The age old dilemma of processed protein powder vs. real food. Do we really need protein powders, bars and shakes to fuel our body properly?
I have been struggling with the notion of fueling up and recovering with a protein shake or actually eating real food. I have recently turned into the girl at the gym who brings eggs and broccoli into the locker room. I can be seen stuffing eggs in my mouth after my workout where I promptly receive weird looks. It wasn’t always eggs and broccoli; I used to have protein powders galore shoved into my purple gym bag. Reading a bunch of news articles, I have come to a crossroads where I want to walk into GNC and purchase my protein powder again, but then I think is it really worth the $30? Am I just being sucked in by the marketing schemes of these companies to buy their products?
What the experts say
Heather Mangieri, a nutrition consultant, explained that “…ideally, people should get protein from food. But some people who have high caloric needs, such as athletes, may find it more convenient to get their protein, along with necessary extra calories, from a high-protein product.” Am I a high-calorie needing athlete? Probably not, I only work out a total of 10-15hr per week.
Nancy Clark, an expert nutritionist, explains in her book Sports Nutrition Guidebook that many people assume they need to consume a big meal because they feel like they worked out extra hard. When in fact, people often over estimate the amount of calories their body needs to properly recover and repair. Our bodies can only absorb so much protein in one sitting. Mangierie explains that our bodies typically use a MAXIMUM of 20-30g of protein from a single meal. Beyond that, any additional protein in a meal won’t be used for extra tissue repair or muscle building benefits. AKA it’s just extra calories the body doesn’t use.
Protein powder = supplement, not food
First things first, everyone must understand that protein powders are a supplement. What does “supplement” mean? Well let me Google that for you….”Supplement. An addition designed to make up for a deficit.” Meaning if you don’t get enough of ___in your diet a supplement will fill in that blank. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary a dietary supplement is “not considered food.” Interesting. So we can conclude that supplements do not replace food. This is important because protein powders and bars have incomplete nutrition. They tend to be heavy on protein but fail to provide significant amounts of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and healthy fats that you would find in natural sources of protein like fish, meat, eggs and beans.
Since protein powders fall under the realm of supplements they are not considered food, thus they are not regulated by the government. A Consumer Reports investigation found that many popular brands of protein powders included concerning amounts of arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium. Lesson here is that protein powders aren’t all high and mighty.
We don’t NEED protein powder to properly fuel our bodies
Real food has a better nutritional balance than protein powders. Post workout I usually consume hard boiled eggs for protein, sometimes broccoli for some carbohydrates or maybe a mini bagel. I am no nutritionist at all but I am trying to learn. And so far it seems to me that real, all natural, non-processed foods will give you better nutrients any day over a less nutritious protein powder.
*Disclaimer…when I am training for an Ironman I will most likely be drinking some kind of protein shake. (One that isn’t full of poison)
– Train Hard. Tri Harder.