Navigating the seas of protein powder options should be an Olympic sport.
Rarely a week goes by where I don’t encounter recipes, advertisements, and samples relating to powdered proteins. They are without a doubt one of the most widely available “health food products,” and consequently the most confusing.
So I thought I’d clear the air, at least around here, and give you my perspective on whether protein powders are helpful or harmful and if they should be a regular part of our diet.
I’m going to start by weighing the pros and cons, and then I’ll give you my “bottom line” on protein powder.
Weight Gain/Muscle Building
If you’re struggling to gain weight and want to put on a few pounds or build lean muscle, protein powders are a convenient way to add extra calories and “substance” to your diet. They’re especially helpful for busy people on the go (including athletes or super active teenagers) who need fast nutrition without much prep time.
Blood Sugar Balancing
For individuals with sensitive blood sugar that tends to drop/spike rapidly, shakes made with protein powder can help between meals to offer a boost of blood sugar-balancing protein in a convenient form.
If you’re on the go, travel frequently, or work odd hours, protein shakes and bars can stand in for meals.
But what about the cons? Well get ready. Because to me the cons far outweigh the pros.
“In 2010, Consumer Reports magazine sampled 15 protein powders and drinks and found that most of them had low to moderate ranges of the heavy metals arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury. When accumulated in the body, these heavy metals are toxic to major organs. The report found that with especially three of the popular brands, consumers who have three servings daily could be exposed to levels that exceed the maximum limits for heavy metal contaminants.” (Source)
- Do not rely on it. In other words, don’t eat it every day or even every other day. I can’t tell you how many blog posts I’ve read by people in the fitness industry that eat several scoops of protein powder per day. That’s way too much, in my opinion. You’re just asking for a heavy metal overload.
- Enjoy other sources of whole food protein. Yes, this means you’ll probably have to take a few extra steps to prepare your own food. Grabbing a protein bar or shake on the go is much easier, but the health trade-offs are far from worth it.
- Eat REAL food. If you picture it growing or living in nature, eat it. If not, don’t.
In our dash-and-dine society, the convenience of protein powder has been welcomed with open arms.
But our cultural obsession with and reliance on protein powders, bars, and pre-made shakes is risky business. There are serious downsides to protein powder that, in my opinion, far outweigh the few pros.
When it comes to our food and our health, eating as close to the earth is the most important thing we can do. If we want to live long and live well, we must place more emphasis on purity, quality, and nutrient-density than grab-and-go convenience.
Our health and vitality matter. We need to start acting like it.
What are your thoughts on protein powder? Share with me in the comments. I’d love to get your perspective.