The problem with protein powders!

Protein powders are all the rage in the fitness industry. The wellbeing sector has exploded in a range of products that are packed full of vitamins and minerals, elixirs that will help you to become stronger, faster, fitter, and healthier.  Most of us are aware that pill-popping, supplement taking or powder enhancements are not the key to health.  These products on their own are not going to dramatically uplift your health.  Supplements need to work with your healthy lifestyle.  In the same way that you can’t outrun a bad diet, you can’t add a supplement to a bad lifestyle.  This blog will outline why you would use a protein powder, the different types, and are they healthy?

Why would you try a protein drink supplement?

Bodybuilding blogs, runners clubs, and even your local gym you will find someone discussing or adding a protein powder to their power shake. I have tried them all – from MyProtein as advocated by the Body Coach to Hemp powder and even pea powder.

Protein powders are big in the fitness industry, however, there is some concern over their health benefits. If you can manage to obtain a good source of natural protein into every meal, then my advice is to please strive for that.  If you want to read more about adding protein to your diet then read this blog: Why you need to add more protein

The main reasons people supplement their diet with protein powders:

  1. to increase their muscle strength and mass
  2. plant-based diets
  3. unable to synthesis protein – for example, as you age it is more difficult to synthesis protein and a supplement may help.

If you are not able to add protein into your diet naturally or are still feeling hungry you might want to try a protein supplement.

Protein is used for building and repairing muscles and tissues, red blood cells, hair, and fingernails and for producing and creating hormones.  Protein is necessary for reducing the risk of iron deficiency anemia and to support your healing.  The argument for increasing your overall protein intake is a good one. But what type of protein source should you be considering?

What you need to know about protein powders

Protein powders are used to promote an increase in physical endurance, build muscle mass and possibly even achieve good health.

Fitness enthusiasts will recommend a protein after a workout.  I tend to recommend natural protein throughout the day, then carbs after a workout so that the protein you have built up in the day can be directed into your muscles.


What are the different types of protein powder?

The local health food stores will surprise you, they do supply them and they are very knowledgeable about what to purchase.  There are a variety of different sources of protein powders from whey and vegan sources like hemp and pea.

Whey protein is brilliant for post-workout drinks because it reaches the muscles quickly and the amino acids can start to repair and rebuild muscle fibres immediately after a training session.

However, if you need a dairy-free alternative because whey is derived from dairy, you could try vegan protein powders such as hemp or pea.

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What is wrong with protein powders?

Whilst nutritionists agree that most of the population don’t eat enough good quality protein. simply adding a protein powder isn’t the answer, the source of the protein is of concern.

There is some anecdotal evidence that protein powders may cause indigestion and farting or even with their overuse they may leave you with kidney stones or even gout. 

I’ve tried a variety of protein powders and my experience was;

  • Whey protein gave me stomach cramps, mild cramps like peristalsis, similar to dry food moving through your gut. Whey protein powders may bung you up and cause some constipation. 
  • The Body Coach recommended protein powder brand – My Protein. It is a much lighter product with little stomach cramping but has a very sweet taste. If you are trying to regulate your sugar intake and avoid heightening your sugar receptors the avoid this one.
  • Hemp powder is very powdery but much lighter on your digestive system. So a good one to use in your vegetable smoothies.



What do our ancestors & cultures tell us about ‘pure’ protein with little fat?

Cultures like the Australian aboriginal, Inuits, and Indians of North America. Their eating habits were very different from ours today, they considered lean meat as inadequate

Research into the North American Indian found that at times when food and hunting were scarce and they were forced to hunt for rabbits, the leanest of meats, the Indians suffered from extreme fat hunger or ‘rabbit starvation’ as they referred to it.  If they had no fat from other sources then they would develop symptoms like diarrhea, headaches and other bodily discomforts.


What happens when you only supplement with protein?

A recent report from Chris Masterjohn illustrated that increases in pure protein showed that the liver had depleted resources of Vitamin A.  Meaning that if your body is using a lot of pure protein like a powder or lean meats then your body will need more Vitamin A to process this lean meat or high protein dietary intake.  Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, it can’t work without fat.  Therefore supplementing with protein along will cause a knock-on effect on the balance of your body and its working system.

Vitamin A is required to synthesis protein and help protein work in your body.   It is also used in the product of your sex hormones and is a key component of your immune system, as well as your hearing, vision and bone health.

In addition, too much synthetic protein in your diet will mean that you will affect the hormonal balance that affects your mood.

Too much protein – from supplements – will increase the risk of:

  • Protein consumed in the absence of fat means that your body won’t have enough Vitamin A.
  • Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, it can’t work without fat.
  • Vitamin A works with Vitamin D and K to help prevent heart disease and produce the feel-good, happy hormones and chemicals in your body.

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Processing of Protein powders

So even if you don’t want to eat like an Inuit or feel uncomfortable with the findings in rats with depleted Vitamin A in their livers.  Consider the processing of the actual protein powders.  The production process of the powder is intensive in order for it to be suitably mixed and added to your ‘healthy’ smoothy.

The manufacture of protein powders is a complicated, high-tech procedure that takes place in a chemical factory, not your kitchen.  The basic process beings when the protein is boiled to remove the fibre then washed in an acid solution to get out the ‘protein’ molecule.  The product then has to then be processed with an alkaline solution and spray-dried at extremely high temperatures.

Anything surviving those types of rigorous treatment is bound to be good and healthy for you!


Energy Bars

The molecules that make up your protein powders are also evident in your healthy food products as well. Healthy products such as your energy bars and breakfast shake.

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2 responses to “The problem with protein powders!”

  1. […] Read also: The problem with protein powders! […]

  2. […] I’m not an advocate of protein shakes, as a fitness instructor for over 20 years I have been involved with the supplement industry – if you are interested in finding out more about the problem with protein shakes […]

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