What Is Protein Powder?

Some people, like myself, are so freakishly strong that they don’t need any supplements to help them develop massive bulk. My friends and I casually rip telephone books in half and knock down adult trees with our bare hands. That’s just how we roll. But for the rest of the population looking to add muscle, it’s very common to turn to protein powder. But what is protein powder? What is protein powder made of? It’s time to pump (clap!) you up with answers!

What is protein powder?

Bottled protein shakes have been on the market since the 1950s. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that straight protein powder really started becoming popular. 

Protein powder was initially developed by a doctor named Scott Connelly. He called it Met-Rx, and the intended use was to help patients maintain muscle mass while convalescing in bed. It eventually was picked up by the bodybuilding community and, soon after, the wider gym-going audience.

Today, there has been an explosion of protein powder varieties. Even freaking Dunkin Donuts has their own protein powder. 

What is protein powder made of?

The protein in protein powder comes from a variety of sources. The most common is whey, the leftover liquid from milk after it has been curdled and strained. Whey is called a “complete protein,” meaning it has all the essential amino acids. Other protein powders are made with plant proteins. Common plants include soybeans, peas, chickpeas, rice, potatoes, and hemp.

How is protein powder made?

This is some true food wizardry; how can liquid whey be turned into powder?! Step one is protein isolation. Whether it’s milk or plants, the proteins have to be extracted from the source. That is usually done with a combination of heat and enzymes. 

Once the concentrate is formed, it has to be dehydrated into a powder. For some plant-based powders, the dehydration occurs and then the plants are ground into a powder.

Many protein powder brands will add flavors or other superfood ingredients to the base powder to make it more palatable. That’s why sometimes chocolate protein powder feels like a little treat.

Does protein powder go bad?

Your average protein powder is going to last you 9-18 months, so get to scooping!

Is protein powder made from worms?

Yes, there are some brands of protein powder made from bugs, specifically mealworm larvae and crickets. 

There’s been a recent push by food producers and environmentalists to turn to bugs as an alternative protein source. There are many countries that already use insects as part of their cuisine, and that trend is starting to emerge in the United States. Sour Cream and Onion Crickets, anyone?

Unless you’re a climate change denier, the stark reality of an environmental crisis is knocking at our door. And, the continual commercialization of plant and animal harvesting is taking a huge toll on the Earth. So, perhaps it is time for a reckoning, a realization that insects are our future, and that if you still want to get massive gains in the gym, you’re going to have to down some cricket dust.

About the Author

Luke Field

Luke Field is a writer and actor originally from Philadelphia. He was the former Head Writer of branded content at CollegeHumor and was also a contributing writer and actor to the CollegeHumor Originals cast. He has extensive improv and sketch stage experience, performing both at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and with their Touring Company. In addition to writing, he also works as a Story Producer, most recently on season 4 of Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen. Keep your eyes peeled for his brief but impactful appearance as Kevin, the screaming security guard, in the upcoming feature The Disruptors, directed by Adam Frucci.

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