If a world record holder and very fit athlete has never used any supplements and just relies on real food, how likely is it that you need tons of them to be fit and build muscle mass? Not very.
I Was A Believer
If you would have asked me a question about supplements in general and protein powders in particular several years ago, I would have been the first one to stand up from the crowd and say, “yes, if you want to build muscle than you are going to need supplementation!”
When I started studying fitness, everywhere I turned I saw the need for supplementation mentioned, even my fitness study guide book suggested that they are very necessary to build muscle. From the same book I also learnt that whey isolate protein is of a much higher quality protein than what you find in a steak.
And, to be honest, I used to believe it without a question. I thought if it’s in a school book then it must be true, which now makes me feel like a fool for being so naive.
Especially lately I’ve been questioning the whole supplementation thing even more, because if you apply common sense then how can a powder be of higher value than real food? What if the whole meal timing and protein consumption is just a creation of the marketing machine the fitness industry has become? All of a sudden it just made perfect sense to me.
The Wonder Of Amino Acids
Before I pick a little more at this subject let’s take a look some of the supposed functions of the key amino acids that occur in significant amounts of high-quality whey protein, according to my fitness study guide:
- BCAAs (Branched – Chain – Amino Acids) – help to increase endurance, prevent fatigue, improve mental performance, increase energy level.
- Phenylalanine – Maintains nervous system health, relieves depression, elevates mood, boosts memory, suppresses appetite.
- Tryptophan – Relieves mild to moderate depression relieves insomnia, suppresses appetite, reduces overall sensation of pain.
- Arginine – Increases growth hormone levels, protects against heart disease, lowers blood pressure, improves poor circulation.
- Glutamine – Boosts immune system function, maintains muscle mass, prevents muscle breakdown, enhances glycogen storage, aids recovery from exercise, promotes healing.
- Proline – Rebuilds cartilage in bones, speeds injury repair, promotes tissue recovery following exercise.
What I found very interesting is that how much actually would be a “significant” amount of protein powder was never mentioned – it could be buckets.
I Should Be Superwoman, But I’m Not
But still, when reading all of the above in my fitness guide, it makes whey protein look like a magic cure for every disease. It also makes me wonder why do doctors prescribe all those medications to patients, when all they really had to do is give them whey protein powder?
From my personal experience with using protein powders I can tell you for sure that most of those wonderful things are unlikely to happen. I still feel fatigued, it always takes me the exact same time to recover from exercising, I still feel pain, and my appetite has never been suppressed in my life, quite the opposite actually.
Take It From A World Record Holder
The reason I started questioning if you need protein powders was a complete accident. I was on Facebook and was reading a post my friend Jesus Villa wrote, who is a professional acrobat and in the Guinness Book Of Records for the highest jump performed on stilts. This guy trains day and night non stop and is coached by the best trainers.
Someone asked him what kind of protein powder he prefers and his answer was: “none, I only eat real food”. After that a light went on from the top of my head: if this guy trains like a robot and is made of pure muscle and never consumed a protein drink in his life, then what do I need it for? Food for fitness thought :).
It’s Your Choice, Not Mandatory!
Now when people ask me do I really need to drink a protein shake, my answer is ” Do you want to?” I think it all comes down to personal preference, but before you go ahead and spend 60 dollars on some powder, because that is what a high quality whey protein will cost you, scatter it around in your brain just a little – do you really think it will make a huge difference in your muscle mass or your performance?