While it is universally acknowledged that one of the keys to getting a better work out and staying healthy is to increase your protein intake, not all protein supplements are created equal. In fact the concept of even starting with a supplement seems flawed. Protein is a naturally occurring substance that can be acquired readily from a large number of different foods. As a building block to muscle, skin, hair etc. protein rich foods abound in nature crossing over the food group categories from grains to vegetables to soy products to meat. Protein doesn’t have to be obtained from a can.
However, I’m not a dietician, and I readily understand the popularity of protein bars, shakes, powders, drinks, (I think I’ve even seen protein candy) etc. It’s hard to get the balance you need only from the natural foods you ingest or prepare. And it’s just a lot easier to throw a shake together in the morning or grab a bar for the drive to work versus cooking up some egg whites first thing in the morning. We all have a plus-minus balance in our lives and ultimately something has to be sacrificed if we are even going to make it out of the door most days, let alone to the gym. Yet, I think we sacrifice a lot, too much, when we just grab your run of the mill protein powder, pre-workout drink etc. without even really reading the label or checking the ingredients.
A lot of these pre-workout, protein mash-ups are loaded with nasty things that are not only harmful to us but potentially silent killers. Just read the back of several of the most popular of these brands and you will see literally tons of sugar, sugar-alcohols, caffeine, dairy and sodium. All of those ingredients are often buried under layers of confusing chemicals and preservatives no one can pronounce. Even some of the amino acid combinations along with too large quantities of magnesium and potassium can be very harmful. In short, a lot of these supplements are simply trying to get you feeling energetic by blasting your body with sugar, salts, potassium and caffeine. Combine that with your morning coffee and you are on your way to heart palpitations. Combine this with medication, such as the medications used by people with ADHD, and you are possibly looking at a trip to the ER.
In short, while we are all looking for ways to jump start our metabolism, add some muscle, and burn a few more calories, in the fastest way possible; sometimes quicker isn’t better. The next time you reach for your favorite protein powder, bar, drink, whatever, stop and read the label carefully: because you are what you eat and our bodies deserve better.