Yay or Nay to Protein Powders?

One of the biggest things I get asked is “should I be taking protein after the gym?” Well this post will give you the ins and outs on protein powder and if it may benefit you or not!

Protein products these days are everywhere, and in every flavour from plain to cookie cream milkshake! Choosing a brand and variety can be a job in itself, so where do we start? My top 2 rules when it comes to picking a protein powder is 1) Make sure it is as free from artificial additives as possible and 2) To make sure you are choosing a “whole” protein.

What is a whole protein you ask?

Proteins are made up of amino acids, when we consume any type of protein our body breaks down the protein into these amino acids and this what our body uses. There are many, many amino acids, however there are 9 essential amino acids that our body’s cannot make by itself and so we must take them in through our diet. Any protein that contains all of these 9 essential amino acids is what we call a “whole protein” and it is important that we choose a protein powder that contains a “whole protein”. It is also much easier to do than it sounds, there are only 3 “whole proteins” in total that are sold in powdered form and these are Whey protein, Casein protein and Soy protein, whey and casein are animal sources and for those whom are vegan, soy would be your best option, and so these should be the protein powders you should ALWAYS opt for.

The pro’s and con’s

When making any decision it’s always good to look at the pro’s and con’s. So what are the positives of taking protein powders?

1. Convenience – If you have a crazy schedule and do a crazy weights session but don’t have time to get in a meal post workout a protein shake could be your best option, you can have 20+g of protein within a mater of minutes and your good to go.

2. Dessert  – Protein powders come in all different flavours and can be added to oats, pancakes, yogurt, smoothies etc to make a normal food seem like a dessert and it can still be someway healthy

3. Fast Absorb-er – Powdered protein tends to be absorbed more quickly my the body, therefor your muscles may get the protein it needs faster than it would be released by chicken, eggs, turkey etc.

Now lets take a look at the con’s.

1. Refined Sugars – Refined sugar is something we don’t need in our diets whatsoever, and all of these flavours have to come from somewhere, whether it’s sugar or sweeteners neither are good for our health, also when we take in these sugars it can mess with our insulin level which in turn messes with other hormones that can make us feel hungry, and that’s the last thing we want!

2. Unwanted Additives – It’s often the case that there are many additives in protein powders, if you take a look at the label sometimes the ingredient list can be longer than your arm, and lets not mention the names of some of these ingredients! They certainly aren’t natural ingredients.

3. It’s expensive – Anyone who has bought protein powders knows this is true, 1 tub of good quality whole protein powder can cost between 50-60 Euro

The Verdict

If your goal is to is to grow or build muscle a post workout protein shake can be used to help you reach your protein intake, however you could also have a chicken breast, tin of tuna, a couple of eggs which would be just as good without the additives. They also may be very beneficial to people who don’t consume a lot of animal products like meat, fish and eggs, (vegetarians or vegans) then a protein shake may be very beneficiary to keep you on top of your protein needs.

However if you are someone who eats fish, meat, eggs etc and you are getting a protein source at each main meal then you are more than likely getting your required protein intake, what would you rather have a protein shake or an extra small meal that can contain the same amount of protein?


Erin O’Leary BSc