Before attempting to answer this question, I should first preface it by mentioning that I do not sell supplements, nor am I associated with any supplement company, so you’re getting an honest and unbiased opinion.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not anti-supplement by any means.
It would simply be more accurate to say that I am “pro-food.” There are a lot of good supplements on the market, and I’ve used many of them, including a multi vitamin, creatine and essential fatty acid (EFA) supplements such as Flaxseed oil.
Protein powders and meal replacements can also be indispensable if you don’t have time to eat every three hours. However, protein supplements are not the master key to your success, real food is!
Did you ever notice how articles about protein in certain bodybuilding magazines are seldom objective? Instead, they all seem to be slanted towards hyping some “revolutionary” new product. Did you ever wonder why?
In my opinion, most articles on protein supplements are nothing more than thinly disguised advertisements (some very thinly). Sometimes they give you a very persuasive-sounding argument, complete with dozens of references from scientific studies (mostly done on rodents, of course). They even give you an 800 number at the end of the article to order. (How convenient!)
When protein manufacturers throw around fancy words like cross flow microfiltration, oligopeptides, ion-exchange, protein efficiency ratio, biological value, nitrogen retention and glycomacropeptides, it sure sounds convincing, especially when scores of scientific references are cited.
But don’t forget that the supplement industry is big business and most magazines are the supplement industry. Lyle McDonald, author of “The Ketogenic Diet,” hit the nail on the head when he wrote “Unfortunately, the obsession that bodybuilders have with protein has made them susceptible to all kinds of marketing hype.
Like most aspects of bodybuilding (and the supplement industry in general), the issue of protein is driven more by marketing hype than physiological reality and marketing types know how to push a bodybuilder’s button when it comes to protein “
Many nutrition “experts” (read: people who sell supplements), state that there are distinct advantages of protein supplements (powders and amino acid tablets) over whole foods.
For example, they argue that whey, a by-product of the cheese-making process, is a higher quality protein than most whole food sources. There are many different methods of determining protein quality, including biological value (BV), protein efficiency ratio (PER), Net Protein Utilization (NPU), chemical score, and protein digestibility corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS).
If you have ever seen advertisements for protein powders and supplements, you have undoubtedly heard of one or more of these measures of protein quality.
BV is one of the most commonly used and is arguably, the best measure of a protein’s quality.
BV is based on how much of the protein consumed is actually absorbed and utilized by the body. The higher the amount of protein (nitrogen) that is actually retained, the greater the BV.
If a protein has a BV of 100, it means that all of the protein absorbed has been utilized with none lost.
Whole eggs score the highest of all foods with a BV of 100, while beans have a BV of only 49.
Protein quality is certainly an important issue, but it is one that has been enormously overstated and even distorted for marketing purposes.
Whey protein is truly an excellent protein with a biological value at or near 100. Many advertisements list whey as having a BV between 104 and 157, but if you look in any nutrition textbook it will tell you that it is impossible to have a BV over 100. In “Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism,” BV is defined as “a measure of nitrogen retained for growth and/or maintenance that is expressed as a percentage of nitrogen absorbed.”
When a protein supplement is listed as having a BV over 100, the company has intentionally manipulated the number for marketing purposes or unintentionally confused BV with another method of rating protein quality.
Certain whey proponents claim that whey is “superior to whole egg” so the percentage sign on BV had to be dropped and the scale extended beyond 100. It was noted by bodybuilding writer Jerry Branium in IRONMAN magazine that in a study where the BV of whey was reported to be 157, the author confused BV with chemical score. Chemical score is a comparison of the amino acid pattern in an ideal reference protein to a test protein and therefore the number can exceed 100. 157 was actually the chemical score and not the BV.
Most bodybuilders and strength athletes already consume more than enough protein (an understatement if there ever was one), so the importance of BV to these athletes who are already consuming copious amounts of protein has been overplayed. Even though whey has a higher BV than chicken breast, fish or milk protein, if the total quantity of protein you consume is sufficient, then it is not likely that substituting whey for food proteins will result in any additional muscle growth.
Whether you choose a whole protein food or a protein supplement isn’t as important as some would like you to believe. For the purposes of developing muscle, the only guidelines for protein that you must follow are: (1) consume a source of complete protein with every meal, (2) eat at frequent intervals approximately three hours apart (about six times per day) and (3) consume a minimum of .8 grams to 1 gram per pound of body weight. There are times when it would be beneficial to consume more than one gram per pound of body weight, but that will have to be the subject of another article.
Because whey protein does have a high BV, it probably offers the most benefits when you are dieting on very low calories. When your energy intake and correspondingly, your protein intake, are reduced, whey protein could help you get greater utilzation of the smaller amount of protein that you are taking in. In other words, choosing proteins of the highest quality is more of an issue when you are dieting than when you are focusing on mass gains when total calories and protein are being consumed in abundant amounts.
Whey protein also provides a way to get high quality protein without the fat, which is also important when dieting.
However, the biggest advantage of protein supplements is not that they can build more muscle than chicken or egg whites or any other whole food protein, the biggest advantage is convenience.
It is easier to drink a protein shake than it is to buy, prepare, cook and eat poultry, fish or egg whites. Consuming small, frequent meals is the optimal way to eat, regardless of whether your goal is fat loss or muscle gain.
To keep your body constantly in positive nitrogen balance, you must consume a complete protein every three hours. For many people, eating this often is nearly impossible.
That’s when a high quality protein supplement is the most helpful.
Aside from convenience, the truth about protein supplements is that they offer few advantages over protein foods.
There is no scientific evidence that you can’t meet all of your protein needs for muscle growth through food. As long as you eat every three hours and you eat a complete protein such as eggs, lean meat or lowfat dairy products with every meal, it is not necessary to consume any protein supplements to get outstanding results. Whey protein does have some interesting and useful properties and supplementing with a couple scoops each day is not a bad idea, especially if you are on a low calorie diet for fat loss or when you’re using a post workout shake instead of a meal.
Aside from that, focus on real food and don’t believe the hype.
Thanks for reading….
Additional Content are referenced from Tom Venuto: Author of “Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle.”
PS… If you are interested in a Protein Supplement. DESIGNER WHEY is what I would suggest and can be found in any GNC.
Aside from DESIGNER WHEY, Prograde Nutrition’s Protein Powder is SECOND TO NONE..
Recently they just came out with FUSION… One of the first protein sports drink..
Prograde Fusion™ Uses an All-Natural Sweetener!