Today I’m going to discuss protein shakes, how they are made and if we really need them.
Protein shakes have become popular training supplement in the last 20 years, partially due to the increased profile of bodybuilding, but also because of the significant investment in advertising in men’s health magazines and the internet. The appeal is a quick, easy to use supplement that enables individuals seeking hypertrophy (bodybuilding) to achieve their increased protein needs. Much of the advertising implies that their supplement is the ‘answer’ and is a ‘highly advanced’ or ‘precision engineered’ muscle building formula. So how much is marketing and how much is truth?
Whey protein is found in milk, which averages about 6.5% protein, of which about 20% is whey protein. In its natural state it has the highest biological value to the body of any protein, due to its high concentration of essential and branched chain amino acids. This makes it useful to the body in many ways, one of which is in the repair and growth of muscle tissues. However, by the time a tub of whey protein powder is purchased it is often vastly different from the original product. Consider the following points:
- Whey is a by-product from cheese manufacture. Traditionally it was disposed of by farmers into animal feed
- Often dried at high temperatures for speed of manufacture – above 60C these proteins become denatured, which destroys their ability to function
- Manufacturers use sugars, sweeteners, colours and flavours to improve taste
- Often very low in fat – proteins need fat for proper metabolism and use.
- Often backed up by self-funded research, if any
- Prices are now highly inflated due to market demand generated by clever advertising
It is important to remember that whey protein shakes were only intended to supplement, not replace good quality protein through food. The body is designed to absorb and metabolise real, untainted food and protein sources. If a supplement is required then consider the following three points before purchase:
- Seek cold pressed protein powders, manufactured below 50C
- No added sugars, sweeteners, colours or flavours
- Mix with whole milk, as fats are necessary for protein metabolism
In a perfect world, people would be eating real food, but for some who fit their training in the morning before work, for example, this just isn’t an option. In these cases, a good whey protein shake taken straight after training (within the 15 minute window) is a good compromise. It should also be mentioned that the amount of protein required for an individual depends on several factors, including their goal, age, gender, age, height and weight. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for, but if you keep to the 3 points mentioned above when purchasing your whey protein shake you should be fine.