First off I need to apologize to Mike at Xwerks, I’ve been sitting on this one for awhile… Back in June I was given the opportunity to review Xwerks Grow, a grass-fed whey protein isolate. If you recall I reviewed their “Ignite” here. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to make of a protein review, as it’s one of those supplements that if you’re doing everything right, you don’t really notice it. The people who notice protein supplements are those who weren’t already eating correctly, or are new to training and thus recovering poorly, etc. That being said, I always get excited to do these reviews because it gives me the chance to be analytical and learn something, translated roughly, I’m nerdy so it’s fun.
When I wrote my guide to buying protein I put Whey Protein Isolate’s in the middle of the pack, between concentrates below them and Hydrolysate’s above them. Though for your money, Isolate’s are the most ubiquitous and cost effective for 99% of people. It’s hard to evaluate a protein based on results, because there are so many other factors going into the main “result” of protein which would be recovery and growth. Thus, I’m going to focus on three key features of protein that I think matter to most people, the first is the label/quality (basically what’s in the bag), the second is taste, and the third is cost effectiveness or price compered to similar products. Before we get started however, I want to go on a little tangent about grass-fed protein. If you’re read a lot of the paleo literature, you probably know all about grain fed vs. grass fed beef. To summarize hugely, the main point most people make when constructing this argument is fats not only does grass fed beef have a better distribution of fats omega-3 and omega-6; but also contains better saturated fats that don’t contribute to high cholesterol levels, and also several compounds like CLA that have many downstream benefits to humans. If you want the full story I would start with Chris Kresser’s article here (or anything from Robb Wolf or Mark Sisson). Here’s the rub with that, whey protein is highly processed and contains no fat. So does the amino acid profile change between grass fed whey and regular whey isolate?
Grass Fed Whey Isolate
Clearly their profiles are different, but what we really care about are BCAA content, as those drive a large portion of protein synthesis, BCAA again are Leucine, Isoleucine, and Valine, in Grass Fed Whey these sum to 25.68g per 100g; in regular Whey Isolate; these sum to 22.9g per 100g, so both are above 20% BCAA by mass, and in a given 25g scoop of protein you’re getting a solid 5g of BCAA in both cases. So if you’re not getting any of the benefit of grass-fed beef, and you’re not getting a drastically different amino acid profile, why pay for grass fed whey? The only answer I have come up with to this, is that you like happy cows, and want assurances that the whey you’re drinking came from sufficiently cared for animals. It’s a laudable goal, something most people don’t even look for in milk or beef let alone a supplement.
What’s in the Bag
According to the Xwerks website, Grow is…
Xwerks Grow – New Zealand grass-fed whey protein isolate.
Our protein is sourced from naturally raised grass-fed cows that naturally graze on the countryside of New Zealand, one of the strictest countries in the world when it comes to dairy quality. Meaning no hormones, antibiotics or pesticides that can be passed on to you. We also use natural sweeteners and flavoring for a rich and creamy flavor with no aftertaste.
Whey isolate means our whey is “isolated” through micro filtration to almost totally pure protein at 25g of protein and over 6g of BCAA’s per serving with virtually no lactose, carbs or fats.
Made from grass-fed, pasture raised cows in New Zealand
No artificial sweetners, flavors or coloring
Soy and Gluten free
Cold pressed, non ion-exchange filtering
Processed acid and bleach free
Raw whey is rich in protein substances, called native micro fractions. These include; alpha lactalbumin, beta-lactoglobulin, glycomacropeptide, immunoglobulins, serum albumin, lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase. Our micro filtration process helps preserve these important biological nutrients while removing unwanted fats and carbohydrates (such as lactose).
This means our whey has the following benefits and more:
Muscle growth and repair
Strengthens and boosts the immune system
Easily digestible, no bloat
Let’s start at the top, New Zealand is basically the opposite of America when it comes to dairy/beef, you actually have to pay extra to get grain fed beef, otherwise it’s all grass fed (what a world!). So that part is true, but you can get hormone, soy and pesticide free whey from America as well. Similarly, sites like TrueNutrition let you pick your sweetener as well. Let’s move onto the next line, the “isolate” of whey protein isolate, micro filtration is exactly what it sounds like, it uses fancy ceramic filters to process the whey, removing fat, lactose and many other undesirable things without damaging any of the protein, adding harsh chemicals, or removing beneficial sub fractions. Again, this is 100% true, and micro filtration has become more or less the industry standard for whey protein. What I would want to see here however, like Progenex, and like the mix I make, is the addition of some hydrolysate to get that faster absorption rate for ideal post workout protein, it’s not a huge minus, but it is a minus and something you can rectify in a custom mix. Continuing, the rest of the label is more or less accurate, you’re getting a high quality whey protein isolate, but many whey protein isolates share these traits.
Based on the label alone, I’d give this a 27/33, with subtractions for the whole grass fed thing, and the lack of hydrolysates.
This is the fun category, because it’s entirely subjective! Honestly, this stuff is super tasty. I’ve had it in coffee, in water, in almond milk, with carbs and without carbs. It tastes great in everything I’ve put it in, and mixes easily. If you’re read my stuff on Casein Hydrolysate you know that I don’t really mind things that taste terrible, but I’m only human, which means I also prefer things that taste better than horrible. Xwerks grow tastes significantly better than horrible. I would rate it higher than the straight TrueNutrition chocolate flavor, though I should note that my addition of hydrolysates can make almost anything taste worse.
For taste, mix-ability, and general usefulness I give Grow a 33/33, no complaints here.
This is really my category, this is where my brain likes to be. Cold, hard, numbers. So let’s break it down. Retail price for Xwerks Grow is $49.00 for 30 (1 scoop) servings, or $1.63 per serving. I’m going to assume most people only use 1 scoop per training day at the end of their workout, it doesn’t really matter cause all the math will work out proportionally if you use more. Thus if you’re training 5 days a week, that’s 6 weeks of protein, not bad, and certainly better than Progenex, which is $69.95 for 30 scoops. What about TrueNutrition? Well there are a few options, their version of grass fed is $15.49 per 15 servings, with their hormone free isolate and micro filtered isolate’s coming in at $12.49 per 15 servings. Even in the most expensive case, we’re capped at a max of $1.03 per serving, or roughly 60% of the cost. The issue is that unlike Progenex, there isn’t a perfect replica, the TN grass fed whey doesn’t display as being cold process micro filtered, and their cold processed micro filtered whey is not grass fed, though the middle ground is a cold process micro filtered, hormone free, whey protein isolate. So the question remaining to you is if the grass-fed happy New Zealand cows matter to you, and if you can stomach the TrueNutrition flavors, and if both of those are worth an extra $.50-.60 per serving. Personally, I’m a hard sell, and while I find what Xwerks is doing laudable, but I’ll stick with TrueNutrition.
For cost effectiveness alone, I give Grow a 23/33, while not the most expensive thing on the market, still a stretch compared to what I can do with TN.
I love that Xwerks is being upfront about every aspect of this protein. Not enough companies will do that, they hide behind proprietary labels and processing schemes that obscure information from consumers. It let’s you use marketing and packaging to sell products rather than the quality therein. Grow is quite the opposite, the site is plain, the bag is plain, and the label is honest, you’re getting 100% of what they say you’re getting in quantities you are given. That’s worth a lot to someone like me. It’s hard to compete with a site like True Nutrition in the hands of someone who isn’t overwhelmed by the choices, and knows how to find what they’re looking for. They’re a bulk seller, if you were going to manufacture you’re own protein they basically represent the “At Cost” option. Further, Xwerks has nailed taste, if that’s an important factor for you, and you’re not going through very much protein per month, I would strongly recommend Xwerks Grow.
Honest marketing, with no proprietary blends
Mixes well with many drinks including water
High quality whey protein isolate
Cost. If sourcing Grass Fed New Zealand whey doesn’t matter to you, it’s hard to justify.
27+23+33+1 = 84 B
I’m rounding this up to a B+ because I give major credit to XWerks for being upfront about what’s in their product and letting it stand by itself.