Protein powder has long been associated with the fitness and health-conscious crowd. As such, dieters might assume that protein powders are a welcome part of any eating regimen. But that’s not always the case—especially if your protein powder is packed with processed ingredients.
Can you have protein powder on the Atkins diet? What about on the Whole 30? In many cases, the answer is more complicated than you think. Some shakes are made with dairy; others are made with so. Others, still, feature a whole host of sugars and unpronounceable ingredients.
If you’re on one of the major restrictive diets, you’ll want to double check that your protein powder fits in with the plan—otherwise, you might not see the results promised. Luckily, we’ve made things easy on you by outlining the protein powder restrictions for seven of the most popular weight-loss diets.
DASH stands for “Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension.” It’s an eating plan aimed at lowering blood pressure through a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. Dieters are encouraged to limit red meat, sugar and saturated fats.
Protein powder is okay if you’re on the DASH diet. This recipe for DASH-friendly smoothies encourages adding protein powder along with other food items, but you’ll want to be sure to check the ingredients on your protein powder. DASH is a diet that focuses on moderation; your ideal protein powder should contain some blend of plant-based ingredients or high-quality whey. For best results, avoid protein powder brands that include added sugar.
Whole 30 diet
According to the official Whole 30 website, most ingredients in most protein powders are off-limits for dieters. Plant-based proteins are generally made from soy, pea or brown rice protein—all ingredients that don’t fit into the plan. Traditional protein powders are made with milk-derived products like whey or casein, which are also off-limits.
The whole spirit of the Whole 30 diet centers around the idea that you’re avoiding processed foods. While high-quality protein powders certainly have proven benefits—especially if you’re active or trying to meet a certain fitness goal—they don’t exactly fit in with the Whole 30 penchant for foods in their raw form.
Here’s the good news: The Whole 30 only lasts for 30 days, so you can add protein powder back into your regimen after the “reset” is over.
The Atkins diet is a high protein, low-carb diet. The plan recommends avoiding grains, sugar, high-carb fruits and vegetables, legumes and diet or low-fat foods. Protein powder is fine, even encouraged, but dieters should be on the lookout for high-quality whey protein or protein sourced from eggs. Plant proteins like pea, rice and soy don’t fit with the guidelines of the plan.
With that being said, the Atkins brand seems to contradict itself. It makes a line of protein bars and shakes that, while low in sugar, appear to be highly processed. The banana-chocolate shake, for example, contains vegetable oils and soy protein isolate. Sure, technically it meets the requirements, but dieters may want to look for a protein powder that offers a more effective formula.
The Master Cleanse is a strict diet that consists of drinking a lemonade made from lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup. You can also conduct a nightly saltwater flush and drink a laxative tea. Unfortunately, protein powder—and all other foods, for that matter—are off the table for the duration of the cleanse.
Keto’s low-carb, high-fat plan makes meal planning a bit of a challenge for beginners. But there are some protein powder options available for Keto dieters. Stick with low-carb options like egg white protein or a zero-carb option like Isopure. Additional options include beef protein or vegan-friendly keto supplements sourced from seeds, legumes or alfalfa. The latter options are typically excluded from a keto diet. However, many powders on the market extract the plant proteins, removing the sugar and carb content they’re known for.
The Mediterranean diet is similar to the DASH diet. Its core philosophy is to eat a balanced diet, limiting processed foods and eating lots of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. Protein powder can fit in with a Mediterranean menu, but you’ll want to be mindful of what’s included in the mix.
You’ll want to avoid protein powders with additives, colors, artificial flavors or sugar. A plain powder made from whey, hemp or pea is a good choice. While they may not taste the most exciting, you can add these powders to smoothies made from low-glycemic fruits or blend them with your favorite nut butter—all while sticking to your Mediterranean diet regimen.
Raw foods diet
Raw food dieters are limited to foods that have never been heated over 115 degrees Fahrenheit. The idea is that raw or minimally cooked foods retain their beneficial nutrients and are healthier for the body to process than their cooked counterparts.
While a raw diet doesn’t necessarily equal veganism, you’re eating uncooked foods most of the time, so most items will be nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables. In some cases, raw dieters can have raw milk, but whey protein powder that fits the bill is hard to come by.
Most whey protein powder is treated with heat during processing, thus disqualifying its status as a raw food. There are some cold-pressed whey proteins out there that could fit with raw requirements, but your best bet here is going to be looking for a protein powder that’s specifically raw and vegan. Garden of Life is one of the most popular brands. Its raw, vegan protein powder comes in a variety of flavors, as well as a plain, organic version you can mix into other foods for a little boost.
Most diets, even a raw vegan one, can include protein powder as a way to ensure you’re getting enough protein to keep your body fueled as you improve your health. Check out our protein powder reviews to find one that works for you, no matter what kind of diet you’re on.