Everyone feels they need to drink whey protein. It appears to have become an integral part of what many class as ‘being fit’, or being into fitness; a welcome slap on the back for a long, hard session.
A lot of it is down to aspiration. Just like people might try and emulate someone whose body they admire, in terms of what they’re wearing or doing, they might see someone with a shake and think doing the same is the right course of action, without considering whether it is specifically the right thing to do for their own body.
So, do we need it? We’re seeing more and more young people responding with comments on our videos, all asking us what whey protein we think they should be drinking. This is worrying for two reasons. First, it means people are forgetting what protein is for, and secondly, they’re lacking the understanding of whether they actually need it or not in terms of their own specific situation.
The fact of the matter is that most of us don’t need whey protein because we’re getting enough protein in our diets. However, one problem we’ve all experienced when it comes to consuming it as food is that many of our sources, like chicken, for example, are expensive. So, in some cases, some people may feel that substituting food for whey protein saves them money. When you look at it like that, you can understand it, but is it optimal? No, it isn’t. The majority of us can get all our protein requirements from three to four meals a day, and there’s no substitute for that.
Whey protein does have its merits, of course. For example, if you have a long period after a weights session where you’re unable to eat, maybe at work, perhaps, then in this case the amino acids within the protein can help aid the process of synthesis, where muscles repair themselves. Also, if you’re someone who has to consume a huge amount of food in a day; a rugby player perhaps, and you struggle to do so, then protein shakes can be a great way of getting extra calories in. Yet for the general public simply going to the gym… do they need it? No, not really.
Another question we are frequently asked is what whey protein we think people should be taking to help them lose weight? Well, put simply, no food or drink is going to help you lose weight, unless of course you’re expending more calories through exercise than you put in. If you don’t need extra protein, then drinking a protein shake is not ‘the one’! In that case, all you’re doing is consuming extra calories.
Other people might genuinely struggle to get the right of amount of protein. Vegans are a good example, because their protein sources might come in the form of grain and the carbohydrates attached to it, which isn’t as optimal as, say, chicken. There are other protein alternatives for them of course, but the point is, it’s all about understanding the levels of protein required and the most efficient and effective way of doing that in your diet. It’s all about context. A vegan would be better off trying different food sources before a protein shake.
Of course, the other problem is that if you are committed to whey protein, there are many different options to choose from. The two main sources are isolates and concentrate. The main difference between these is that whey isolates are more watery, more refined and so therefore absorbed quicker. But when people talk about quicker absorption in terms of greater long-term gains, there is very little evidence to support this. Ultimately, your choice between the two should come down to your tolerance and sensitivity to lactose. All proteins are differentiated by variance and so if you are someone who struggles with lactose, then a whey protein isn’t ideal.
Like anything, when it comes to fitness, what works for one person might not work for another, so get to know and understand your own body.