How much protein do you really need?
The truth is, if you're thinking about your protein intake, chances are you're already eating enough. Western consumers have been brainwashed to the point where they're overloading on protein. Whether it's protein bars, protein shakes, protein balls, protein bagels, protein yogurt, protein cereals, or even protein water, the message is drilled into your brain - more is better.
But that isn't true at all. There is absolutely no reason a regular person needs to add whey protein to their water. Seven thousand five hundred generations of human beings have not been doing it wrong. You do not need to buy a bottle of protein water. Ignore the advertisements. There is no benefit; in fact, it may actually harm your health.
Most people remember the food chart from grade school that listed protein as one of the three main food groups, next to fat and carbohydrates. But what they don't realize is that the standard daily protein requirement is 0.8 grams per kilo of body weight. So the average person needs around 50 to 60 grams of protein a day.
It isn't just Americans either; Europeans consume 85 grams of protein daily, while in China, the average value is 75 grams every day. That means people across the globe are consuming more than double the needed protein amounts daily just from their food.
Add to that the excess intake from supplements, and you have a real problem. Overconsumption of protein can lead to numerous diseases and even damage organs like the liver and kidneys. This excess intake has a very real impact on people's health. The problem here is not that people are more conscious about their health but that they're focusing on the wrong things. Most people using protein powders are not fulfilling their body's daily needs for vitamins and minerals.
Ordinary people vs. athletes
This brings us to our second dilemma. Many of the fitness experts we idealize and who consume protein powders and shakes regularly are athletes. Body builders, football players, and competitive sports players require more than the standard 0.8 grams per kilo of body weight of protein. But even then, there are limits and boundaries you should not cross.
The average person is not an athlete. And yet they’re eating like they are. These regular people with low activity jobs who only go to the gym twice a week are consuming protein shakes regularly. They hope that this will make them fit and healthy. They believe this because they’ve been told to believe it. Because they see these fitness gurus with their ideal bodies drinking these shakes and think, “this is what I need to get there,” even when it isn’t.
Often people chug these protein drinks by the gallon after working out. And while you should absolutely replenish your body after exercising, protein isn’t the only nutrient your body needs to recover. Research shows that your body needs real whole foods with protein and carbohydrates to replenish its glycogen stores and repair muscle damage.
However, on a busy work day you barely have time to spare for a good workout, let alone to prepare a healthy, multi-course, post-routine meal. The convenience of having this powder on hand is another reason people are keen to use it. However, protein powders aren’t the only product that accomplish this. The key is to find post-workout recovery shakes that have all the necessary nutrients. One option is the All-in-One Essentials Shake, with 25 superfood ingredients and carefully processed from organic, whole-food ingredients.
Related Post: The Ultimate Guide to Essential Nutrition
The science behind protein
So now we know why people buy protein powders and the benefits they think they will bring. But, what is the reality of these products? Is there science and research to back up this obsession? It’s true that you need protein to build muscle. And yes, perhaps for a bodybuilder who spends 7 days a week at the gym, protein powders may contribute to the muscle buildup they need. There have been some studies in this regard, but they are not conclusive.
The key here is the goal. For an average person who wants to become healthier, there is no science that shows protein powders are good for health. In fact, there is no reason why you should consume more than the recommended amount of any nutrient. You don’t want to overload on protein anymore than you do vitamin A. Anything in excess will upset your body’s functions and lead to illness. Eating “too much” is the same as eating “not enough” when it comes to essential nutrients and how your body uses them.
But don’t take our word for it. When it comes to health and fitness, always look for the facts. Medical journals and research papers are the only unbiased sources of information. You have to understand that protein supplements are a multi-billion dollar industry. So, you can’t rely on advertisements and marketing packets to tell you the truth.
Where is the research?
If you want to look into the science yourself there are multiple studies you can go to. In fact, a systematic review conducted in 2015 gathered all the available data on protein supplements and compiled their results in one research study. Fair warning; the results are not promising.
To begin, there is no credible research on the long-term impacts of protein powders on the human body. The studies that exist are either on too small a scale or over a limited period. Either way the results cannot serve as a definite indicator for the long-term impacts of protein powders.
Most of the research is surface level and limited. And why wouldn’t it be? This is a new product and a recent craze. Protein powders were never meant to reach the casual consumer, but according to current numbers this recent industry has turned it into a 12 billion dollar industry. Projections show their profits doubling over the next five years. So, of course, they’re marketing it to the most extent possible.
What do the studies show?
Even if you ignore the quality of these studies and take them at their best the only functional benefit shown is in improving an athlete's ability to lift more weights. That too as a comparative between protein powders and carbohydrate controls. This was never a product that was meant for mainstream consumption. Yet somehow it’s in everything.
Now you might find yourself wondering about the promises these companies make in their advertisements and on their billboards. This 2012 systematic assessment on the evidence underpinning sports performance products shows that over 50 percent of the claims in websites and magazine adverts had no references. In the remaining half, only three out of 74 studies had quality evidence backing their claims. That’s less than 3 percent.
And if the idea of consuming a product with a rating that low isn’t enough to put you off then there’s even evidence of potential side effects. This medical study on quality assurance issues in protein supplements focuses on risks such as harmful substances, toxic microbiological agents, prescription drugs and lack of active ingredients. Note how they only focus on the consumption of protein powders by athletes and military personnel. Because those are the groups these products are designed for.
What should you do?
If you are an average consumer looking to get healthy, build muscle and work out you do not need to use protein powders. Because at the end of the day you’re wasting money on an item with no proven benefit and limited long-term testing. There is a definite potential for harm. And the fact is that you probably already have more than enough protein in your diet to meet your needs.
Also keep in mind that average consumer doesn’t just mean someone with a low level of activity. Even if you exercise multiple times a week, lift weights, jog or swim you still fall into this category. If you’re still worried, start by keeping a food journal to record your daily food and protein intake.