Are you a fitness fad?
If you just joined a gym or have been a regular member to one for a time now. I am sure, you must have heard about protein powders. Yes, that thing in the shakers. A trainer or a friend must have told you to buy one. They would have promised you the mesmerising results of this product. Soon you started hearing about it more and everyone was going protein, protein, protein in your gym. Fed up, you wondered,
What is this fuss about?
You searched for answers online. You asked the people using it. At the same time, you started hearing some people say, they are steroids. They are just not good for you. And a dilemma sets in. Then instead of asking the question, should I be consuming it or not, you start asking are they worth it or not? You are confused and still digging for an answer, that is why you are here.
Today, you will get the answer to your questions. We will talk about what exactly they are. The pros and cons of protein powders. And whether you should buy them or not?
First, let us understand the concept of protein. You already know this from school but a little revision does no harm.
Did you know: After water, protein is the most plentiful substance in the body.
What is protein?
Protein is one of the three macronutrients [Other two being- Carbohydrates and fats]. It helps you build muscle mass. Building muscles is not the only job of protein. Protein is an important building block for your bones, cartilage, skin, and blood as well. Its common and major source is animal products. Some other sources of protein are legumes, pea, soy, nuts etc.
Apart from building essential elements of your body. Protein helps you maintain a strong immune system and helps you stay full.
Now that you have some clarity, what protein is. Let’s have a look at the main topic of our fuss.
What are protein powders?
They are nothing but the dried form of protein from sources such as pea, soy, eggs and dairy [Whey and Casein].
Protein powders have gained quite some popularity over a few years now. Earlier, they used to be a favourite of only strength athletes and bodybuilders. However, lately, a normal gym goer or even a non-gym goer carries a protein supplement.
Why do protein supplements appeal to people?
- The quantity of protein per serving is invariably high.
- Easy to brim up protein shortage quickly after a demanding workout.
- Convenient to fill up the nutritional gap in a limited and busy lifestyle.
Protein supplements are a quick and easy way to get your nutrition in. It makes them an effective alternative to whole foods. But is it a good thing? Is this argument even relevant or not? A bunch of questions will raid your mind again and before you start jumping [to conclusions.]
Let’s first look at the pros and cons of protein powders.
Did you know: The protein contained in eggs is considered to be the highest quality protein out of all foods.
Pros and cons of protein powders
Pro: Quick and easy option
Protein supplements are quick and convenient to consume. You can achieve your daily protein intake goals in a jiffy. This is what makes it appealing. An athlete needs a quick dose of nutrients right after a heavy session to recover and for muscle synthesis. So they prefer a protein shake instead of a cooked meal. As whey protein tends to digest much faster compared to a cooked meal.
People with busy lifestyle tend to use protein shakes to get their nutrition in quick. They generally use meal replacement shakes [MRS]. MRS has a little bit of everything. It is a viable and healthy option compared to the candies and chocolate they would have chosen otherwise.
Con: Doubtful Quality
You will have heard of many instances in India. Majority of the supplements sold in India are fake, buy genuine etc. How can be one assured of the authenticity? How to distinguish fake from real in today’s world. Where a real product can be easily and convincingly replicated. Duplicacy is very common with supplements. To be 100% sure is difficult.
Apart from this, many powders may even have an excess of ingredients [additives, sugar, vitamins] that you do not really need. Some may contain even unlisted ingredients which can be harmful to you.
Pro: Protein powders are affordable
Now before you say this is absurd. Think about it, you pay an upfront cost of Rs. 5000 for a 5lb tub [average]. Sure, that sounds a lot when paying at once. This tub will probably last you for a month. It will have anywhere around 70 scoops [Average]. You will get around 25 gm of protein per scoop [Average]. Which translates to Rs. 0.35 per gram of protein. Let’s say you take 2 scoops per day. So it basically costs you Rs. 17.5 per day. Most of us are spending way more than that daily on unnecessary things. So I will say they are affordable. There are many brands which can cost you lesser than this. Some might cost you more. Rs. 0.35 per gram of protein is around an average in India. Do you know how you can make it more affordable? Stock up! Spare some extra cash up front. Buy a 10lb pack instead. Compare this to the meals you spend on. Protein supplements may look expensive but are not.
Con: Nutritional Imbalance
Whole foods are always a better option because they are balanced in nutrition. They have a little bit of everything, your body needs. Supplements focus on just one main product. They also do not contain essential nutrients important to sustain a healthy life. Consumption in excess is a common problem with protein supplements. And an excess of protein can be harmful to you as well.
Did you know: Like the other energy sources, carbohydrates and fat, too much protein can also lead to weight gain.
Related: Best Mass & Weight Gainers In India
The debate about the pros and cons of protein powders is not new. None of the sides outweighs the other. Protein supplements are not a problem. How we use them determines the level of problem or benefit. One should remember they are supplements and should be used like one. They should supplement your diet and not overtake your consumption of the whole food.
Before you go ahead and buy a supplement. First, determine your macronutrient goals. Second, track your current daily nutrition intake and third, check whether you are reaching them or not. If you are able to achieve your daily protein intake goals by just eating whole foods. Then a protein supplement is not for you. If you are falling short from achieving your goals and you have eaten all you could then only supplement from a protein powder.
Remember more protein then what you need will not build more muscles. It will only cause you harm.
About our main topic, Are protein powders worth it or not? I will say, they are worth it only when you really require them. Do not buy them just because everyone is using them. It is not a magic powder for your muscles. Many other sources in your kitchen have protein as well.
Supplements should be your last resort. If you fail to achieve a daily goal or you are too busy and cannot incorporate eating enough. Only then you should resort to protein powder.
Here is a list of great sources of protein you can find in your kitchen itself. A list for only vegans and vegetarians.