If you’ve spent more than 5 minutes in any gym in America, you’ve heard people discussing protein supplements.
Perhaps you’ve even been part of the conversation.
Perhaps while sipping on a protein shake, you were talking about your favorite protein to your protein-loving friend who was about to buy a big spanking-new jug of the latest and greatest protein…while they sipped on a protein shake.
Have I said it enough yet?
If you have been in and around the fitness and gym-rat world, you’ve been around the protein block. Maybe you even had the misfortune of choking down the protein concoctions from the 70’s or 80’s. But even in the 90’s things were still pretty bad.
While the flavors have gotten better and the shakes themselves more palatable, the question still remains: are they necessary?
“Depends on what?” you ask.
It depends on how much protein you really NEED and how much of that you’re able to consume from whole food sources. You should try to get all of your nutrition from real, whole food sources before resorting to shakes.
For a multitude of reasons, whole foods are just plain better. While the reason why is a whole other article, suffice it to say that your body was made to digest and use the nutrients from whole foods. Protein shakes are not real foods. They are a far cry from their original food source, having been processed beyond recognition.
As far as how much protein you need each day, you should to understand why you need it in the first place.
Protein is used by the body for growth, repair, and recovery.
So how much protein you should could consume depends on how much growth, repair, and recovery your body needs. If you’re a professional athlete who trains and practices 4-6 hours a day, you’re going to need a heck of a lot more protein than your Average Joe to allow for adequate tissue repair and recovery.
Granted, getting that much protein from whole food sources may be difficult. Aside from cost (steak gets expensive), it may be difficult to stomach the sheer volume of food. So in this scenario, supplementation might be ideal to help ensure that you have adequate protein.
Now for the 99.99% of Americans who are NOT professional athletes, the majority of whom just want to lose a little weight and feel good, you simply don’t need that much protein– even if you do work out.
The reality is that if you eat 3 meals a day consisting of 4-6 ounces of animal-based protein (meat and/or eggs) along with a couple of all-natural protein-laden snacks between meals (like almonds), you’ll get plenty of protein for your needs.
To summarize, most people (that likely includes you) do not need protein shakes. They’re called supplements for a reason: they can’t take the place of REAL FOOD.
In the meantime, keep chowing down on your meats and veggies.