The fitness world is fast becoming OBSESSED with the abundance of flavoured protein powder luring you in with every social media scroll. It seems we simply cannot cram enough of it into our diets, but there are a number of questions to be asked surrounding the hype and it’s time we set things straight.
If you are a Radio 1 listener you would have heard every of yesterday’s Newsbeat was drowned in a thick layer of protein shake bashing! BBC iplayer have put together a short documentary aptly labelled ‘Addicted to Protein’, and we highly recommend it as one to watch if like us this ‘health topic’ sparks interest. Similar to Professor Graeme Close we too count ourselves as ‘food champions’. We think you should always turn to your plate before reaching for powders and pills, however that does not mean we think protein powders have no place within a diet. If consumed at the right time in the right quantities, protein in the form of a powder can be a beneficial addition to the balanced diet.
Proteins are made up from amino acids. Once one or more amino acids form a chain it becomes a protein and each protein has its very own number and order of amino acids. Our bodies need 20 different amino acids in order to produce a variety of proteins. We can naturally produce (synthesise) 11 of these proteins. The remaining 9 amino acids need to be sourced from our food. These are known as essential amino acids and they are present in different proteins in the food we consume. Our digestive system then breaks them down back into amino acids allowing our body’s to build them back into desired proteins once again.
Proteins are aptly nicknamed ‘the building blocks of life’ as they make up our organs (including skin), muscle fibres, hair, nails, cartilage and hormones and so therefore are pretty crucial in maintaining a happy healthy body.
When we exercise we damage our muscle fibres in order for them to grow back stronger. We need protein present in our diet for these muscles to repair and grow. Last year on the BBC show ‘Trust Me I’m A Doctor’, they performed an experiment where only one leg was exercised. The participant then consumed a protein shake in which the amino acids had been tagged. A biopsy was taken from each quad muscle showing 30% more protein went to the fatigued leg in comparison to the one un-worked. This proves that our muscles demand more protein post workout to ‘cure’ the fatigue, but there is a still a question to ask. Was it the protein packed knock back that helped this process or is it just our body trying to bring itself back into equilibrium?
Further studies have shown that as long as you are getting enough protein from your diet (around 0.8g per 1kg body weight) then your recovery and progression will be the same as those over consuming protein. Any excess protein in your diet will be excreted or converted and stored as fat due to our bodies being unable to store single amino acids.
It is often thought that we can only process around 30g of protein from one sitting/meal, however there are now many studies to disprove this. Due to body size, composition, lifestyle and metabolism it is hard to put a number on the amount of protein we can absorb. For the average Joe around 15-20% of your daily calorie intake should be from protein. To increase muscle growth around 20-40% of your daily calorie intake could come from protein. However, this increased volume of protein is only safe if you have no medical conditions and if consumed only for a short amount of time.
Illness from over protein consumption is very unlikely. It was originally thought that it could be linked to liver issues, but after further research stats have revealed you would have to be eating a serious amount of protein on a regular basis for this to have any negative impact. Of course there are always studies to show both sides of such a talked about topic. There is evidence to suggest an increased risk in kidney stones when a high protein diet is consumed for 12 days straight, especially if it is animal protein, in comparison to egg and vegetable. It all goes back to the old saying, everything in moderation including protein supplements.
To conclude, we are most definitely not anti shake slurpers. We simply try to get the majority of our protein intake from our diet, and on days where our intake is low we either make up a shake or a treat (waffles, pancakes, flapjacks etc) using a protein powder we trust, one that contains minimal ingredients and one that we have tested to sit right in our stomachs. When buying your protein supplements please don’t just buy the cheapest, look for organic and grass fed protein when using whey or casein and be sure to seek advice if you’re unsure.