Everywhere you go these days you see people guzzling down protein shakes – in the gym, on the street, at the bus stop... Last week the Office of National Statistics added protein powder to the basket of everyday goods that they use to calculate inflation. And the titchy Tesco Metro around the corner from Unbound Towers has an entire shelving unit solely for protein bars (they've obviously seen our guns).
But do we actually need all these protein supplements and are protein shakes worth it? Are they an essential component in any fitness tool kit, or merely a cunning marketing ploy to part us from our cash?
We asked three experts for their opinions – and Warren, in particular, didn't hold back!
"They’re An Easy Way To Add Protein To Your Diet"
Gareth Nicholas, Expert Nutrition Manager at MaxiNutrition extols the pros of protein
Your body needs protein to rebuild, recover, grow muscle and become leaner and fitter
"Your body needs protein to rebuild, recover, grow muscle and become leaner and fitter. People who aren’t very active will usually get enough protein in their normal diet, but if you’re doing lots of exercise, you may need to add more to achieve your goals – whether that’s building muscle or losing weight.
"If your diet is 100% right you can get everything you need from food sources but it’s very hard to get that perfect balance when you have a busy life. The benefit of protein shakes is that they can provide you with protein when your body requires it.
"Everybody is different and everybody’s workout regimes are different, but for most people, after exercise is a good time to have a shake. Then, as a rule of thumb, feed your body with five small meals a day. That may include breakfast, lunch and dinner with snacks in between.
"One thing to note: If you’re in the armed forces and taking protein or supplements, make sure you choose a brand that boasts the Informed Sports Logo. This means the product has been tested by the LGC group, who look for banned or problematic substances."
"I Don't Use Them, But They Have Their Place"
Unbound's in-house personal trainer Jonny Jacobs is on the fence
"As with any supplement, protein shakes should supplement your diet, not replace it.
"Ninety-nine per cent of the time I don’t have shakes as I prefer to get protein from ‘real food’ such as lean meat, fish, eggs, nuts and legumes. But if you’re struggling to consume enough protein there’s nothing wrong with a good quality bar or shake.
When protein isn't needed by your muscles, your body gets rid of it. Which makes for a pretty expensive piss
"If you’re drinking loads of shakes, though, you’re probably over-consuming. Research says you should have 1.2-2g of protein per kilo of bodyweight. Having too much protein isn’t going to do you any harm but when it’s not needed by your muscles, your body gets rid of it. Which makes for a pretty expensive piss."
"They're Heavily Processed Junk"
Warren Pole, co-Founder of natural sports nutrition company 33Shake, is on the attack
"Are protein shakes a waste of money? Erm, yes. Sorry. Unless of course you’re someone who thinks a bucket of junk sugar with a sprinkling of protein is worth £30-plus, that is.
"Protein shakes divert attention from the simple fact that protein is available in... food! Not only is food cheaper, it also allows you access to the best proteins going: natural, unprocessed wholefood sources like lean meats and fish, nuts, legumes, eggs and superfoods like hemp, chia and flaxseed.
Protein powders are heavily processed, cheap as chips and sold at a massive markup
"Protein powders are heavily processed, cheap as chips and sold at a massive markup. And they can have some pretty nasty side effects, much like you’d experience if you guzzled the contents of a sweet shop.
"On the mild side these include bloating and wind; on the more serious side they include increased acidity and inflammation, which can slow recovery, impact immune function and slow you down.
"If you're using these products, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I feel good when I drink/eat this?
- Do I feel good later?
- If I wasn’t training, would I eat this out of choice?
- Do I feel a benefit from this product?
"If you can’t answer with a resounding 'yes' to all of the above, try a month without them.
"If you need additional protein to support training in this period, simply make a conscious effort to eat a bit more in your daily diet – snack on nuts, make sure lean meats and legumes are at the heart of your meals.
The more you look, the more you’ll find it's insanely easy to eat a bit more protein
"The more you look, the more you’ll find it's insanely easy to eat a bit more protein without being attached to a shaker bottle. Hell, even porridge oats are 14% protein.
"If this switch doesn’t provide results, by all means go back to burning your money on the junk food, but I bet you won’t find that necessary."