Is Protein Powder Safe and Even Necessary?


Yo, you get swole? Get a hardcore workout at the gym? Work that cardio? Pound weights, then pound a big protein shake after your sweat sesh? Well, be careful.

Clean Label Project, a nonprofit that lab tests products to see if they’re safe or not, tested 134 organic and regular protein powders for over 130 toxins from 52 brands based on the top selling powders according to and Nielsen, and the results are crazy.

Now, I trust in their testing and results, but to drop some real talk: Clean Label Project doesn’t submit their studies for peer review. Instead, their “test results are verified by two additional labs through random testing”. Also, their methods of testing aren’t published so it can’t be replicated exactly nor substantiated by labs other than the aforementioned two.

Sidenote: Scientific studies results are published all the time in major news publications, but often have the same issue of not being verified. It doesn’t mean the results are always false, but it’s something all readers should be aware of in order to make an educated decision.

In my eyes, this doesn’t negate the validity of their test results nor the possible consequences. Toxins that don’t belong in our food were detected, and no matter the amount, they aren’t a positive thing for our bodies.

At the very least, this study warrants further contemplation on what’s in our food.

Now let’s check out the results:

LEAD Detected
70% of All Powders
75% of Plant-Based Powders
Up to 1.5x more in Organic Powders

CADMIUM Detected
74% of All Powders
Up to 4.8x more in Organic Powders

ARSENIC Detected
Up to 1.5x more in Organic Powders

BPA Detected
55% of All Powders
40% less in Organic Powders

• Organic Powders have on average over 2x the amount of heavy metals like Lead, Cadmium and Arsenic compared to regular powders. Rock on!

 • Powders with eggs as their protein source tested cleaner than all other types.

 • Powders with plants as their protein source tested worst.

I’ve been pounding protein shakes for years in hopes of sculpting my baby soft man boy body into a glistening, chiseled mini version of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s, but now I may need to give up on that dream.

I was so close too…SO CLOSE I could smell it cooking.

The whole point of this protein biz, and especially certified organic protein, is to help us get healthier. Instead, we’ve all been guzzling down toxins and heavy metals.

The only heavy metal I want is the kind blasting my eardrums with an endless assault of electric guitar shreds and pounding drums, rallying every last muscle fiber to excrete those final drops of lactic acid that’ll project me into the final seconds of my last agonizing, vein popping rep.

Yeeeaaaa BROOOO!

So, if we all want to be responsible protein shake drinkers, check out the study and see for yourself which powders are safest. Or don’t…

Get this: we may not even need protein powder to supplement our workout routines. *Gasp* provides a video breakdown of the average person’s over-consumption of protein, even in vegetarians, and there are numerous sources stating that there’s no benefit to consuming more protein, contrary to what we’ve been told for decades by the fitness industry.

At the same time, many sources state that there IS a benefit.

This happens all the time in nutritional science - the information on what’s beneficial and what’s not is constantly changing. Wine is great, wine is bad. Bread is great, bread is bad. Eggs are great, eggs are bad. So what the hell are we to do with all of this contradictory info?

Well, in the end, we all do whatever feels right to us…right? Based on my research, I’m not convinced that extra protein is necessary after working out, but I still like the taste of that delicious, powdery goodness in my morning smoothies.

I like wine and bread too, screw it.

I’ll do me, you do you.


What’s so bad about Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic and BPA?

LEAD health hazards can be found here.

CADMIUM health hazards here.

ARSENIC health hazards here.

BPA health effects are controversial.

How are these toxins and heavy metals getting into our protein powders and food?

They can enter along the entire production process from sourcing ingredients to the final packaging. From the start, soil can be contaminated with pesticides and heavy metals. These inorganic metals can come from:

  • Mining run-off

  • Industrial areas

  • High metal waste disposal

  • Trash incineration

  • Fertilizers

  • Animal manure

  • Sewage sludge

  • Wastewater irrigation

  • Fossil fuel combustion residue

  • Simply floating around in the air

Growing plants absorb these chemicals just as they would normal nutrients and then are either placed directly into our food products or are fed to livestock. So we either get our dose of toxins through the plant (hence the higher contamination rate among plant-based protein powders) or second-hand through animal products and byproducts.

Toxins can also leach into food through manufacturing, storage, silos and transporting. As an example, BPA is in the lining of many cans and containers so it’s simply absorbed by whatever food product is inside.


Just like for most of the scientific studies we read about in all of the major publications, we need to realize that data can be sensationalized, skewed and can change if replicated by other labs. Toxins and harmful contaminants exist in these protein powders, but it’s not clear by how much the results would vary if samples were taken from other batches and tested by other labs.

The best we can do is to make choices based on the best and most sensible information we currently have, and this study is the best we currently have. I’m only buying the “clean” powders from here on out, what about you?


#1 Rated Protein Powder


HealthColin Goodridge