Is Protein Powder Paleo?

Thousands of years ago, our ancestors did not have the convenience of the modern grocery store let alone electricity to keep foods chilled or to run blenders to make perfectly smooth breakfast or post-workout shakes. The Paleolithic period, described as a time up to approximately 2.5 million years ago, may not have been an era filled with plenty of processed or convenience foods, but this does not mean that individuals living during this period did not eat well. In fact, their eating choices have spawned a whole new dietary style for modern people, which has become increasingly popular in recent years.

What Qualifies a Food as Paleo?

The paleo diet is currently followed by approximately 7% of Americans, which equals millions of individuals. It eschews all processed foods and refined sugars and focuses primarily on lean meats, fruits and vegetables, which are foods that the cavemen would have been able to acquire. However, it does not allow for grains and dairy, which would not have been used or found in abundance during that time. Grains and legumes, in particular, are said not to have been eaten by humans until approximately 75,000 years ago. In addition, paleo eaters can add healthy oils made from fruits and nuts as well as a variety of raw nuts and seeds into their diets.

Does Processed Protein Powder Fit Into a Paleo Diet?

The paleo diet is naturally high in protein thanks to the lean meats and fish that are encouraged. Therefore, you may think that a protein powder could make your new dietary choices even easier to follow on days that you are rushed for time. However, keep in mind that any type of protein powder is naturally highly processed because the protein is extracted from seeds, plants, dairy or animal sources.

Whole, unprocessed foods are certainly best for a paleo diet, but protein powders that fit very specific requirements may be included on occasion for convenience as an addition to a meal or as a post-workout shake but not as a complete meal replacement. To determine whether a protein powder can fit into your paleo diet, you will need to consider whether you truly need to use it, what source the protein powder is from and what other ingredients are added.

For example, the paleo diet is all about getting rich nutrients from a variety of whole foods that would have been eaten well over a million years ago. While our ancestors would not have been able to process cattle to get only the most basic chains of amino acids out of the connective tissues, they did consume animal proteins, which are found in many protein powders today.

The Benefits of Single-Ingredient Protein Powders in a Paleo Diet

If you are planning on adding a protein powder to your paleo diet, you will want to choose the simplest and safest option available. Many protein powders today are artificially sweetened or flavored with chemicals that did not exist in the Paleolithic period. Others have emulsifiers or thickeners added in an attempt to create a more palatable smoothie or baked good.

Some paleo eaters may include protein powders with multiple ingredients in their diets as long as those additional ingredients are clean. However, it is far better to choose a single-ingredient protein powder with no additional flavorings, sweeteners or preservatives. This means that you will be getting the single source of protein in a convenient package, which can be incredibly helpful for today’s busy and fast-paced lifestyle.

Following a Paleo Diet With Zen Principle Protein Powders

If you plan to add a protein powder to your paleo diet, Zen Principle makes it easy to do so safely. We offer five key protein-rich options, including beef collagen peptides, beef gelatin, marine collagen peptides, organic brown rice protein and organic pea protein powders. Keeping in mind that grains and legumes are typically not consumed on a paleo diet, the best choices are the beef collagen, beef gelatin or marine collagen powder. Each of these products is made with a single, safe ingredient with no additives, including no sweeteners or preservatives.

Best Practices for Consuming Protein Powders

Distilling what you have already learned here will help you understand how you can best use protein powders as part of your paleo diet and as one component of an overall healthy lifestyle. While fresh, whole food sources may be ideal, they may not always be realistic for your lifestyle. Follow these tips to use your protein powder as healthfully as possible.

  1. Always choose a single-ingredient protein powder. As previously mentioned, a single-ingredient protein powder eliminates many highly processed additives while still letting you get plenty of the protein you need from a very clean source.
  2. Do not look at your protein powder as a meal replacement. Use a protein powder as an addition to your meal, for post-workout recovery or as a small snack in between your meals if you need a little extra protein.
  3. Turn to whole foods as frequently as possible for the vast majority of your macronutrients and calories. Especially when following a paleo diet, it is vital that you get most of your nutrients from whole, unprocessed foods. A protein-rich food not only will fulfill many of the daily demands of your body but also will have essential vitamins and minerals that your body depends on for growth, repair and energy.


While it is difficult to classify a protein powder as a solidly paleo food choice, a single-ingredient option from animal sources is a good option for busy adults looking for some extra convenience in the midst of their busy lives. Plus, this is a good nutrition addition for very active individuals or for those looking to boost the protein in their meals or snacks.

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