A Defense Against The Backlash On Protein Powders!

An article published in the July 2010 issue of Consumer Reports Magazine attacks protein powders and meal replacement shakes as unsafe and ineffective for consumers. Read on to find out what Shannon Clark has to say in her rebuttal!
Article Summary:
  • One criticism of protein powder is that it encourages people not to cook whole food meals.
  • For vegetarian athletes, most protein sources are not complete sources of proteins.
  • Some of the high quality protein powders can be found for as low as $0.30 per serving.
  • If you've been following the news recently, you may have caught a glimpse of a recent article that was featured in the July 2010 edition of Consumer Reports Magazine. Like many other popular mainstream media sources who have attacked the supplement industry before, this particular article had it out for Protein Drinks including whey protein powders and meal replacement products.

    The article claimed that consumers should be rethinking their purchase of these products as they firmly believed they were neither safe nor effective. But how much validity does this article really hold? Should you really forgo purchasing your favorite protein powder because of it? You may want to reconsider.

    Let's take a closer look at what this article was all about and clearly you'll see just how far off the mark they really are.

    This Article Had It Out For Protein Drinks Including Whey Protein Powders And Meal Replacement Products.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    This Article Had It Out For Protein Drinks Including
    Whey Protein Powders And Meal Replacement Products.

    Saves On Time

    One of the key points that was brought up in the article is how fitness celebrity, Jennifer Nicole Lee claims she uses her BSN Lean Dessert Protein Shake in order to save time in her day. Being a busy mom, she doesn't have time to cook full, home prepared meals, so this shake keeps her diet in line.

    Quickly criticized by the article, think for a moment about the alternative. Where do most North Americans go right now when they can't get home for a healthy meal or just don't have the desire or energy to cook? Most of us turn to the local drive-thru that's 10 seconds away. Or, we order in.

    Either way, all we're getting from that choice is an overabundance of calories, a shockingly high level of saturated and quite possibly, trans fats, as well as a huge hit of sugar.

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    How nutritious does that sound? The obesity problem is running rampant in our society and a large contributor to this problem is all of the various fast food and convenient options we have available to us. If we simply choose not to cook for an entire week, there is no way we'd ever have a problem getting enough food.

    With the quick push of a button, it can be delivered right to our door. And that is what people are doing. So rather than attacking a protein powder that's actually supplying quality nutrients to the body without all those trans fats, sugar or HFCS, or calories, maybe this article should be attacking one of the sources of the obesity problem today - the never ending line-up of fast food chains.

    If anything, if we could get more people turning to protein powders when they're in a rush, the world would be far better off, not worse. This article is essentially suggesting that every single person should take the time out of their day to prepare 4-6 meals, which almost every single one of us knows, although it's ideal, it is a fairly unrealistic expectation.

    This Article Is Suggesting That Every Single Person Should Take The Time Out Of Their Day To Prepare 4-6 Meals.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    This Article Is Suggesting That Every Single Person Should
    Take The Time Out Of Their Day To Prepare 4-6 Meals.

    Most People Get Enough Protein

    The second weak argument this article brought up was that their investigation revealed that most people already get enough protein. That's quite interesting because there are numerous studies that report differently.

    One study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition assessed the protein requirements of elderly people to establish whether past recommendations were enough to promote a positive nitrogen balance, which would then indicate that the body's protein needs were being met.

    Twelve men and women who were between the ages of 56-80 participated in the study and either consumed a diet that contained 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (the past recommendation) or 1.62 grams of protein per kilogram per body weight.

    After the results were in it was seen that those consuming the lower dosage of protein were in a negative nitrogen balance, meaning lean body tissue would be decreasing, while those who consumed the higher dosage of over double what the previous dosage was were in a positive nitrogen balance.

    From this study researchers determined that the recommended protein dosage of 0.8 grams/kg is simply not enough to maintain lean body mass. So if that's what these individuals are striving to meet, even if they do accomplish their goal, they still could see negative consequences with regards to muscle mass loss occurring.

    Another study, this one published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, evaluated the protein requirements for those who were strength training, which most readers currently are doing.

    The study looked at the leucine kinetic and nitrogen balance in the body that was then used to determine what the protein requirements were of strength athletes compared to a group of sedentary subjects.

    The test subjects were assigned to a protocol of either a low protein diet of 0.86 grams/kg per day, a moderate protein diet of 1.4 gram/kg per day, or a high protein diet of 2.4 grams/kg per day for a period of 13 days.

    After the data was collected it was suggested that the recommended dosage for the sedentary subjects was 0.89 grams/kg per day but for the strength athletes, it was almost double that at 1.76 grams/kg per day.

    For a 140 pound female woman participating in strength training that would equate out to 112 grams per day minimum, but the fact of the matter is that most women would struggle intensely to even get 100 grams per day unless extreme effort was put forth.

    So while their laboratory studies may suggest that people are taking in enough protein, studies from scientific journals suggest otherwise. If you happen to be a vegetarian athlete, this effect almost doubles as well since most protein sources taken in by vegetarians are not complete sources of proteins, hence the individuals will significantly fall short in certain amino acids.

    The Issue Of Heavy Metals

    Another claim put forth by this article is that the protein drinks could pose health risks including exposure to heavy metals.

    But before you take this advice to heart, consider the fact many of the fish choices you do take in each and every day already contain mercury in them and add to that the fact that unless you're purchasing organic beef products and free range poultry, you're also going to be putting yourself at risk for a number of toxic substances that these animals are exposed to during the growth process.

    Each and every day our system is going to have to deal with issues such as this so to pinpoint it towards protein powders is a very weak argument. If anything, protein powders have a lower risk of posing health threats since they are created in a controlled environment. That beef that you sit down to at dinner has been walking around fully exposed to the threat of all the elements in the environment so will pose a much larger overall health risk.

    That Beef You're Eating Has Been Walking Around Fully Exposed To All The Elements In The Environment.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    That Beef You're Eating Has Been Walking Around
    Fully Exposed To All The Elements In The Environment.


    Finally, the last argument that this article tried to use against protein powders is cost. They stated that there are 'far better and cheaper ways' to get more protein if needed. The authors of this article need to take a better look.

    If you look at a few of the high quality protein powders on the market you can find some for as low as 30 cents per serving, which is definitely going to beat out any protein source around. I'd like to see someone find a source that contains over 20 grams of protein for under 150 calories for less than this low amount - it would be virtually impossible. Eggs, one of the cheapest sources of protein around, would be higher priced than this.

    Even if you look at some of the most expensive varieties of protein powder, they still will be under $2 per serving so if you compare that to lean beef or fish, it would appear you're getting a steal of a deal.

    Eggs, One Of The Cheapest Sources Of Protein Around, Are Higher Priced Than Protein Powders.
    + Click To Enlarge.
    Eggs, One Of The Cheapest Sources Of Protein
    Around, Are Higher Priced Than Protein Powders.


    So don't be so quick to shun protein powders. This article makes a number of claims that are simply not at all valid and if the truth was told, if more people would start using protein powders in replacement of some of the other junk food or beverages they are taking in, they would notice remarkable improvements in their health and body composition.

    Recommended Articles


    1. Atkinson, S.A. (1992). Evaluation of protein requirements for trained strength athletes. Journal of Applied Physiology. Vol. 73, Issue 5.
    2. Campbell, WW. (1994). Increased protein requirements in elderly people: new data and retrospective assessments. Vol 60, 501-509.

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