly – these powders are far from a ‘natural phenomenon’.  You cannot milk a cow and get a powder, city kids you’re just going to have to trust me on this one.  So, where does the powder come from?  In the case of whey, it’s often a waste product of cheese making and unless you’re getting the super pricey, meat is a better deal, protein powder from grassfed animals you’re likely getting ‘grain-fed waste’.  Let’s also consider the process that makes the whey into a powder (it’s liquid in real life…) – this process be it whey or egg white often utilizes extremely high heat (like higher than cooking).  This ‘hot air’ denatures the protein to an extent that may increase its carcinogenic load.  And hold on, there’s more!!  Some of these powders even come with some bonus MSG!!  Remember that rule about food that comes in a package, needs a label and can live on a shelf for an extended period of time?  Apply that here.

But I Need A Post Workout Meal?!?!

Relax!!  Yes, the post workout meal is important but consider the goal of that meal along with your overall goals.  The primary purpose of post pain party fuel is to restore the muscle protein and glycogen that was depleted during the workout and to promote recovery.  If getting/staying lean and enhancing health and longevity are also on your list of ‘things to do’ – then liquid food will not the best choice make.  Why?  Two-words: Insulin Response.  Granted after you workout your insulin sensitivity is heightened and it takes less of it to clear the post workout meal glucose from the blood; but this phenomenon should be taken advantage of not hindered by a liquid induced blood sugar surge.  Liquids require less processing and digestion, so instead of the slow steady blood sugar rise that happens with a dose of starchy carb and some protein from real food sources; the ‘shaker bottle’ cocktail results in a zero to 60 increase in blood glucose levels.  This pedal to the metal rise requires insulin fast and even though sensitivity is heightened the end result is more insulin being produced to clear the sugar bombarded blood.  This folks – is NOT what we’re going for!  If you find this whole post workout eating thing a whole lot of confusing definitely check out Robb’s post about the ins and outs of the game.  But understand that you can’t do better than ‘real food’ regardless of what your friends or the label on a tub of powder say.

So, what’s a ‘Magnus’ to do??  Put the shaker bottle away and stop paying for the college educations of the “I work on commission” GNC salespersons kids and “JUST CHEW IT”!  Your body, taste buds and wallet will be MUCH happier in the end.

What are you ‘whey’ting for?

Categories: Athletic Performance, Fitness, Paleo Athletes, Paleo Diet Basics, Weight Loss


Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation

Have you heard about the Paleo diet and were curious about how to get started? Or maybe you’ve been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? Then Robb Wolf’s 30 Day Paleo Transformation is for you.


  1. Swim says

    What about “Arbonne Protein Shakes”. A friend who is Paleo told me, YES, Arbonne powders are definetly paleo. What is your opinion?

    • Amy Kubal says

      Protein Shakes period, are not ‘paleo’ – consider your goals, and as ALWAYS, REAL FOOD is the BEST choice! Shakes can be convenient and work in a few (RARE) situations – but regardless of the product, they are not the BEST choice. Arbonne is a ‘vegan’ protein the ingredients aren’t listed on the site and my guess is it is a pea, soy or rice protein – none of which are ‘paleo’. Sorry, I’m just full of ‘bad’ news!!

      • says

        Hi Amy

        Much is being said here, and all very interesting.

        1) What is your take on hemp protein
        2) I agree with one of the post with conveience and time being an issue, so what would you recommend for post workout in these situations.
        3) I might give babby food ago, my 2yr old daugther eats it and she’s very healthy. Any particular brand you recommend.
        4) I made a early morning shake this morning, with almond milk, peanut butter, bannana and 1 raw egg. Would this be considered still paleo or not.

        I’m trying to get into this paleo diet, but my working pattern and busy life style makes it difficult. I could do with some advise and guidance, I agree with so much that is being said on this post about eating real food though.

        • Amy Kubal says

          Hemp protein – NO!! If you MUST use a powder 100% Egg white or 100% grass fed whey. I will be doing a post on convenient post workout food options soon.

          • Brenden says

            Soon would be great! I work super early and something quick would be great for those occasions I cannot prep the night before.

          • Brenden says

            Thanks Amy! This is a great post. Personally I would rather eat real food anyway. Keep up the awesome work.

          • says

            thanks, Amy– do you have a grass-fed whey that you recommend? I took my family off whey protein when we started doing just real foods over a year ago…but just recently my 4 year old has refused to eat eggs or anything protein (or meat) for breakfast. argh. I was making him smoothies with eggs, greens, etc…but can’t get enough protein into them. I don’t want him getting into the habit of smoothies as meals, but once a week it really helps with time and frustration. Thanks for your help!

          • Amy Kubal says

            I haven’t tried very many of them – but I’ve heard good things about Mark Sisson’s Primal Fuel!

          • Valentine Joseph says

            OH CRAP! I am currently using Hemp Protein, because I thought it would be good. No wonder my stomach is not happy. Oh well, I have to finish it and will switch to either grassfed whey or egg protein

          • Bobby says

            Can you explain why you said Hemp protein – No!!

            Seems like of all the proteins listed, it’s the closest to a whole food. It’s a complete protein, offers 11-15grams of protein per serving along with a host of good amino acids.

            The hemp protein I get is literally just crushed hemp, you dont get closer to nature than that and occasionally I’ll just use the hemp seeds for the nutty flavor.

      • Sara Priebe says

        Arbonne uses pea, brown rice and cranberry protein in their shakes. No soy, no whey. Still maybe not Paleo but definitely good for you.

        • Tracy says

          Re: pea protein – just had a naturopath (who I am seeing for thyroid stuff) ask me to have a protein shake each morning, and she gave me pea protein. HUGE digestive upset. I scrapped it.

          Protein shakes seem like a waste of time – why not just eat?

      • jim morrison says

        I do not believe it makes much difference, whether you have a meal from a blender or eat out of a dish. For example. My lunch time shake was paleo protein. I added half a cup of oats, and a some flax peanut butter. Now to me, that is highly nutritious. Once solid food hits the stomach, it all turns to liquid anyways. While solid food may take longer to get to the blood, once it does hit the blood, it gets in the same way as a liquid meal would. the liquid meal just gets to the blood faster. I see no difference between eating oatmeal and blending it a shake. I think it all comes down to quality of the ingredients, not whether it’s solid or liquid.

  2. Chris says

    You’re missing the main point – convenience. I don’t know about you (or other fortunate people who are able to eek out a career in fitness), but most of us:

    1. Already devote a significant portion of our free-time each day to preparing meals; and

    2. I don’t live next door to my gym. Getting home is not a quick jaunt, and for muscle repair post workout, time is money.

    I agree, in a perfect world, a PWO steak-and-sweet-potato dinner would be ideal. But we (or at least, I) do not live in that world. The best I could do would be a luke-warm equivalent in a tupperware box, probably tasting pretty awful.

    You’re also missing that the PWO-window (as much as I hate the term) is the best time of day to get in your 20 (of the 80/20 rule): would you disagree?

    • Amy Kubal says

      I completely understand the convenience factor – but there are options such as packets of tuna or salmon, jerky, cans of sardines, baby food packets of sweet potatoes are awesome and portable in a pinch.

      What people need to understand is that all the shakes and powders aren’t a replacement for real food and that they may be a major hindrance to achieving their goals. Also, with the powders, you can never be sure of what you are actually getting or the quality of the protein. Ultimately it’s a personal choice – but with a little effort you can make it happen ‘powder’ free!

      • says

        I agree, it is possible! But to elaborate on my final point above (the 80/20 rule):

        1. Would you not agree that exercise & and average diet is more ‘healthful’ than a perfect diet and no exercise? And following on from this, would you agree that the idea of “rewarding oneself” with a dose of all the good stuff post-workout, as well as being muscle-building, forms a strong effort-reward relationship with exercise, thus making the average trainee more likely to look forward to the gym?

        2. Also, given that 95%+ (I’d wager) of paleo dieters indulge from time-to-time, would you alos agree that the best time to get that insulin spike, is immediately post workout?

        3. Finally, I know there is no research on this topic, but doesn’t it make sense that binging on sugar PWO (and knowing you can do this after every workout) makes you less likely to ‘cheat’ at other, more harmful, times of the day? (anyone who’s tried a keto diet will attest to looking forward to the weekend carb-load)

        Given all of the above, unless you’re training for Mr Universe or something, the pros seem to outweigh the cons. This is of course, for most of us, not those who insist on acheiving Paleo Nirvana 24/7.

        Not to disagree with you or anything – they definietely aren’t Paleo. But your article seems to go beyond answering the question, and its this bit I have disagreements with :)

        (as a side, did you seriously just suggest baby food?! :/)

        – Chris

        • Amy Kubal says


          1.) Yes the 80/20 rule is valid – but many people ‘rely’ on protein powders and shakes with the belief that they will build muscle, aid in weight/fat loss and/or provide an adequate replacement for real food on any occasion. I’m not going to agree or disagree on the diet vs exercise point as that is debatable. You can’t out train a crappy diet – no amount of exercise can compensate for cruddy food.

          2.) Yes – but I would not necessarily consider a protein shake an ‘indulgence’.

          3.) That is the best time to introduce sugar – but sugar type and form matter too. Starchy carbs will beat out simple sugars every time. As far as less likely to ‘cheat’ later – consuming liquid foods and sweet foods often sets you up for more cravings and hunger later – so it may end up hurting more than helping.

          I stand by my argument that REAL FOOD ALWAYS is the best option – and I have had many clients that have been successful removing it and have and are seeing faster and more rewarding results, not to mention saving money that can be used to be high quality food.

          And yes – I did suggest baby food and try it before you pass judgement. It’s darn tasty. :)

    • says

      What we appear to be “missing” is a desire to pander to the masses and say “yes, this stuff is great! Make PWO shake YOUR priority…”

      The reason why we generally do no recommend them is sub-optimal body-composition and results. The hand-wringing about PWO meal timing is critical for one population and one population ONLY: competitive athletes. Do you have time to eat: breakfast, lunch and dinner? Yep, me too. So, that’s what I do, Mat Lalonde does…not saying it is the “only” way but unless you are running sub-10% bodyfat and really pushing the performance envelope, stick with solid food. OR Ignore our dumb-asses for trying to make folks lives easier…follow muscle & fiction and T-nation.

      • says

        Well aware that you can’t answer my question right now due to the awesome fact that you just had a baby, congrats by the way. So, I’m going to asked this more broadly. You made a remark that the meal timing stuff was mostly bullshit if you’re not a competitive athlete, then does stuff like “pre-workout” and “post-workout” supplementation of protein really matter for the 3 day a week weight lifter who just wants to look good naked? Thank for a reply from anyone.

      • Sam says

        Just let people have a post workout shake if they want.

        It’s not going to be detrimental, it’s just not optimum (would need serious research to confirm or deny, especially as whey scores at the top of the PDCAAS table).

      • Crystal says

        So, I am confused. Is there an answer for competitive athletes. I feel like we are always in a separate category that no one wants to address. Scrolling through the answers but I don’t see an answer for those of us competing at a national or even international level. I am sure many collegiate athletes might want to know as well. There are a lot of us, and nutritionist are leading us down the path to marketed goods. I know many who are trying to navigate the science of it all while maintaining a busy schedule, but its difficult and the people available for hire don’t know jack.

        • Amy Kubal says

          There are definitely situations that call for this stuff!! Endurance athletes and hard-chargers may have a place for this. Real food is always the best option – but in some cases high quality supplementation is totally acceptable!

  3. Christo says

    Grassfed,cold processed,contaminate free whey is available.
    I’m a fan of Hemp concentrate(no fiber,water soluble) and pumpkin seed protein,both organic.

  4. Kim says

    I just made the decision to switch off the ‘liquid-foods’ earlier this week so your post comes at an ideal time (reconfirming my decision). I still have a ways to go to lean-out so I won’t be doing carbs PWO. Was thinking about having some grilled chicken on hand in the fridge, but wasn’t sure how much to consume. 4oz? Less? Do I need to add a little bit of good fat in there as well? Yesterday, I used a 2oz can of tuna. Thanks!

    • Amy Kubal says


      Awesome decision! And post workout just protein is great since you are looking to lean out some more. Go with a 3-4 ounce (palm sized) serving of protein post workout and adding fat is not necessary here. Real Food FTW!!! :)

      • Kim says

        Just a quick update…I’ve been off the protein shakes for a week and I’ve already dropped 4lbs. Sure, it’s less convenient, but I’ve also seen some improvements in my gut health (guessing the dairy was bothering me) so it’s all worth it.

  5. Phocion Timon says

    Eh, I work in a mobile laboratory in the oil fields of Texas and protein powders are very, very convenient since cooking and clean-up is a pain in the neck. Adding coconut milk or coconut fat and maybe a bit of raw liver or egg yolks to the mix makes for a good breakfast.

    I don’t use it every day and protein powders are definitely not paleo but it works for me.

  6. Mdavid says

    If you type paleo protein shake into google you get directed towards Mark’s Daily Apple where amongst other supplements sells a paleo “friendly” post wod meal replacement powder.

    Haven’t tried it personally so I can’t speak to quality/taste but definitely worth investigating before lumping all protein powders into the “unsafe/unhealthy/worst choice” scenario.

    • Amy Kubal says

      Mark’s Primal Protein is by and far one of the very best out there – based on goals and circumstances it can fit sometimes. But real food is ALWAYS your BEST option!!

      • Glenn Whitney says

        Hi Amy. What about branched chain amino acids in capsule form? L. Cordain and J. Friel seem to be big advocates in The Paleo Diet for Athletes…

        • Amy Kubal says

          BCAA’s can be a great addition – it really depends on your goals as to if you need them or not. And meat is a GREAT source of BCAA’s!

      • hilarydanette says

        I am Primal and switching over to Paleo. I do drink Mark Sisson’s Primal Fuel and LOVE it! In the morning I have a hard time eating. I have to force myself to get food down even if I’m hungry. I have found Primal Fuel to be the perfect solution. I put two scoops in the blender with a tablespoon of coconut oil and 12 oz of water and down the hatch it goes. I feel great afterwards, have no stomach upset (which I’ve always had from whey protein), it tastes soooo good, and keeps me from being hungry until lunch time. I also find that I don’t need tea or coffee or anything in the morning to give me energy. I feel amazing after Primal Fuel.

        I’m trying to give up dairy and having a heck of a time of it. Wheat, grains, sugar, no problem. But, dairy, man oh man, giving it up is hard! Advice or tips appreciated!

          • Tom says

            I’m giving up Dairy in stages…. First the Fat…. — no cheese or cream or butter — Second the Sugar — no yogurt or milk… and Last the Protein — No Whey or cottage cheese. The only Dairy I haven’t cut out is Whey. And man o man am I trying. The protein does a really great job of satisfying hunger, and I have a big problem with that. I’m 165lbs… so 165g of protein a day… Cooking that much fresh lean meat is difficult. I’m going to have to start eating pork loin or turkey breast for breakfast. 2 eggs just aren’t cutting it.

        • Robyn says

          I agree. Cold turkey is the only way. I would have ALMOST rather died than to give up my Greek yogurt (I added stevia and fresh berries……oh boy….) but I cannot believe how much happier my digestion has been since going strict Paleo….NO DAIRY. Here’s my replacement. :)

          2 TBS HOT water
          Mix in cocoa powder to taste (I like a lot :)
          Add 1 cup sugar-free So-Delicious Coconut Milk (it’s sweetened with stevia and monk fruit-45 cals/cup)
          Heat until preferred temperature
          Add a dash of sea salt and…
          I add a bit more stevia: NuNaturals Liquid Vanilla Stevia

          Now I know that I just said I was “strict” Paleo, and many purists will chime in to say that cocoa powder (and probably all of the other ingredients!!) is NOT Paleo, and there are the many who WILL say it is Paleo….however, I am living this lifestyle to enhance my health and well-being. It’s not my religion. In fact, I would follow Paleo but still eat corn if my body would allow me to. : ( My body doesn’t have a problem with cocoa, so although the debate will rage on whether it’s ‘allowable’ or not, I choose to indulge occasionally. :) And, since I have also given up my protein shakes (this used to be my ice-cream) the Hot Cocoa keeps me somewhat sane. I can even do with a half-cup sometimes. Again, I’m sure many of you could tear this recipe and its ingredients to shreds. But, it works for me, and might work for someone else out there just trying to feel better, but still enjoy life a little! 😉

  7. says

    I get the same question a lot at my gym and I constantly see people brand new to Crossfit and working out, that are taking pre, during AND post-workout supplements. Then they complain about grass fed beef costing 2 bucks more than supermarket crap… I can’t believe how much some protein powders cost and how many people drink them for their sweet fix. Great post Amy.

  8. Dave Sill says

    I think Mark Sisson’s Primal Fuel is a reasonably trustworthy meal replacement. No, not strictly paleo, but a good compromise.

    • Amy Kubal says

      Agreed – the problem comes when people start to rely on this stuff and it becomes a ‘regular’ habit!

      • Jim Ironman says

        I think for those who insist on useing protein powder that Primal Fuel may be a good one but I bet with some research there are better out there. Mark’s has Guar Gum and Sucrose.

        I tried Protein Powder for convience and I started bulking up real quick. Stregnth gains were nice but I want to be lean and look good with my shirt off so I stopped the Powder. I may do a strength cycle this winter and may use some Powder and coconut milk.

    • TLucido says

      Dr. Mercola has a wonderful protein powder that is grassfed and cold processed that you should check out. As far as I can tell it is all natural. I do not use it anymore but for those who insist on using a protein shake it is a definate good one from my perspective. It also has chia and probiotics. Low in carbs and no artificial sugar.

  9. says

    what about those who are not chasing fat loss? In the world of athlete athletics fast processing and easy digestion is crucial. yes they are not for everyone but for those that need to recover asap in order to race or continue training hard the next day liquid nutrition wins

    • Amy Kubal says

      In the case of endurance athletes and those concerned primarily with performance there can be a place for this stuff – but as always, real food wins!

  10. grayson says

    Doesn’t it depend on what your goals are? Having accicentally lost a bunch of weight (now too close to my fiancee!) I am lifting really heavy weights for the first time in my life and looking to really add some bulk. In the past it was all maintenance for GPP etc and surf training. From all I’ve read and heard on the podcast, and as an above poster stated, the post-workout nutrition window is pretty small. I make a shake with coco milk, as high quality whey protein as I can get (I think!), and a banana for s little carbohydrate. I do this only on big days (doing 5-3-1 so 4 days/wk on the first 3 weeks of cycle).

    Then I relax, put some tunes on, read a little but, maybe have a nor-cal marg, and start talking to my sweetie about whats for dinner, instead of stressing to get my meal in within the first 20 minutes. Am I really missing the point here?

    • Amy Kubal says

      Grayson! It totally depends on what your goals are! And your health etc. Real food is always going to be best, but in some situations a HIGH QUALITY protein powder can be okay. It’s just not something to rely on!

  11. says


    I get the protein and starchy carbs post-WO, but what about fat? I tend to do whole foods post workout, e.g. meat and potatoes, but sometimes I’ve made the chuck roast with a few marrow bones and added butter to the potatoes. Would a high fat content in the post workout meal necessarily be a good or bad thing?


    • Amy Kubal says


      The fat will slow the absorption of the protein and carbs so the delivery won’t be quite as fast, it will also help mitigate the insulin response. Consider your goals on this one – weight gain, weight/fat loss, recovery, etc. Different strokes for different folks!

  12. says

    I’m libertarian on the matter, eat what you think is best. I suspect years of seeing the muscle magazine images with muscle freaks holding protein shakes really gets burned into the culture. I can cook eggs in less time than it takes for me to wash out a blender. But whatever the protein shake is, it ain’t Paleo.

  13. says

    Wow, I get the distinct impression you’re saying real food is the best option. 😉

    I sometimes have a protein shake and banana after a workout. Other times it’s a pound of beef and a pound of sweet potato. Real food 90+% of the time, but occasionally I just want that shake.

    No fooling myself though. The leanest and best performing I’ve been it was nothing but real food, 100% of the time.

    Human nature is to seek absolutes. Even though you’re saying it isn’t the best option, people are hearing “Don’t eat it ever, it’s awful and will kill you.”

    If there’s a continuum on which Twinkies, Doritos and a Coke are a -10 while salmon and sweet potato are a +10, I’d put protein powder on the positive side…just not very high.

    • Amy Kubal says

      Bill!! You got the message! SWEET!! 😉

      And you are totally right, on a continuum protein powder would come in somewhere in the low positives and thanks for ‘keeping it real’!! :)

  14. says

    Great post! We at the Primal Grind struggle to help people understand that real food is their best post workout option, we sell hard-boiled eggs and organic sausages but we are usually at fitness events and are located in a gym and the demand for protein shakes is astronomical! So we started offering Shakes made with Mark Sisson’s Primal Fuel protein powder. People are all over it no matter how much we recommend having the real food instead. The comments I am reading from this post just confirm this and I find it fascinating to see how people are addicted to the liquid protein notion! Thank you for starting the discussion!

    • Amy Kubal says

      You’re welcome and keep pushing REAL FOOD!!! The ‘shaker bottle’ addiction is strong. I’m thinking we may need to start a support group for some of these hardcore junkies… 😉

  15. Todd says

    Amy, I’m not sure I understand. When deciding whether to use a protein supplement
    do goals matter? Does the quality of the protein matter? Where does protein rate compared to say real food?

    Nevermind, I’m just going to go mainline the stuff anyway…

  16. Jenn says

    Hi Amy,

    Quick question, I just started Crossfit training and the Paleo diet. I have my breakfast , lunch and snack down. My only issue is dinner on the days that I crossfit (3-4D/week). I only have 1 1/2 hours before training and then it’s 8pm time for PWO eating.

    What should I eat before and after? My assumption is before: carb, protein & fat? After: Protein only? I appreciate any help you can provide. My main goal right now is to lose 20-30lbs and gain strength.

    Thank you in advance!

    • Amy Kubal says


      You need to figure out what works best for you – how hungry are you before the workout, what and how much can you eat without it affecting the quality of your workout? Maybe do 1/2 of your dinner before the workout and the other 1/2 after. If you’d like help dialing it all in I can help you with a plan, but I’ll need to know more about you and your situation!

      • says

        I’ve cut out Post WO shakes in favor of real food. And agree it was not necessary.

        That being said, still not sure about what to do pre workout. The past few months I have kept my 10 grams of BCAA protein powder shakes plus a cup of coffee (only cup of the day), since I am working out first thing in the morning.

        I dont have much time, and haven’t eaten anything since dinner the night before. Solid food does seem to slow me down a bit, and so a small meal might be good, but I read that fat and carbs pre workout can stunt the growth hormone response (http://healthcorrelator.blogspot.com/2011/12/protein-powders-before-fasted-weight.htm).

        The article recommends egg whites from boiled eggs. Any suggestions?

        • Amy Kubal says

          Are you hungry before you workout? Will food prior make you sick? Again, what are your goals? Working out fasted is totally okay – but if you feel like you’re going to pass out eat something a little protein and carb to fuel your workout.

          • says

            I do usually wake up hungry. After the coffee, my hungry mostly goes away and definitely wakes me up. In terms of food,

            Right now I’m about 6 foot, 158 pounds. Pretty lean but still have some flab aroun my belly, so currently trying to lean out a bit more (been going into a caloric deficit). During the summer I plan on maintaining, and then this fall/winter doing a bit of gain for more strength.

            I can definitely workout fasted, and prefer that then stuffing myself. If I was too eat light, still stick to protein and carbs.. similar to post? Since both of these meals will constitute as my breakfast, should I just split the meal between the two?

            My thinking is to go back to fasted workout. If I notice a drop in performance, start with small pre workout meal. Maybe cycle between:

            – egg and 1/2 banana
            – ounce of smoked salmon/chicken/turkey and small orange
            – jerky and 1/2 apple.

            On the right track?

  17. Ricardo Harris says

    Amy: I fully agree with your advice against protein powders. Further, there is another negative aspect of them that you did not mention: studies suggest that they go so fast through your digestive system that the body can hardly absorb them; so you are basically paying for very expensive stools!
    One thing I would like to ask you though, is that some people into weight training are now using milk as a post-workout aid. According to Cordain, milk is not paleo. What is your take on this?

    • Amy Kubal says

      Thanks Ricardo and great point on the digestive aspect!
      As for milk post workout – again it really depends what your goals and health status are. Milk and all dairy products are not paleo but do fit into a ‘primal’ lifestyle. If mass gain is what you’re looking for raw, whole milk from pastured animals can fit – again, it is a liquid form of nutrition so the rapid absorption is a factor here when talking about the insulin response.

  18. says

    You mentioned “insulin spike” and “glucose spike” from the protein shakes. I know protein induces an insulin response, but my protein powder contains no sweeteners. The insulin reponse is necessary to get nutrients into the muscle cells.

    So where’s the negative here? I’m not spiking my blood glucose, just my insulin.

    By the way, I’m of the school of thought that it’s not the insulin that matters, but the inflammation that causes insulin resistance. Following a paleo diet, I’m minimizing inflammation.

    What say you? I’m open to advice.

    I’m alsp trying to get to lower body fat percentages. I’m probably around 10% or so, just have to get rid of the last stubborn bit to really see the bottom of my six pack. Advice?

    • Amy Kubal says

      I’m just going to say that if you want to see the bottom of the six pack – step away from the shaker bottle.

  19. says

    We get this one all the time, mostly from folks arguing for the convenience factor. Yes, shakes are convenient. And if you’re the majority of the population (for which PWO shakes aren’t doing you any favors) and willing to acknowledge trading some aspect of health for convenience, then you get our blessing. But I think the point of the post was to dispel the myths that PWO protein shakes are the BEST choice for recovery from exercise. (Marketing is pervasive on this one.)

    There are specific cases in which using a PWO shake is appropriate, and might even contribute to health and performance. But if you’re looking to lean out, liquid food is never your best option. If you’re still recovering from insulin resistance or metabolic derangement, the insulinogenic nature of whey protein is not your best option, PWO or otherwise. If you’re sensitive to dairy proteins, whey protein is never a good option. We don’t think soy is a good choice for anyone, ever. Egg white protein is a less bad option, but the unsweetened stuff tastes like junk – the price paid for being lazy.

    There are plenty of portable, easy, real food options for PWO nutrition. But if you choose a shake, (a) make sure it’s the highest quality available – if it’s whey, 100% grass-fed and organic is our minimum requirement, and (b) don’t tell yourself you’re doing it to make yourself healthier. Because unless you’re a lean, muscular, insulin-sensitive, non-inflamed, performance-driven athlete, it’s probably not, long-term. (At the very least, it’s pushing more nutrient-dense foods off your PWO plate four times a week, 50 weeks a year, which lowers the nutrient density of your overall annual diet. Which, of course, doesn’t make you healthier, either.)


    • says

      There’s also an important difference between pure, unadulterated whey protein and a “post-workout shake”.

      Whey protein is far more expensive than other white powders. Even those big jugs with “WHEY PROTEIN” in huge letters on the outside often contain a whole bunch of sugar and other fillers. It’s actually difficult to find a product that contains whey protein (or isolate) and nothing else.

      So if you’re really just sucking down 28g (one small scoop) of actual whey protein, in water, to tide you over until you get home and fix a meal, that’s 100 calories of actual amino acids, and it won’t have much of an effect on your hunger for real food. If you’re drinking a big bottle of “Muscle Milk” or whatever, that’s several hundred calories worth of who knows what industrial products.


      • says

        JS, I always love seeing you out and about. You make a great point – in fact, since recovery happens not JUST in the PWO window, but for several hours post-exercise, we do recommend a solid meal (protein, fat and carbs) about an hour after your PWO meal, to provide a steady supply of amino acids during the hours (not minutes!) when protein synthesis is the most important.

        I didn’t realize that many whey protein shakes weren’t gluten-free – we’ve been behind in our reading trying to finish up the book. I’ll catch up on your blog this weekend!


  20. says

    I’d be willing to bet that people would find it much easier to put down the shaker bottle if it wasn’t so deeply entrenched as a part of what people do when they “get in shape.” It’s an easy way to tacitly say to your coworkers, “I work out” without being pretentious. Further, consider the mindfullness/meditative aspects of the pre/post workout drink preparation. A person may try protein (or any supplement, for that matter) “X”, and because they are aware of the exotic substance’s presence within their body, may feel that the pump was better, or they are making better gains, than they might have otherwise. This isn’t to say that no products are actually effective, it’s just to point out the potential for a skewed sense of value when it comes to protein powders and other supplements.

    Which makes me wonder about similar psychological effects of the mass adoption of a given “real food” item that might only be consumed peri-workout*, and whether or not that food would then begin to be regarded as particularly effective and/or hard to get a person to consider forgoing…

    *(protein powder use for time’s sake is another ball of wax)

  21. Mary Whitlock says

    I recently bought some Great Lakes brand gelatin collage hydrolysate which I will mix with coconut milk and sometimes a banana or berries for a quick post workout meal if I don’t have time to make something or for a mid afternoon snack. This seems paleo friendly to me and I have read that gelatin is good for you as well. What is your view on this?

  22. Bill W says

    I am new to this site. Forgive me for asking a question that may have been previously asked. I would like to know how much protein one can consume after a weightlifting workout. I can easily consume a pound of chicken which may be about 90 grams of protein. Is this too much? Is their a limit to how much protein a person can utilize at one meal? Thank you for this enlightening article.

    • David says

      1 banana, 1 egg, 1 tbsp. almond butter fresh from the market. Makes a great pancake for those days when I need a few extra carbs.

  23. says

    I’ve got to switch up how I often I use protein powder. While mine is grass-fed goat whey, but no excuse for real food. Does it matter if it’s just whey, versus a blend of carbs and protein style shake? I usually have the above protein paired with my own sweet potato and healthy fat?

  24. Dave says

    So just to be sure… is real food better than protein powder? Just want to be sure I’m on the right page here.

  25. PaulL says

    I’ve really been on the fence about whether or not to continue with my protein powder. I’ve been getting the Stronger/Faster/Healthier Pure Whey for a while, and while it certainly makes life convenient to get 50g or so of protein in immediately PWO, I’ve questioned exactly how well it works. I couldn’t possibly eat 50g of protein from real food in the 3 minutes it takes to down the shake. On the other hand, can my body actually process that much protein all at once?

    I have anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour and a half between the time I leave the gym and eat a real meal. So, I’m kinda missing the whole PWO time frame if I don’t get that PWO meal in on the car ride home. How much protein *should* I consume with my ~8oz sweet potato ? Will a 6oz can of tuna suffice ? Would 2 or 3 strips of jerky be enough (and how to do you compute the grams/ounce of protein in jerky ?) How about a few ounces of deli meat (probably not grass-fed/pastured) ?

    I’m trying to get in about 180g/day of protein (above/beyond the PWO meal), which is usually pretty doable with real food. Do I even need a PWO meal with that much protein ? Could it just be a sweet potato ?

    Sorry for all the questions, I’m rather pedantic and geeky, and being “strict paleo” whilst consuming protein powder always kinda bothered me :)

    Thanks for a great article and any responses !

  26. Christopher says

    For people who say they don’t have time for real food, how much time does it take to open a can of salmon and stick a sweet potato in the microwave? Pre-cook the sweet potato and you pretty much have a PWO meal instantly.

  27. Kirky says

    I know real food is best but being deployed and hectic schedules I don’t always have time to make it to chow for breakfast post work out, not to mention if the crap they serve is paleo friendly but when I do go I try to eat real eggs, and what I hope is real bacon, and lunch and dinner is always a crap shoot, however I’ve turned to Stronger Faster Healthier’s Rejuvinate Protein, grass-fed, low glycemic, and hardly and crud in it for post WOD(breakfast) and fast until lunch. I’m 63″, 128lbs, around 13% bodyfat, I do 3 WOD’s a week and run in between, I was under the impression this was paleo friendly? Should I not use it or, because I am getting great recovery results stick with it?

  28. Paul says

    I currently put whey protein powder into a blender (along with olive oil, lemon juice, spinach, berries, avocados, etc) to make a daily shake. Does any one have any good recommendations for which real foods I could put into the shake to replace the protein content of the whey protein powder?

    I love all of the discussion on this post.

    • Barb, RHN says

      I have used pastuerized liquid egg whites to add protein. They are tasteless and highly digestible.

  29. Jorge says

    I see a few other people mentioning Stronger Faster Healthier products which is what I currently take PWO.

    I’m pretty slammed for time before and after my workouts. I actually change clothes in the car because I don’t have time to drive home after work. Usually after my CF workout I drink a quick Stronger Faster Healthier shake and jam to trader joes to pick up some noms. Usually i’m able to get dinner in me around 1.5 hours after my workout.

    Am I doing myself a disservice?


  30. Annick says

    All the commentary’s speak of protein shake after workout not before… I give outside training for 3 hours in the morning. The only thing I can eat that won’t make my stomack upset is protein shake (I look at all the 6 things to look for as mentionned by Dr. Mercola so I by Prairie Naturals). All others breakfast are just to heavy. I would have to wake up 3 to 4 hours before the training to possibly eat real food. Since I workout, is the influence of the shake on the insuline will diminished? Afterward, I just eat a real meal.

  31. says

    Amy, great post!! What’s your opinion on a cold glass (8-10 oz)of raw milk (from a grass fed cow of course:) and about 4 oz of an organic sweet potato post wod? I buy directly from the farmer. It works very well for me and then about 2 hours later I have a meal.

  32. Rose says

    I find it easy to eat real food POW. We always roast 8 to 10 sweet potatoes at a time, cut them in half, wrap them in foil, and keep them in the fridge. We hard boil a dozen eggs at a go and do the same. I toss two omega-three enriched hard-boiled eggs in a brown paper bag and 1/2 a sweet potato. It doesn’t even need a cold-pack for the hour, to hour-and-a-half I’m working out. I’m still loosing weight and getting stronger. Works for me.

  33. says

    I am so glad you brought this up. I hate protein powders. I hate the taste, and I hate the aftertaste. I would always try to like a shake b/c everyone says they are so good for you, but it wasn’t happening for me.

  34. Alex says

    Amy, I must disagree with you on this post. First, the heavy metal contamination scare is old news and total BS. See Will Brink’s take on that issue here:

    Also, the insulin release in the post-workout window is exactly what you want! The insulin surge shuttles amino acids and glycogen to the muscle cells so you can begin to recover from a hard workout, they won’t get stored as fat in this period of heightened insulin sensitivity and depleted muscle glycogen.

    Grass-fed or not doesn’t matter when the whey protein has all of the fat filtered out, therefore no benefit from a better fatty acid ratio/CLA.

    Plus, doesn’t Robb Wolf dig Primal Fuel?

    • Amy Kubal says

      Alex, we will have to agree to disagree on this – I stand by my original message – REAL FOOD IS ALWAYS THE BEST CHOICE!!! Food that grows, lives, rots/dies is ALWAYS better than the stuff with an expiration date. The choice is yours.

    • Daniel B. says

      I agree with you alex. The lack of fat in pure whey powder pretty much defeats the benefits of grassed vs grain fed beef. When there are no fats (or minimal) included we really don’t have to worry about the ratio of omega 3 to omega 6. Also taking whey post workout is probably the most efficient use of the insulin response that we get from the workout. If you are trying to build up muscle whey is an excellent choice after a workout. It would be pretty hard to get that many essential amino acids in after a workout during the initial 20 min insulin response window with whole foods. I guess another option would be to just take EAA right after working out but these taste horrible and are more expensive.

      Personally I take 24 grams of whey wait 30 min, eat some med. glycemic foods then wait another 30 min and eat a whole food meal. Ive noticed some pretty good gains on this and I seem to recover from the workout much faster as well. (less drained about 2 hours out)

  35. says

    Health is excellent. 5’3″, 116, 52yo, 15.1% bf and I just want to keep gaining muscle! Heavy compound lifts are my staple.

  36. CanadianArcticPaleo says

    I agree – good food is an optimal choice rather than supplementation. BUT there is a place for pre and post workout supplementation (living with inflexible parents, having very little time while being a student, etc). Also, you seem to be using poor quality and ‘big name’ proteins when referring to supplements. There are good quality supplements on the market and I feel as though you fail to make this distinction.

  37. Dave says

    I loved the post. This was one of the last belief systems from the conventional gym culture that the paleo world has helped me to wake up from. I thought I needed a quick digesting protein ASAP with a ton of sugar. But after a few months of quitting protein shakes, I lost nothing performance or body composition wise. And I don’t crash as much after workouts, or not at all.
    Thanks for waking me up out of the matrix of standard gym culture!

  38. Yours Truly says

    When I read this, there is some truth to it but a ton of sterio typing and misconceptions about whey protein powders. I see a little cherry-picking going on here too. I personally use Isagenix for my post workout shake.

    My objections-

    1. “And in every case REAL FOOD is always the BEST choice”

    My thoughts-
    Whey protein isn’t real food? Its certainly not synthesized. Whey is a by-product of cheese making. Yes it comes from a “process”.

    Lets define processed. We’re all very cautious of processed foods, foods that come in cans, boxes, packages that are “matter or stuff” but hold very little nutrients because of the way in which the ingredients are handled, cooked, etc. These foods can contain, fillers, chemicals, preservatives and artificial things, things that God really never intended our bodies to receive.

    Then there’s other foods that are processed but minimally! Things like coconut flour, coconut oil, almond butter, spices and herbs, etc. A coconut undergos a process that takes it from a hairy nut to a powder-form- coconut flour. Is it healthy? Yes. Does it have nutrients? Yes. What about almond butter? Raw almonds go into the blender, along with sea salt and coconut oil. Processed? Yes. Nutritious? Yes. What’s funny to me is that Robb promotes and supports pre-packaged paleo foods like- Almond Raisin Paleo Cookies- amongst others. Is it processed? Yes. Is it nutritious? Yes.

    2. “Now you’re all thinking, but they sell it at my gym and everyone else says it’s good and it works for muscle building, fat loss, leaning out, recovery, energy, weight gain, insert your goal here___________. That right there should be your first clue – one powder/shake that fits everyone’s goals – how does that work? Sure, there are ‘lite’ and ‘mega-growth’ formulas – but when it comes down to the stick – they all ‘shake’ out about the same. One may use a sugar substitute instead of sugar or have a different amino acid breakdown, but in truth you can’t trust what the label says anyway…”

    My thoughts-
    Not all shakes are the same (sterio typing) and promote a “lite or mega-growth” shake. Poses the question “one powder/shake that fits everyone’s goals – how does that work?”

    We’re all human, made up of trillions of cells. Suck the water out of a lean athlete and you are left with mostly protein. More than half the dry weight of your body is protein, over 100,000 different proteins, each precisely constructed from gene expression. The structure of your brain cells, your organs, and your muscles is pure protein. Even the hemoglobin that carries the oxygen in your blood is protein. The creation of a thought, the blink of an eye, the contraction of a muscle, every move you make, is controlled by thousands of different enzymes – and all enzymes are proteins, every one.

    Body proteins are temporary. Each is being constantly rebuilt. Some enzymes last only minutes. Your skin is replaced every few weeks. Your blood cells are replaced every three months. Most of your muscle cells are replaced every six months. Yet, unlike carbohydrates and fats, your body has no store for protein. Body structure is rebuilt day-by-day, mainly from the proteins you eat, and from recycled amino acids from broken down body structures.

    To grow an optimum body you need to eat the right proteins every day. If you eat garbage proteins you will grow a garbage body, no matter how hard you train. If you eat garbage proteins you will grow a pro-inflammatory body. Any day you eat garbage proteins they build into the structure of your body and you have to operate with them for up to the next six months. With garbage proteins, you cannot construct the champion whose blueprints are residing in your genes. Whey support the anti inflammitory lifestyle.

    So lets talk about the right kinds of proteins- Lets talk about “real food” and the bioavailability of it! Take a chicken breast- yields 30 grams of protein. Once cooked, eaten and digested, the body can only utilize about 13 grams of it, the rest is waste. Same thing with beef and fish- around 40% utilized. Eggs are a bit higher.

    Whey protein concentrate is about 90% utilized, 10% waste. So if you consume a shake that yields 35 grams of protein, after you eat and digest it, you’re utilizing about 32 grams of it.

    Lets talk about Branch chain amino acids and the other amino acids within animal proteins- what’s the break down of leucine, isoleucine and valine? What’s the quantity of the BCAA’s in the raw meat and what happens once you cook the meat? Cooking destroys amino acids. With whey concentrate, there’s no break down, cooking or damage hence the high count and quantity of BCAA’s and the other naturally occurring amino acids.

    Another point- “but in truth you can’t trust what the label says anyway”. That has some truth! There’s tons of product out there that have crazy things in them. That’s where your due diligence is needed in research.

    3. “Protein powders fall under the realm of ‘supplements’ in the eyes of the government and therefore are not regulated nor checked for purity or content. A Consumer Reports investigation uncovered concerning amounts of arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium in several well known and darn right popular protein powders – we’re talking ‘exceeding maximum’ pharmacologically deemed ‘safe’ numbers here.”

    My thoughts-
    This article is in the July issue of Consumer Reports magazine and raised concerns regarding traces of heavy metals in protein drinks, which has led to questions by our consumers about the quality and safety of our IsaLean Shake and IsaPro products.

    You can rest assured that Isagenix delivers on its promise to consumers to maintain a “no compromise” quality policy with a strong safety-monitoring program for all our products. Our safety-monitoring program includes microbial, pesticides, and heavy metals testing.

    The Isagenix Quality Assurance Department requires testing for heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury in all raw materials before they are used in manufacturing.

    If any raw material fails to meet specifications for heavy metals it is promptly rejected by our Quality Assurance Department. Besides initial inspection of raw materials, Isagenix takes an “extra mile” step with Finished Product Safety verification through independent contract laboratories. This verification process sets a high standard for ensuring the quality of our products and providing safety to consumers.

    Our process for continual inspection of raw materials and analysis of finished products is an expensive enterprise. Because of the high cost, similar standards are often avoided by other dietary supplement companies. At Isagenix we believe that meeting and exceeding safety guidelines is absolutely necessary as integrity and the health of our customers, friends, and family is paramount.

    4. “And do you really know what else could be in there? There have been several cases and reports of seemingly innocent ‘protein powders’ being contaminated with anabolic steroids or like substances which have resulted in positive ‘doping’ test results.”

    My thoughts-
    Can’t promise what’s in other protein shakes but rest assured, our products fall safely with all anti-doping law and regulations that have been set forth by all athletic organizations worldwide- from Olympic to Pro to Semi Pro to Collegiate etc.

    5. “Have you ever went to the meat counter and asked the butcher to cut you off a big slab of whey or cracked open an egg to be greeted with a white powder? I’m guessing it’s a great big negatory on that one. Believe it or not protein powders are a processed food. Yes, you heard that correctly – these powders are far from a ‘natural phenomenon’. You cannot milk a cow and get a powder, city kids you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. So, where does the powder come from? In the case of whey, it’s often a waste product of cheese making and unless you’re getting the super pricey, meat is a better deal, protein powder from grass-fed animals you’re likely getting ‘grain-fed waste’. Let’s also consider the process that makes the whey into a powder (it’s liquid in real life…) – this process be it whey or egg white often utilizes extremely high heat (like higher than cooking). This ‘hot air’ denatures the protein to an extent that may increase its carcinogenic load. And hold on, there’s more!! Some of these powders even come with some bonus MSG!! Remember that rule about food that comes in a package, needs a label and can live on a shelf for an extended period of time? Apply that here.”

    My thoughts-
    What we need to pay attention to- the way in which the raw food is “processed”. Does the process destroy the phytonutrients with in the food? Does it alter it into a harmful state?

    When talking about whey protein and how it’s processed or created, not all processes and whey proteins are created equally. Whey, like the article states, is the byproduct of cheese making. Most companies use salts, enzymes, acids or heat to separate out the curds from the whey. These 4 processes absolutely change whey. This type of whey is denatured, meaning the proteins are altered through chemical or physical means so that some of its original properties are lost or diminished.
    There’s another way in which the curds and whey can be separated. It’s called micro-filtration. This process does not use the above-mentioned 4 processes. This process protects the whey in its natural God-given state- peptides, amino acids etc. This process leaves the whey un-denatured and in perfect form. This process is incredibly expensive and rare. We are the only company that offers undenatured whey. This whey concentrate is then air dried in a huge spray-drying drum, using no heat and then it’s carefully sealed in crates. Our whey comes from New Zealand, free-range cows that are exclusively grass fed (free from herbicides, pesticides etc.), milked and rested according to season and free of hormones, antibiotics and steroids. These are happy cows. This whey is exclusive to Isagenix and is what is within our protein products- IsaLean Shakes and IsaPro.

    6. “The primary purpose of post pain party fuel is to restore the muscle protein and glycogen that was depleted during the workout and to promote recovery. If getting/staying lean and enhancing health and longevity are also on your list of ‘things to do’ – then liquid food will not the best choice make. Why? Two-words: Insulin Response. Granted after you workout your insulin sensitivity is heightened and it takes less of it to clear the post workout meal glucose from the blood; but this phenomenon should be taken advantage of not hindered by a liquid induced blood sugar surge. Liquids require less processing and digestion, so instead of the slow steady blood sugar rise that happens with a dose of starchy carb and some protein from real food sources; the ‘shaker bottle’ cocktail results in a zero to 60 increase in blood glucose levels. This pedal to the metal rise requires insulin fast and even though sensitivity is heightened the end result is more insulin being produced to clear the sugar bombarded blood. This folks – is NOT what we’re going for! If you find this whole post workout eating thing a whole lot of confusing definitely check out Robb’s post about the ins and outs of the game. But understand that you can’t do better than ‘real food’ regardless of what your friends or the label on a tub of powder say.”

    My thoughts-
    This makes it sound like insulin response is bad. It’s what happens every time you eat or drink. The question and concern here is- does the food you’re eating create an insulin spike? Is it low glycemic or high glycemic? If its fruit juice, you better believe it’ll cause an insulin spike. I suppose that with other protein shakes, this might apply due to scads of sugar but not with Isagenix.

    Our Shakes and IsaPro are both low glycemic. BTW, studies absolutely show that some carbs during and after workouts induces an insulin response (not spike) that actually helps drive protein synthesis along with helping to replenish muscle glycogen.

    The one- to two-hour period right after a workout is prime time for muscle anabolism. It’s this time when you need protein most. The body is craving nutrients for muscle recovery and protein is highest on the list, especially if the protein is high in BCAAs.

    Whey protein is rich in all the BCAAs- leucine, isoleucine, valine. Research studies show that extra fast-absorbing whey protein after workouts boosts muscle growth in active adults and athletes.

  39. RockitGurl says

    RE: Convenience per Chris’s comment

    Hard-boil a bunch of eggs for the week. Buy a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, cut it up to bring with you. I grill slabs of boneless sirloin in the beginning of the week & cut it into strips, ditto chicken breast. Bag pre-soaked walnuts. Pack hummus & veggies (oooooh, beans, what a Paleo no-no! =P )

    I am a mother of two under the age of 5 years old who works on the weekends. Four of the five days a week I am in my car all day, transporting kids to & from school, activities, play dates & the gym. Every morning I pack a big ole lunch sack with some of the items above, and then some.

    It CAN be done if you are committed.

  40. says

    Preparing is a big part of Paleo eating. I recently dropped all protein powders and added in Hempseeds- 10 grams of protein per Tablespoon!
    Sardines and kippers have replaced protein powders too. It’s as easy as lugging a big drink around- fresh and REAL!
    Paleo Your Way- but don’t take advantage of the 15%.
    It’s a process of fine-tuning and experimenting- have fun!

  41. says

    Do you recommend eating something before a 6:30 am workout?
    I recently started working out with high intensity workouts-style first thing in the morning, but I get lightheaded real fast, and can get headaches.
    My fast sugar is just fine and so are other markers. I am worried that perhaps my adrenals can not take that kind of a beating first thing in the morning.
    Any advice?

    • Amy Kubal says

      Carlos – if you’re feeling lightheaded then yes, I would recommend something pre-workout. A small hit of carb and a little protein might be all it takes to get you feeling normal. As far as the adrenal issue – this could be the case too. If you have issues in that department you may want to consider both the type of workout you’re doing and the timing.

  42. says

    Right I work a fulltime job. Run a social networking site as well as 3 other businesses. I also dedicate 4 days a week to training. I do high intensity weights. My goal is the standard, lose fat and build muscle, but im more interested in getting lean. I agree with Chris the convenience of shakes is great and I dont buy that they are no good as I’ve had great results on them, but I do like the idea of a Paleo lifestyle. So examples of what I can have after training that will get me as much or maybe more nutrition than my whey protien shakes would be great

  43. Diane says

    Wow, I’m really amazed at how resistant people are to giving up these shakes. They’re squirming around trying to figure out how to continue the delusion it’s real food. I thought there was something wrong with me that after workouts I ate salmon and sardines not milkshakes. I guess I wasn’t doing something wrong after all.

      • Ryan says

        What is wrong with hemp protein? All it is is ground hemp seeds with some of the fiber removed to increase the ratio of protein. I don’t understand how you can criticize that while being a proponent for whey.

      • says

        Amy could you please give us more information on why HEMP protien is not a go. The only ingredient in Nature’s Way EfaGold Hemp is organic hemp powder (seed) . I agree real food is always best but I do take hemp in a pinch with almond milk and half a banana. I really would like more information on your thoughts about Hemp. Thank you in advance!

        • says

          We are trying to get folks to “eat food.” If you want to use shakes, go for it, but we find it sub-optimal vs “eating food.”

  44. Denny says

    Can’t tell you how timely it was that I stumbled upon this post. I just successfully finished The Whole 30 (Dallas and Melissa Hartwig program) and feel great. I lost 29 pounds in 8 weeks by eating pretty clean and upping/revamping my workout; and have now started gaining muscle mass.
    So here’s my point: after finishing the 30 day uber-paleo deal, I was looking at the pile of Met-Rx that my employer has sent for me (I’m working remotely, and my employer wants nothing but the best for me). It’s all free, and mighty tempting, might I add. I was just about to buy into the marketing, as I really want to capitalize on my recent losses (and gains!) – I am glad to get the reinforcement from you and Robb to help me steer clear and keep it natural.
    Thanks for being out there!

  45. Derek James From says

    Although I completely agree that supplements are not accurately labelled and you should not take any manufacturer’s claims seriously, the answer IS NOT government regulation. We in the paleo community should have ample evidence that the gov screws everything up–food pyramid, plate, whatever…

    The answer is for consumers to demand and vote with their money that manufacturers produce quality products that adhere to the highest of ethical and scientific rigour. If there is one thing that I have learned in my professional experience as a lawyer who regularly litigates against the government, is that government is inherently incompetent at everything it does.

  46. says

    Hi Amy,

    I’ve been losing weight since I learned I’m IR by going low carb ala Dr. Bernstein/dukan, but moving toward a paleo diet now. Almost to the 50# lost mark and nearing goal weight. I lift 3x/wk and swim, occasional hiit/run 1-2x/wk. Protein powders have figured into my mix in the past but I found they raise my BG too much. So along w/ carbs, out they went. It’s about health for me, not convenience. Every chance I have for normal BG’s enhances my quality and duration life. Thanks for a great post. Real is the Deal.

  47. lil rock says

    I can’t believe the use of powder is even a question. The Paleo meal plan is based on all natural food. I’m sure the caveman didn’t run around with a shaker bottle and a pouch of powder.

    Somebody post about rewarding or self’s with food after a workout. We are not children. Reward is adding wight to the bar or being able to squeeze out another mile. Reward is the progress we make. NEVER FOOD! We eat to live. We don’t live to eat.

  48. Pat says

    Don’t use a protein powder but really love my green smoothies. Spinach, kale, frozen berries etc. I do different combos all the time. My question—is this a big problem with the insulin spike mentioned??? In the morning it is faster. Add a boiled egg or two and I’m good to go. Thank you for the informative post. New to paleo. Switching from vegan/flexetarian and feel great.

    • Amy Kubal says

      Food you can chew is always the best choice and if your goal is to lean out I would suggest avoiding the liquid food all together.

  49. Goldie Zietz says

    I just bought 2 containers of Hemp Protein Powders. I’m happy to take them back! and munch on Real Food:) Thank you so much for explaining the way we need to eat and the way we need to change the way we think about protein shakes. The quickest way is not always the best. Real Food will always win over fast food supplements.

  50. says

    I guess I am confused Dr, Cordain suggest Powered-Up smoothies and post workout egg white protein smoothies. Would this not be the same thing, coming from the Paleo Dr. himself? It seems like Primal and Paleo suggest different things…Primal seems to allow some dairt and bacon, while Paleo does not. What is the difference. Are the Paleo smoothies different from protein shakes?

  51. John says

    Doesn’t this advice go against the post from Robb about HF/LC post-workout meals being the best option for weight-loss and general leaning-out? Here’s a quote from the article:

    o, one way to look at this is the a LC-PWO meal is focusing on muscular recovery and growth, while minimizing or limiting the effects of insulin or carbohydrate. This is in stark contrast with what we will see in the case of the high carb PWO meal. From my perspective this is THE PWO meal of choice from a health promotion standpoint. Insulin management, cellular stress mechanisms, hormesis…all the crap I’ll cover in the book are adressed when we choose a LC-PWO meal MOST OF THE TIME.*

    Low Carb PWO-How

    I used ~ 50g of Whey protein from a brand called Isoflex. It’s a mix of whey protein isolate, hydrosolates, glutamine peptides, some insulin sensitizers and other goodies. I ran with a vanilla flavor that is sweetened with sucralose. To this I added about ¼ can of coconut milk (legit Thai coconut milk…hardly any English on the can, not Whitey watered-down crap!) and 2 heaping tablespoons of coco powder. I shot this concoction down as soon as I wrapped up my CrossFit Football or ME-Black Box session. Recovery was good as in I was not particularly sore and miraculously, I started to lean out again, especially when I upped my fish oil to about 15g/day (Kirkland brand). Overall I was getting in less than 50g of carbs per day and feeling pretty damn good. Strength was solid, short met-cons were “ok” and I started to look like someone who “strength trained”.

  52. Lindsay says

    I’m sorry…but in terms of convenience, is there really anything better PWO than a couple slices of organic (minimally processed) deli sliced meat and a couple gulps of coconut milk from the bottle? That’s pretty f-ing easy and convenient for me.
    It requires no blending, no shaking, no cleaning of bottles, and you can just use your hands.

  53. Liz says

    I use whey protein isolate, no added anything, and I blend it with avocado, coconut milk and nuts for my breakfast most mornings. Of course that’s not strictly paleo, (and who can really claim to live entirely like a hunter gatherer) but the reason I do this is that I just can’t face meat, fish or eggs in the morning, and I struggle to get enough protein down otherwise. Just my little compromise, and it works for me.

  54. says

    Hi Amy, I just want to say that after reading this article you really made me think and try to reevanulate my post workout meal. I’m not a high charging athlete or anything, but I do think it’s important for me. I live in Japan, and now my post workout meal is a tin of mackerel in brine that gives me 30g of protein, not to mention omega 3 and probably a whole host of other vitamins and minerals, and costs less than $1 a can! Thank you! I think it has really made a difference.

  55. Jason Delvard says

    Ohhhh Jessssus, really enjoyed the debate, Well done Amy! just wanted to be clear do you recommend real food rather than a protein shake????

    Off to Make Bacon & Eggs in about 3 minutes flat.

    Take it easy


      • Alexandra says

        Thanks for all the insights Amy, interesting post.

        I use a high quality Undenatured Whey Powder air dried (no heat) by pasture fed cows (organic) which IMHO is an excellent source of digestible protein. ‘Real whole food’ is cornerstone to Paleo for great health. Quality ‘whey powder’ is also real food, processed like coconut products etc and good for you :-)

        Microwaves, not good

  56. deb timpano says

    You posted the words right out of my mouth!!
    I am so frustrated that even “experts” preaching whole fresh foods only, will recommend these processed shakes and bars……… why?????? cuz they get paid to do so.
    Listen to the farmers!

  57. Susie says

    Hi Amy – I’m trying to get 1g protein per lb. of body weight (my goal is to lean out). I am physically having a hard time getting there as I am starting to feel nauseous from eating so much meat! I’m doing low carb and moderate-high fat. I have been going with it for 9 days and am already seeing great results! The first few days were ok, but now I can barely stomach any amount of meat at all, and am forcing it down. I am supplementing with digestive enzymes, betaine hcl, and swedish bitters since I know that my stomach acid is really low. I am certainly not trying to replace anything with a powder, but do you think supplementing with some egg white powder is an option to try to achieve my protein goals? Or should I just back off on the protein, eat as much real food protein as I can stomach with the use of the enzymes/Hcl and hope I can develop a greater ability to digest the meat?

    Thank you for all of your stellar advice!!!

    • Amy Kubal says


      Since you are trying to lean out I would suggest sticking to real food – maybe try spreading your eating into more meals or decreasing your protein intake sightly. There are very FEW times when ‘forcing’ food down is a good idea and definitely not when leaning out is your goal.

      • Susie says

        Thanks, Amy! I think I will just eat what protein I can without worrying too much about the number of grams. I’m hoping that eventually my currently poor digestion will be bolstered enough that my appetite for protein increases. I really appreciate your feedback before I caved and bought a giant tub of egg white powder out of desperation!

  58. Andrea says

    Regarding Hemp Protein Powder – I use this in a low(ish) carb green smoothie (coconut milk, berries, spinach, stevia). The Hemp Protein I buy is organic ground Hemp seeds (3 TBS/serving – 1 serving per day) with 22gms Protein, 0 net carbs, 9 grams fibre and lots of omega 3 fats. Why do you give Hemp Protein a big NO? Seeds are allowable on a Paleo diet, are they not? Would this not be considered Paleo?

  59. Jessica says

    I get that the powders aren’t real food (of course I did need to read it about 20 times before it sunk in). For me shakes are very convenient for breakfast. I am not trying to use it as a post WOD tool, really a breakfast I can carry while trying to get two screaming kids in the car and get to work (and carrying wine at 730 seems inappropriate). Do u have any real food protein suggestions for my blender? Usually I do some combination of almond milk, frozen banana, spinach etc. sometiomes add almond butter. Some have suggested cracking a raw egg in but I have to admit that scares me. Any real food suggestions are much appreciated!

    • Amy Kubal says

      I would definitely consider your goals – if leaning out is one of them, liquid nutrition in any form is not going to be the best choice due to its rapid absorption and effect on insulin levels. The egg would be my suggestion also if the the blender is the only way. Could you take leftovers from dinner to work with you and heat them up to eat when you get there?

  60. Derek says

    Gotcha, real food. I’m deployed on a military base, and I don’t have the luxury of grassfed beef, or healthy food 24/7. What about Garden of Life Raw Protein Powder?

    • Amy Kubal says

      If the powders are a MUST stick with a 100% Grassfed Whey or 100% egg white protein and remember, just because your meat isn’t always grassfed does not mean it’s a ‘deal breaker’. Just stick with the lean stuff and choose real food as often as possible.

  61. Martainn says

    Well, a very informative post. I’m finishing the last pack of protein, but I will not buy another. Do not want to rubbish the entire package, because in our country, the protein is quite expensive. Sorry for my english. I understand everything, but I don’t know how can I say most of the phrases.

  62. jan says

    interesting take, but has left me hanging as i have been enjoying hemp protein so far! If not replacing a meal i fail to see what is ‘bad’ about it? Not replacing meals with it, but as a supplement it has a noticeable difference in workout ‘recovery’ imho. Keep tinkering and i will too ; )

  63. Fiona says

    If we MUST have a protein powder, do you recommend the raw vegan variety or egg white? I am trying to do Paleo and I know the vegan stuff isn’t Paleo (think it’s brown rice the type I’m looking at). Just wondering if I HAD to pick one.

  64. FoxySonia says

    Ok, I don’t think anyone have mentioned or asked about this before. What about those who need to eat a lot of protein but can’t eat a lot, like those who have had bariatric surgery and need to relly on protein shakes to supplement their diet in order to be able to consumed the required high amount of protein they need each day? They need to eat a diet low in calories, high in protein (much higher than what normal people need, about 2 or 3 times more, approx. 100-150 grams), low in carbohydrates (especially sugar) and high in fat (if they had the Duodenal Switch at least 150 to 325 grams) in small amount of food since their stomach won’t fit much. I know you think all protein powders are bad, but out of all of them, which is the least bad? Thanks.

  65. courtney says

    Do you guys have an opinion on adding whey protein for the purpose of boosting glutathione? In those of us with autoimmune-like conditions or just worried about oxi stress, adding whey might have a place but I’m not sure how to implement it.

  66. says

    For those of us who just love a quick protein drink …
    8oz of So Almond milk
    1cup frozen berries
    And/or a banana
    1-2 tablespoons coconut oil
    Great post workout drink

  67. BlueGreen22 says

    I think what is screwing everyone up is the fact that Mark Sisson sells a protein drink. That is the 200lb elephant in the room.
    Bottom line is this:
    It is not the protein drink in itself that is bad, no matter what brand or type. It is not the post workout smoothie without protein that is bad. What is bad is getting your food in a liquid state. Liquid food is inherently, a really really bad idea.
    Your first option should always be Real food that you can chew.
    Your second option, and only if there is no other choice, is a high quality egg white protein but this should alway be your last option.

  68. Mike says

    What about this?
    I make my own powder with raw nuts. I have a juicer that actually does not extract the Pulp it will also grind the nutst in the powder. Then in a crunch I’ll juice some fresh veggies maybe add an apple and some Ginger. I don’t do this on a regular basis maybe a couple times a week when my workouts take me late into the evening and I don’t want to eat afterwards.
    Would like your opinion on that this?

  69. BlueGreen22 says

    What about real bananas and strawberries blended up with almond milk :)….This is actually a pretty funny thread :)

  70. says

    Here’s my conundrum:

    I completely agree with REAL FOOD all the time BUT…. I am trying to gain 10-15 lbs. Having a hard time doing this while Paleo. Was thinking I would smash a 1500 calorie shake after my workouts then strict Paleo rest of the day. Is there a better way to gain weight on Paleo? I cannot add any more coconut milk or avocados to the meal plan without vomiting.

    I train 2-3 hours per day and really just need more calories. Thanks a bunch, keep it up!

    • Amy Kubal says

      Based on your goals it may be an option. Like always – real food is best, but desperate times call for desperate measures and it’s ALL ABOUT your goals and your health!!

  71. Gina says

    Isopure Protein, is the only protein “drink” that I consume now. They have completely isolated the protein from whey, so that it dissolves clear in water… This stuff is AMAZING!

  72. Christopher says

    Hi Amy,

    Thanks for the article. I’m approaching a 30-day paleo challenge and I’m trying to think about what I’ll use to replace the whey protein shakes I had become so used to having. I’m not even sure if I’ll return to them after the challenge, having read this article, or I may at least try to use them more sparingly.

    I’m curious though about whey protein bars (like the Pure Protein and newer Think Thin brands). Do you know if being in “solid” bar form slows down their digestion at all? For that matter, do the gums and sugar alcohols used to make them solid work against me and actually contribute to an insulin spike, or is their effect, at best, a neutral one?

    I know it’s a moot point during a paleo challenge, as whey will be off limits, and the only bar I’d be able to eat might be a Larabar (just fruit and nuts unless I’m wrong?), which isn’t a protein bar at all anyway, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the different protein bars in the context of what you’ve said about shakes in this piece.


    • Amy Kubal says

      Christopher, the bar form will slow things down a bit – but most of the bars are far worse ingredient wise than the protein powder itself. Larabars are just fruit and nuts, but they are high in sugar and if getting lean is your goal they aren’t the best choice. Real food – whole, fresh, no ingredient labels. Those are the best choices!!

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  74. Kathy says

    I been doing 100% egg white protein powder shake with greens superfoods and fruit and lots great vit oil, and I am in my 50’s for years and feel great and stayed slim and full of energy. And eat a meal at night so there you have and beautiful skin no wrinkles.

  75. Jonnnie says

    I have been paleo for 3 months now, but I’m loosing to much weight, i begun with 68Kg and im now with 59Kg, iam 1.70m tall and i cant loose more weight.

    Im eating 3 large meals and snacks at the afternoon and night (mostly fruit). Im thinking in adding F1 No Allergen shake from Herbalife because i really need to get some weight, and cant eat more food than i already do, iam already eating plenty.

    I cant eat gluten and have some body pains that seems RA (better since pale). Paleo did bring me some recovery from the body pains but now i feel lack of energy and lightheaded sometimes and continue to loose weight. Any advice?

      • Jonnnie says

        Thanks Amy, iam one of that strange cases that in spite of several exams nothing has been found but i still struggle with health issues.

        I had my gallbladder removed 2 years ago and 4 months later i had kidney stone (7mm) that gave me horrible pains for 2 months, after this my health went worse and worse without any help from my doctors and i visited several. Once i took gluten from the menu i got better and since paleo even better but i still have several issues, like, bone and muscle pain, weakness, mucus in stool and others.

        I will follow your recommendation and add more food to my diet and see if it helps, specially the weight loss that with my other symptoms sometimes worries me and think if there isnt anything worse in my health condition.

        • Amy Kubal says

          I would suggest trying an autoimmune protocol, add a probiotic, and digestive enzymes and it might be a good idea to have a stool test done too. Definitely get to the bottom of this!

          • Jonnnie says

            Thanks for your reply Amy.

            Done Probiotic, digestive enzymes and stool test (nothing found). Autoimmune protocol also done :) I feel better than i used to, but still not “normal”. Im going to get some new stool test next week and probably a capsule colonoscopy.

            It hasnt been easy to figure this out…

  76. Lawrence says

    I am 49, type II diabetic. Workout at the gym lifting mostly, super setting to keep the heart rate up. And I always drink a protein shake after. And in the morning and right before bedtime. This diet was brought to my attention yesterday. I get it no more protein shakes. Question, I do this diet is the potential of turning this disease around possible, I have had it for over 20 years and am maxed out on oral meds. Thank you for your post

    • Amy Kubal says

      Lawrence! I am so happy to hear that you are switching to Paleo and YES!!! It does have the potential to turn things around! Good Luck and let me know if I can help you! :)

  77. Will says

    I was wondering if anyone could give there opinion on an issue of mine.

    I used to swim in college and did crossfit for awhile. Now, I lift occasionally, not that much anymore though because of work, but still would like to be optimal given circumstances. Have been eating very clean for years; no gluten, no soy, no corn, no veg oil, rare legumes, rare sugar. The problem is I have to take a medication that severely curbs my appetite and it’s difficult for me to get the calories I need. So I’ve been experimenting with liquid forms of getting nutrients and trying to best mimic the anabolic effects of a meal of whole foods.

    What I do is brew about 24oz of some nice black tea (getting off coffee in order to improve cortisol function) and mix it with ~2-3 tbsp of: kerrygold unsalted butter, virgin coco oil, and legit grass-fed cream. I’ll then put in a few scoops of unflavored or vanilla whey, then some legit raw honey, then a lil bit of lemon flavored carlsons fish oil for good measure. Then I drink that over the course of a few hours. I’m staying lean so far and I’m generally feeling good and alert as opposed to feeling poor and having a pit in my stomach when I don’t get some calories when I have to take my meds and dont have an appetite.

    Thoughts on this? Anyone have similar experiences?

  78. stanislav says

    Hello, I am drinking protein powder only once or twice a week..while training every day, often twice a day…not that mush of protein powder, but still I want to hear an opinion about the type of the powder.
    I am drinking “Life’s Basics” powder, any one has a review about this one?


  79. Shawn! says

    This is great! REAL FOOD right? But up-ing my meat intake just to get more protein post work out and everything my not be so economical. Idk, what then can i CHEW as a substitute for meat protein?

    Please and thank you in advanceeee :)

    • Amy Kubal says

      Protein powder is expensive too – especially if you get the high quality stuff. Eggs are economical and buy the meats that are on sale!

  80. Ricky says

    What’s the difference between regular whey and grass fed derived whey in terms of quality? I thought the only different between grain fed cows and grass fed cows was the amount of n-3 and n-6? If the whey proteins have no fat is there a quality difference in the protein somehow? I realize this is an old article but I figure its better to ask here and hope its answered.

  81. Carson Calkins says

    For a long time ive consumed a whey shake immediately post workout. Then about an hour later I would consume chicken, sweet potatoes, and a veggie. Is that over kill?

  82. Carson Calkins says

    I have done the post-workout meal of just real food 30-45 min post workout and have seen much better results. This article was a true a wake up call, and its not as hard as it sounds.

  83. ken says

    I am very interested on the point regarding those of us who train and are at the sub 10% bodyfat (im currently 6.5%)
    Are you saying that at his level of bodyfat that post workout whey is benificial/more acceptable?
    I personally went Paleo nearly 4 years ago and have seen amazing compostion/strength and health results from doing so.
    I have an unflavored whey protein with 15gms dextrose, 15 grams maltodextrin and 5 grams creatine 1 hour pre workout and immediatly post.
    I have dropped 8 kg in weight and just over 8% body fat.
    Any thoughts on my pre & post.
    As for the comments of the amazing steak and sweet potatoe post workout meal i usualy get something along those lines 20 minutes after the gym.
    Thanks for your time

  84. says

    Thanks for this very awesome write-up. I know a Magnus as well.. the best option out there is real food over any type of protein, that is why protein powder is a supplement. Protein powder SUPPLEMENTS your daily nutrition, it isn’t to be had every 3 hours or whatever the Magni would have you believe.

  85. Louise says

    My boyfriend is 5’10”, 168lbs, low body fat, works out hard 5 days per week. He has always been very lean his whole life, by lean I mean skinny, when I met him he weighed 138. He has a lot of trouble putting on mass. He wants to get to 175, or at the very least maintain where he is. When I had him go off of protein shakes he dropped down to 159. I hate the idea of shakes, but what is someone in his spot to do? By the way I have him eating a mix of somewhere in between paleo and GAPS. The protein I have him taking now is dr mercolas miracle whey.

  86. RJ says

    What about those of us average people who just happen to like drinking a smoothie?
    I’m not hard core anything, but I like to spend my lunch hour walking. I drink my protein shake with berries after my walk and I love it. If I had to eat “real” food that would eliminate half my walk since I can’t eat at my desk. I don’t eat breakfast, and the shake at lunch fills me up but doesn’t make me sleepy.
    I think I am a minority here, as I’m not seriously working out, just trying to maintain my weight, my sanity and my health.


    • says

      My question/comment to the smoothie crowd:
      Are you 100% happy with your body composition? If yes, keep doing what you are doing. If not, perhaps follow my recommendations!

  87. Matt says

    Whey protein works great for me personally. I’m lean and use whey pre & post workout. I also use it to “top up” if I’m under my protein goal for the day.

    I don’t always have the time, money, or the inclination to prepare 140g worth of protein from food every single day.

    Yes of course real food is best, that’s obvious, but there is nothing wrong with supplementing sensibly. I also take a high strength fish oil supplement and multi-vitamins. Science is your friend.


  88. says

    consider Fish Protein Powder from AminoMarine – it is great alternative – of course we should “eat and chew” most of our food – but there are real advantages to hyrolyzed protein sources (peptides) when used on a daily basis and as 20% of your protein intake.

  89. JT says

    Just had to ask. Stuck in Afghanistan for a year, so even though real food is available, we are talking the worst grade meat you can possibly imagine. Stay with real food, or consider a clean powder option at times? I love the real food idea, just not sure if it is better to consider going vegetarian for awhile with what I havea available here!

  90. Zay says

    Hi, new to the Paleo community/lifestyle (day 1 actually). For years (too much to count), I have been LIVING on protein shakes. Reading thru this made me realize, THAT maybe the cause for my knees hurting so much. OK, to my question: Is Tyson chicken (pre-cooked) ok to take on Paleo? Also, rather than raw eggs (yes I know, real food, lol), is liquid egg whites for my omelets OK?

      • Tom says


        I try to limit myself to a maximum of 2 eggs per day… The whole cholesterol things kind of freaks me out. Maybe I’m still brainwashed from the conventional government issued knowledge on the topic. My eggs come from a friend of mine who is an organic vegetable farmer, so they are free range. I’ve been to his farm and these chickens live and eat well. 2 eggs just isn’t enough for breakfast, so I add an equal amount of egg white to top off my morning scrambled eggs. And yes… I use the egg beaters.. egg whites in a carton. I have a feeling I’m doing something wrong if there’s a carton involved. Tell me why:)

  91. julie says

    What if we have a grass fed undenatured whey protein?? This systems actually recommends Paleo while using the protein shakes. Dr. Michael Colgan is a huge fan of yours and a huge fan of Isagenix. What do you think?

      • Julie says

        Hi Amy,

        My current goals are to obviously become stronger, I feel great! I am looking into Paleo for purposes of gluten free and lactose free as I am intolerant to both. I’m not a big bread/pasta eater anyways so I’m really not missing it. My husband and I used an Isagenix 30 day cleanse system to lose weight and we have both maintained our weightloss since January 2012. With weightloss came a zest for a healthier lifestyle. We both train now with a bit more of a crossfit bootcamp style if you will. I came across paleo and Rob Wolf’s book through a man by the name of Dr. Michael Colgan who really presses on the paleo diet along with the Isagenix systems. I want to do this correctly but I also love my shakes as well. I’m sure I can follow both guides no problem and incorporate both, I just know when i eat any sort of wheat I feel awful, tired, slow and bloated. Paleo is like a magnet for me, it feels like an instinct, and I really like to fuel with a good protein shake after a workout too. I have done research and a lot of crossfit/paleo gyms really seem to like isagenix as well. then I came across this blog….. I was just hoping for some insight from the “source” :)

  92. MiKayla says

    never leave one foot out the door your most likely to get it slammed if your not in or out completely. why dedicate and change so much of your habits to live paleo if your just going to act like babies and argue into something stupid. I do believe they have built a great guideline for people to live better by fueling our bodies with healthy foods. my mom sure isn’t on here telling me not to eat sugar so by damn if I want to I will however I have made the switch to live Paleo and therefor I am going to fallow what Robb and his team have made so easy to fallow. I am sure the paleo police won’t be knocking on my door if I go out and cheat but it also creates a feeling of failure I rather not have. giving into a little shake or other crap food is never worth the change I have worked for. I also have a limited schedule that makes it difficult to find time to make meals and workout and that’s where i sacrifice the yummy paleo dish I want to eat with a quick grab and go paleo meal or snacks. if there is a will there is a way.

  93. Mit says

    I fully accept everything in the article and it was an interesting read but there is one thing I don’t understand and it’s purely down to my poor knowledge.

    But how does protein shake increase blood sugar (and thus cause insulin spike) if there is no carbs / sugar in it?

    EG I have brown rice protein post work out, (a more expensive reputable brand suggested to me by my trainer so I trust it is what it says on the packet….rightly or wrongly) and this protein have 2-3g starchy carbs and no sugar. So how does it cause blood sugar to increase? Does the protein turn to sugar in the body?

    Thanks for the education in advance!

  94. Shareef says

    What does a couple cups of white rice, some white/and or sweet potatoes, and some chicken breast sound post workout (Crossfit 4-5x week)? Is this a good pwo (dinner to have pwo) meal? Also, does it really matter to have your meal within 15-30 min after or can you wait about an hour after and take advantage of the natural growth hormone release?

  95. says

    The insulin response is what mediates the shuttling of nutrients into muscle cells for optimal recovery. You need not get your insulin boost with whey but eating nutrient rich starches like sweet potatoes or bananas along with clean protein is an ideal post-workout routine.

  96. Monica says

    I read through many but not all of the posts so forbear if this was covered. In other words, “don’t spear me.” I make a ‘concoction’ pretty much daily of various organic seeds (chia, hemp, sesame, flax)~mixed w/ fresh hemp milk (1 C hemp hearts + 5 C water & strain). I add a lot of other ingredients (spirulina, wheat grass juice powder, nutritional & brewers yeast) and more. It’s fast, easy, economical and safer to make your own mixes and as far as I understand, many seeds until they’re broken down would pass through w/o much assimilation of their power packed nutrients and I doubt many folks would ‘eat’ these seeds otherwise. So, am I wrong in thinking this is still w/in the limits?

  97. says

    I have been attempting to go Paleo as much as possible. I just came across this powder called Paleo Protein and Carnivor. One is made with meat and eight white isolate and the other is meat isolate. Are you familiar with these products? And if you are what is your take on them?

  98. brice says


    I am a big climber and ski mountaineer. I prefer “real food” but in the freezing conditions of ice climbing (and skiing) I need something that is light weight and high glycemic but also has protein. Because it is endurance based with intermittent powerful and max strength work (hanging on to a difficult hold) I have gravitated towards a liquid protein/maltodextrin homemade “shake”, supplemented by foods like; canned fish, jerky, nuts roasted and cooked in maple syrup, dehydrated fruit etc. My question is how can I be paleo compliant in these situations? Days can be as short as 8 hours to a 30hr “day”, or of course multi day expeditions.

    • Amy Kubal says

      You got it! That’s a totally legit time to use a powder. I completely understand your situation – I used to be a pretty serious mountaineer and food is HEAVY!!!

  99. Nicole says

    I totally agree with the real food thing. I do My best to eat something legit post workout. However my husband cannot keep weight on, he’s 6’3 and 165 when wet. No illnesses, it’s just how he’s always been his father and sister are the same. In college he made it to 185 but that was crazy amount of carb loading for competition. He eats 3 full meals and about 3 snacks during the day. His snacks would be a meal for me. It would be great to have something extra for him, that was along the lines of paleo. What would you suggest, egg protein? He’ does fine with dairy.

    • Amy Kubal says

      This is a situation where a grass-fed whey protein would be totally okay. Make him a power-packed shake with coconut milk, sweet potato, avocado, berries and some grass-fed whey!

  100. Jennifer says

    No one has addressed my reason for drinking a green smoothie with protein powder post workout – I am exhausted, sweaty and panting after working out. I could not chew something without throwing up. A small shake, immediately after working out allows me to recover enough to eat a real meal an hour later. I’m using a collagen powder that has no additives. Thanks for your time!

    • Amy Kubal says

      You’re probably fine. It really depends on your goals and your body comp, but if you’re where you want to be it’s fine.

  101. says

    I’m just a visitor who has 2 friends eating this way. I just had to bring a little scientific fact to your conversation. The “paleo” diet is not authentic as you can read in several scientific threads that I will post below. Human ancestors were almost completely vegetarian.



      • says

        I agree with your comment squatchy, but you don’t seem to understand that you make my point for me. This paleo diet was never authentic in the first place. So yes we’ve evolved yet there is a whole business dedicated into fooling the public into thinking that this is the proper and healthy way to eat because the “paleo man” ate this way.

        • Squatchy says

          The whole point is to be healthy, not to recreate exactly how “paleo man” ate. We just use what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate as basis to start from and then go from there. It’s more of an “evolutionary framework”. You wouldn’t try to figure out the best diet for a lion or any other animal without looking to see what it evolved eating would you? We’re not fooling anybody. People eat a “paleo diet” because it works, they feel good, and become healthier. All we say to people is try it and see. If we were in this to fool people and make money, we picked the wrong way to do it :)

  102. Suzanne says

    I appreciate about the real food but I am exhausted from having to prepare everything from scratch, when I add it all together I spend about 12 hours a week either preparing meals or shopping for appropriate food. I have no car, it’s a one hour journey to and from my closest gym, I have two jobs and I’m studying full-time, everything I eat in a day has to be carried on my person. I came into paleo because I have lupus and was sick of taking Prednisone, getting fatter every day. I’ve been able to stop the Prednisone and am slowly losing weight but I feel I just can’t do this anymore, it’s exhausting. So I gave in and bought a protein powder to just gain back 1.5 hrs and not have to carry more stuff.

    What I’m trying to say is – paleo is hard to do, perfect paleo is a full-time job and sometimes it would be more helpful to say “ok, this is bad but the following things are not as bad, provided…”. Because, seriously, when I’m done with my workout at 9pm, the thought of chewing food makes me sick. In fact I have been sick, which was when I decided to buy the powder. Living in Europe means things are not so convenience oriented, so suggesting the options only available in the US or at exorbitant shipping prices is not going to help.

  103. Robert Thompson says

    Hello Amy !! First off thanks for all your great advice as well as you Robb your info is great!!! I have been on Paleo diet for 3 months now and been eating clean for almost 1.5 years down 30 pounds and maintaining 7% body fat :) my hardest thing to get rid of was protein powders but I’m now reading all these posts and thinking about tossing my sunwarrior pea, hemp blend protein powder !! But what would you recommend in protein levels for me ? I weigh 175 lbs and 26 years old I’m trying to maintain low body fat and continue to get lean and gain muscle !! I workout 5 times a week and keep my heart rate at a fat burning level while doing cardio !! Thanks for everything and god bless

  104. Solis says

    I’m in the military and overseas, we eat what we can get from the DFAC and I’m trying to stay as close to paleo as possible, howevere there are meals that I have no choice. Mostly I eat omelete with veggies or hard boiled eggs and a bowl of mixed fruit for breakfast. Some meat(cornish hen, chicken, pork or fish either dor grill), salad (tomato, spinach, mushrooms, onion, celery, carrots, jalapenos, green/red pepper)swith vinegar/olive oil and kiwi or pear for lunch and dinner. I’m trying to lose fat and also get lean and build some muscle working out at the gym. Most around here use protein shakes and if I can, I want to stay away from it; however feel my protein intake might not be high enough. What other options do I have? I can get fruits in between meals but thats about it. Any suggestions?

  105. Sarah Bashaw says

    I am a new mom who is trying to eat Paleo. I am nursing and with my job I don’t have time to both take a lunch break and pump. I know that real food is best, but I am at a point where I either have time to pump or time to eat, period. Is there a good protein/meal replacement shake out there?

  106. says

    “There have been several cases and reports of seemingly innocent ‘protein powders’ being contaminated with anabolic steroids or like substances which have resulted in positive ‘doping’ test results” Come on Robb!! This is sensationalist nonsense, and a non-story… the oldest trick in the book of any PED cheater when caught out is to blame the “contaminated” supplement cream, lotion, cough medicine…

    why oh why would large multinational nutritional companies secretly add illegal, expensive ingredients into low-margin products? it doesnt make economical sense. you cannot make money selling illegal anabolics at protein powder prices. its like selling burgers secretly made from fillet steak but sold at normal burger prices!

    Wake up and realise its not the supplement makers, its the athletes that are cheating.

    • says

      Actually, this has occurred a number of times. The first run of a product will contain an anabolic agent, users get “amazing results” word spreads, that first run is now gone, but a phenomenal marketing ploy has been utilized.

  107. Thomas says

    I have a 16 year old son who has decided this year that he wants to become more athletic and partake in the interscholastic sports programs at his school. Due to his being on the autism spectrum, though high functioning, he hasn’t had very much luck getting involved in community youth sports programs throughout his youth; no body want’s him playing in their reindeer games. Fortunately most of the staff at his school seem fairly receptive to him learning the ropes at the JV level now and then level him up during the off season. My son has always preferred foods that fall fairly close if not in the paleo/primal scope, the “problem” we’re running into now is trying to put weight on him. We’ve been “officially” paleo for about eight months now; I’ve dumped about sixty pounds of unwanted me myself. My son is pure ectomorph with a sprinkling of mesomorph potential. He is 6 ft. 4 in. and weighs 135 lbs. What would you recommend to help put mass on along with the weight training he’s doing in school?

    • says

      All I can say is “more.” Might need a shake that does not bother him, big meals, snacks, nuts, nut butters. This is the curse and miracle of puberty! The kids burn off damn near anything we throw at them.

      check out John Welbourn’s Power Athlete site…very good.

  108. Rocco says

    I’m a paleo 5 years ago.
    I don’t eat nothing post-workout but I only drink water 1 or 2 mouthful every 15min during 1 hour, after
    I eat breast chicken (200grs) or any magra protein and 1 apple or banana, 1 handle of almonds. I don’t need the protein powders.
    I feel great and strong, my bodyfat 7%.

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