New studies highlight the fact that protein supplements are a waste of money with little benefit, in fact you even put yourself at risk for kidney, bone and heart disease.
It’s ironic that most health food stores offer few products that are actually healthy, from herbal potions of unknown purity and utility to dietary supplements capitalizing on recent trends in weight loss or hair gain.
Further studies question a longstanding staple at the health store, protein supplements, usually sold as a powder with testosterone-fueled names like Muscle Max 500 or Mega Monster Mass. But a growing body of research shows you don’t need protein supplementation unless you are a professional-level athlete in intense training or perhaps gravely ill from starvation or a wasting disease, and even then the need would be a case-by-case call at best.
Medical researchers have advised against protein supplements for years for the average person. But many sports trainers continue to push them on amateur athletes simply because they don’t know any better.
Sure, one requires protein when exercising, particularly for building muscle through weightlifting or other forms of resistance training. The process of building muscle involves causing damage to muscle filaments and then rebuilding them, and this requires more protein.
But your diet likely supplies all the protein you need. When training, you require about a half gram of protein per 45 kilograms of body weight. So an 82-kilo male needs about 90 grams of protein a day. That’s the amount of protein in a 128-gram cup of milk or yogurt with breakfast (8–12 grams), a can of tuna with lunch (40 grams), and a 170-gram steak with dinner (42 grams).
Meat has a generous 6 to 10 grams of protein per 28 grams. But even vegetarians can get enough protein from vegetables, even while training hard. The average non-exercising adult only needs about 60 grams a day. People who add powered soy, whey or other protein sources to their diet usually are just adding calories with no impact on muscle growth.
No studies have identified definitively short-term health problems from excess protein, but this has been associated with kidney failure, osteoporosis and heart disease. The reason is that unused protein cycles through the blood and ultimately breaks down into urea and acidic byproducts.
Some protein powders, namely the ones with thunderbolts on the label, contain more than 100 grams of protein per serving. That protein alone is 400 calories, but usually other ingredients bump up the total to nearly 1,000 calories. You’d need a serious workout to process all that.
Some bodybuilders feel they need a gram of protein per pound of body weight, depending on the intensity of the training. If you do use a supplement, then it is best during or just after a workout so that the damaged muscles can use that protein for repair.
Tip: Chose local, high fiber, low cal tempeh (fermented soybeans), tahu (tofu) and lentils from the markets around Bali and benefit from some of the highest plant proteins possible.