I began using protein powders when I was a college athlete. I felt confident my one or two protein shakes a day was the key to building muscle and melting away fat. Honestly, I just wanted to be “ripped” while performing at the top of my volleyball game. Fast forward to today, my goals have changed a bit. I am a healthy and active mommy who just wants to have the energy to keep up with my growing little girl while looking sexy in a pair of jeans on date night. So how do protein shakes/powders fit into a “normal” and “active” adult lifestyle?
Let’s begin with what you need daily when it comes to protein. If you are a relatively active adult, you require about .5 to .75 grams of protein per pound of body weight. (Note: The most protein your body can use per pound a day is .9 grams). A serving of Greek style yogurt in the morning can contain around 15 - 20 grams of protein (depending on the brand). Add in 2 eggs and you can add twelve grams to the total. Eat six ounces of tuna on a salad for lunch for an additional 40 grams of protein. For dinner, enjoy a cup of quinoa (8 grams of protein) and a 4 oz. grass fed burger (30 grams of protein) and this brings that total for the day to 105 grams of protein. This example illustrates that for most of us, this is a relatively simple task to reach our daily protein intake.
Here’s the truth. The average person with a normal, healthy diet does not need a protein powder that contains 20, 40 or 80 grams of additional protein. Contrary to what you have been told, excess protein is simply broken down for energy and if your body doesn’t need the energy (as you sit at your desk sipping on your smoothie) that energy is stored as fat. You should also know that too much protein is hard on your liver and kidneys.
I am a firm believer in real, whole foods. Any form of protein powder is going to be processed. Protein “concentrates” are derived from many food sources and concentrate the powder by removing the non-protein parts. This leaves you with 75 - 85% protein. Isolates take the processing step even further to yield around 90% protein.
Whey is the most common and cheapest kind of protein and is a milk protein. People with dairy allergies may find they have some issues with whey. It is also absorbed very quickly in the body and typically contains a lot of additives to help with the taste. Soy protein is a vegan option, however you should know that 90% of the soy in the United States is genetically modified. In addition, when soy is isolated to just it’s protein state, it can become severely denatured and can cause hormonal disruption in humans because of the high amount of estrogen present.
Many protein shakes on the market need to enhance their flavors because the taste is BAD, so you will find a variety of artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols and preservatives in addition to the high amounts of proteins. Artificial sweeteners have a host of side effects including disrupting healthy gut flora, headaches and weight gain. Sugar alcohols can cause bloating and smelly gas in sensitive individuals.
Bottom line: you can make super healthy and delicious smoothies without protein powders. Even before, during and after workouts, your body requires carbohydrates to provide the fuel your muscles (and brain) requires to perform. Making your own balanced smoothie with healthy carbohydrates (whole fruits and leafy greens), protein (from yogurt, milk or nuts) and fat (avocado or coconut oil) will not only provide enough protein but also allow you to benefit from the nutrients present in real, whole foods.
Amber is CEO of The Healthy Edge. She has passionately
created The Healthy Edge lifestyle system and a comprehensive health coach certification program to further her mission of empowering people to live their most abundant life.