The Magic Behind Protein Powder
The True Benefits And Uses Of Protein Powder
By Ash May
Protein powder is the most widely consumed supplement throughout the whole industry—and for good reason.
Unlike 90% of the misleading, over-priced supplements out there, protein powder really does have a proven benefit as a way to boost your nutritional goals and also save your wallet.
With that being said, the realistic benefits of protein powder don’t seem to be enough for the marketers of supplementation companies, which has led to confusion among many people entering the fitness and health space.
Due to this, the aim of this article is to dispel the myths and “magic” that surrounds protein powder within this industry, and inform you of the actual reasons you should (or shouldn’t) be buying it.
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Just the other day, I was in Holland and Barret picking up some bits for myself. During this brief trip, I overheard a conversation between a shopper and an employee of the store.
I won’t scribe out word for word what was said. However. What I did hear, is, when asked what the shopper was looking for, he wanted “a protein powder with 100% protein so that he can build muscle.”
To be honest, the logic is there, and it is clear to see why so many people fall into the trap of thinking that protein powder is a magical supplement that allows your body to tap into its muscle building ability.
It’s because of the way it’s marketed. Everywhere you go, you see jacked guys shovelling down protein powder, promoting brands which themselves are boasting the different ways their extensive list of powders will boost your muscle growth.
It isn’t just the marketers and celebrities that are causing this, but the fitness community themselves.
With the myth that you have to have a protein shake immediately after you workout being spread to many beginners, it creates a ritual where the thought process is that workouts become wasted if you do not get in this shake—you miss the anabolic (muscle-building) window. I promise you this isn’t true.
The truth is that protein powder is not magic, and you will not have a wasted workout if you aren’t able to have a protein shake straight after a workout.
Muscle protein synthesis is increased for up to 48 hours after a workout, so really, all you need to get is adequate amounts of protein (one gram per pound of body weight is a good start) daily, you will be making the most of the muscle building signals generated from your workouts.
With this in mind, I want you to change how you think of protein powder.
Protein powder is just that. Powdered protein. The sources of this protein can vary, such as “whey” being from dairy, but the way to think of it is: 30g of protein from a protein shake, is like drinking 30g of protein from a blended chicken breast.
It does not do anything different from getting protein from wholefoods, in fact, it will often have less benefit than the alternative, due to many of the nutrients and vitamins found in the wholefoods which protein powders lack.
There are some ways in which protein powders do have an advantage over getting protein from wholefood sources such as chicken breast.
The first of which is convenience. We are all busy and do not always have time to cook a whole meal, or we may be on the road all day without access to cooking equipment. Due to this, in order to hit your daily protein requirements, there really is nothing more beneficial than supplementation from protein powder.
The other is the cost of this. While chicken, beef, steak, salmon, etc doesn’t have to be expensive, for many people, a cheaper alternative is always welcome. Especially if you’re trying to hit a high daily protein intake. With this in mind, if you look into it, the cost of protein powder per gram of protein is nearly always cheaper. For example:
1kg Chicken Breast from Tesco:
Cost – £5.00
Protein – 223g
Price per gram of protein: 2.24p
5kg 80% Whey Protein Powder from MyProtein:
Cost – £55.99 (Using 30% discount which happens every month)
Protein – 4100g
Price per gram of protein: 0.01p
As you can see, this is not a small saving at all. By making use of the constant sales being run by supplement companies, and the discounts from purchasing in bulk 5kg bags, protein powder is a very low cost way to increase your daily protein intake.
The last benefit of protein powder over whole food sources would be that it is in a much more readily digestible form. This means that your body is able to make use of the nutrients it is providing faster. However, the benefit of this is negligible.
Another bonus to this is that some people find that this is a good way to reduce bloating, as their body is working less hard to digest large amounts of food if the person is struggling to gain size/weight.
When It Should Be Used
Protein powder does not need to be part of your daily routine, it should not be relied on to get to your required protein intake. If possible, always try to get your protein from whole foods due to the many benefits such as satiation and the other nutrients you will get from it.
However, if you are unable to get in the amount of protein you need, then the use of protein powder will be beneficial.
It is also worth adding that the use of supplementation – whether it be protein powder or multi vitamins—should only be considered if all other aspects of your health and fitness are on point. It does not give you a pass on lazy training, bad sleep, or poor nutrition.
If these factors are on point, then you should consider the use of protein powder to help meet your goals in a more convenient way. But if they are not, do not waste your money on powders and tablets when you should be focusing on getting our diet in check.
To summarise, protein powder is an incredibly useful supplement in terms of value for money and convenience, however should be used as an aid to an already good diet, rather than be relied on. It is not magic, and is certainly not required in order to build muscle.
So, if you can afford it and want to supplement with it, then do it. If you can’t afford it, or prefer to eat wholefoods in order to get your nutrition, then that is good too.
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Did I miss anything out? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, or on Instagram @ash_training_nutrition.