What’s this sorcery?
If you know anyone who is into fitness, you’ve probably heard of protein powder especially since exercising has become such a massive trend in the 21st century. However, if you don’t know much about it, you’d probably see it in a negative light.
Discussing what it exactly is, why its consumption can be useful, and if it really can be harmful is essential to fully understand this mysterious powder.
WHAT IS THIS MAGIC POWDER?
-Protein powder can come from different sources like milk, soy, beans, rice, etc… Nevertheless, milk protein is the most commonly used, and is often referred to as “whey”. To simplify, whey protein powder is essentially a dried-up byproduct from the production of cheese and other dairy products.
– During cheese production the fatty parts of the milk is used to make the curd while the liquids remaining from that process end up to be what is called the whey.
It’s the liquid you can sometime find on top of your yogurt and usually throw away! In fact, you’ve already probably taken whey protein unknowingly.
The whey is then filtered to remove any undesired substances that linger within, turned into powder, and flavored so it has an enjoyable taste.
WHY DO WE TAKE IT?
-Our muscle fibers are made out of protein. Micro-tears occur in these fibers when we exercise, and as they recover the tear is replaced with more muscle thus creating strength; this happens thank to the protein we supply our body.
This is why people who exercise a lot, should increase their protein consumption (sometimes up to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight). Supplements can be useful to fulfill this purpose.
-Furthermore, whey is a very high quality protein, as it contains all the essential amino acids, particularly Branched Chained Amino Acids (BCAA).
-Whey is usually taken after workouts, because as explained before your torn muscle fibers need protein to recover. Whey is easily digested and quickly absorbed by your body, therefore starting muscle repair sooner.
THEN WHY DON’T WE TAKE ALL OUR PROTEIN FROM WHOLE FOODS?
You can! Your body doesn’t differentiate between sources of protein, as long as it gets the amino acids. One 25-gram scoop of whey protein powder contains around 21-24 grams of protein, which is roughly the same amount found in 100 grams of meat, fish, beans, or a few eggs. Supplementing isn’t necessary if you can reach the required daily intake of protein.
How much protein does our body need? Every person needs a different amount of protein intake which varies by gender, weight, age, height, and activity level. A useful tool is the Interactive DRI from the USDA, which can be found online.
However, some people consume protein in the form of supplements for several reasons:
1- Convenience: When heading back from a workout, you rarely have the will to start preparing a meal. Adding a scoop of whey to your shaker, a bit of water (or milk) and shaking it for a few seconds is “whey faster” !!!
2- Satisfaction: After an exhausting workout, you generally crave a sweet vanilla/chocolate milkshake, than a dry tasteless chicken breast.
3- Cost: Most sources of protein like meat and fish are relatively expensive. Supplements represent the cheapest way to increase your daily intake of protein.
4- Quality: Good protein powder is easily digested and used to cover the body’s needs. In addition, as far as whey is concerned it contains all the essential amino acids the body needs.
IS THERE ANY DANGER TO CONSUMING PROTEIN POWDER?
If you have a balanced diet, with a proper intake of your other two macronutrients (fats and carbohydrates) and do not exceed your daily recommendation, there is no danger to consuming protein powder.
Once again, your body makes no difference between protein powder and fish, meat, beans or other whole food protein!
It is unnecessary to consume more protein (from any source) than what is recommended. It’ll simply be eliminated through your urine.
WHY ARE PEOPLE SO SCARED OF PROTEIN THEN?
This misconception comes from the origins of bodybuilding, as we know it. During the 1960’s, bodybuilders started using illegal steroids, which could seriously damage their organs (particularly the liver and the kidneys). When doctors asked them what they had changed in their routine that could cause such damages, they simply said that they increased their protein consumption, as they did not want to admit the illegal drug consumption. This is why some doctors started to question protein, when the real problem was steroid consumption.
There is no scientific evidence that an excess of protein intake can damage a healthy person’s kidneys or liver.
Nowadays, people still have a negative view on supplements. The reason for this is that they do not know much about them, and as the bodybuilding world is usually related to doping, it’s easy to get confused.
Protein powder is just like any powder, such as baby formula, chocolate milk, or coffee; in the end it’s something we enjoy adding to our day.
Protein supplements are not harmful in the least. They’re simply a healthy way to increase protein consumption in order to meet daily needs.
In the end, taking supplements is a choice and whether you choose to consume it depends on your own personal needs.
Nevertheless, the most important thing is to have a diet that is both healthy and balanced and an active lifestyle.