There is often a wave of anti protein stories crashing through the media. Such headlines as 'Protein Link to Prostate Cancer' - Daily Mail; 'High-Protein Diet 'as Bad for Health as Smoking'' - The Telegraph; 'High Protein Diets may Shrink Brain and Boost Risk of Alzheimer's' - Daily Mail (again, surprise, surprise). You could call this news, you could also call it scaremongering.
This type of health propaganda is often influenced by global food corporations. They do this as producing quick and easy dried carbohydrates generates more margin than protein rich foods, because it is far cheaper to produce.
Conversely, some sports supplement manufacturers have been just as guilty at pedaling their own propaganda, with big campaigns on the latest supplement that allow you to 'be up to 52% ripped' with its 'God-Like DNA Boost'. 'Your Body Morphs into Superman!' Accompanied by the case study before and after shots. Y'know the ones where the guy carbs up, overloads with fluids and breathes out for the 'before' shots and then goes carb free for two weeks, dehydrates himself, and breathes in as hard as he can for the 'after' shots. The trouble is, some people really will believe everything they read!
So who to trust? Is whey protein good for you or not?
Here's the upshot; whey protein is perfectly good for you, it can boost muscle hypertrophy (muscle tissue growth) and can also help weight loss (protein shakes aren't just for bodybuilders, that's a misconception), but it isn't a magic wand! Whey protein in the form of shakes and bars are convenient when you don't have the time to prepare the food types that would offer the same amounts of protein. Most people don't have time to prepare chicken, beef, fish, eggs, quinoa, lentils etc for every working day, or want to eat that every day - or be able to afford it each day, for that matter.
There are many brands on the market offering protein products and it can be a bit of a minefield for consumers, but I would suggest opting for a brand that has good, impartial reviews and that also offers the best prices. Protein Lifestyle offer a wide range and are cheaper than most.
There are three types of whey protein:
- Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC): the bi-product of cheese, with a protein content of circa 80 per cent.
- Whey Protein Isolate (WPI): filtered to separate fat, cholesterol and lactose from the protein for a purer product of around 90 per cent protein.
- Hydrolysed Whey Protein: protein chains broken down into peptides allowing for the body to absorb them easier.
Most nutritionists or personal trainers would recommend WPC or WPI, depending on your goals. I.e. WPC is your basic whey protein for building muscle, whereas WPI is a low fat, low carb protein, ideal for lean muscle mass or if you want to keep your calorie intake down.
A balanced, healthy, protein-rich diet and regular exercise will keep you fit and healthy, and whey protein provides a quick and healthy option for today's hectic lifestyle. There are no magic supplements that will will help you achieve your goals alone. However, by combining exercise, a healthy diet and the use of protein supplements you certainly can achieve your goals: It's that logical!
I wanted to get the opinion of an industry professional to help dispel any misconceptions about whey protein. Danny Murison, Personal Trainer said:
"I recommend high protein diet and supplementation programmes to my clients and often they will come to me with issues regarding fear of osteoporosis and kidney damage as they have read about it online. For the average healthy person these two concerns are simply not true.
"Correct whey protein supplementation along with a high protein diet will actually support muscle mass maintenance as we age - I have seen this many times with my clients. Maintaining lean muscle is a key factor in promoting bone health, which in turn actually helps with osteoporosis. Whey protein is not just for the youngsters!
"Secondly there is no evidence that a high protein lifestyle will negatively affect a healthy pair of kidneys. A healthy human body will adapt and increase kidney filtration, therefore causing no damage to the kidneys. It can almost be compared to the same way you would train your cardiovascular system: the human body adapts!
"My only real concern for a healthy individual on a high protein diet is the increased intake of highly acidic foods, a simple way to mitigate this is to keep a healthy balance and make sure you get in your vegetables, anything dark and green being top of my list."
The bottom line is: whey protein is good for you. Now, where's my shaker?