Friday, December 2, 2011
To Shake or not to Shake?
But why stop at one? I've known many people who decide they'd like to get bigger and stronger, and decide in order to do so they'll just stick another protein shake in their diet at some random point in their day. And so now, they chug one protein shake after their workout, and one whenever they feel like it. If they feel like they'd REALLYYY like some more muscle, they may even stick a third in there somewhere. Heck, I've known some people to drink as many as 5-6 shakes a day, all in hopes to gain lean muscle mass quickly. I don't care who you are, 5-6 shakes a day is a LOT of whey protein. But still, what's the big deal, it'll work...right?
Eh...not so much. Listen for a second.
What many people in the fitness world fail to realize is that whole food (actual meals, chicken, corn, beans, rice...etc...) still drastically outranks any protein shake in the nutritional department. To start removing all those fantastic nutrients from your diet in exchange for a shake is a very bad idea, because you will start to leave yourself starved of most of the good stuff. Your body wants whole food, and trust me it'll go a lot farther than a liquefied shake.
Shakes just don't have the same kind of nutritional value as whole food. Sure they've got a ton of protein, but they're lacking many essential nutrients to regular bodily function. And you know what? It may be confusing to hear, but in the muscle building department, protein ISN'T EVERYTHING. You can overload your body with as much protein as you want, and your body will still only use a fraction of it. Most of it will go right in and right out of your system, doing nothing but wasting your time and money. Your body needs a very specific environment in order to build a lot of muscle as quickly as possible (which isn't very quick no matter what, mind you), and guess what's the easiest way to ensure you're providing this ideal bodily atmosphere? EAT FOOD. You need carbs, you need fat, you need natural, non-synthesized nutrients in order to help your body use all that extra protein you're giving it to its fullest potential. I'll repeat again, if you're just drinking a ton of protein shakes, more than likely they're going in and washing right out.
Food also has a thermic effect on the body. This means that it requires energy to digest, where as shakes are predigested and absorb much more quickly into your system. After a workout, this is great, because you get nutrients as fast as possible, but any other time of the day this isn't needed and is NOT an ideal scenario. You need to work your digestive tract, and you'll burn more calories doing so anyway.
There's also speculation about what excess protein supplementation can do to your kidneys. Believe it or not your kidneys have to work pretty hard to filter all that junk out of the water it's dissolved in, and the more protein you take in, the more work they have to end up doing. Will it cause kidney problems? Probably not, especially if you're drinking enough water. In fact I truly doubt you'll ever see any negative effects of protein shakes as long as you're not going overboard. But ya know what? It's something to think about, and in order to keep your kidneys healthy, and be safe rather than sorry, I'd suggest limiting your protein shake intake and increasing your water intake.
And finally, DON'T BE AFRAID TO EAT. It all comes down to the most effective meal (nutritionally) for the calories you're consuming. Guess what, if you're trying to get a few more quality calories in, protein shakes are NOT the answer. Sure they'll give you a ton of protein, but again, that protein will do diddly squat without other nutrients to support it. Enjoy real food. Try new recipes every day. Give your body what it really needs. Protein supplements are just that...SUPPLEMENTS...meant to be taken only when it is more convenient to do so (like right after a workout at the gym, where I doubt you have an entire kitchen setup to make a nice healthy meal right after that last set.) Would I replace my post-workout shake with a real meal if I could? You bet your bottom I would! It'd probably do me a lot more good than some shake, no matter how delicious that shake is. In fact, let me put this is bold:
TO SEE MUSCLE GAINS, YOU DO NOT NEED PROTEIN SHAKES. YOU CAN GET BETTER GAINS OFF OF REAL FOOD THAN YOU COULD WITH ANY SHAKE ON THE MARKET.
Here's my recommendation: Drink 1-2 shakes a day, max. Drink one after your workout, as this is the time your body needs it most. If you leave your body starved after working it to the breaking point, you're completely screwing yourself over for any sort of gain. The second shake you can drink when you want, but I'd suggest it in the morning, when your body is crying for food after not eating all night. I have whey protein powder in my oatmeal, but hey, close enough. Those two times are generally the most effective for protein absorption If you can have a real meal instead though, do it. Just make sure you're getting all your required nutrients.
Shakes are meant for convenience. They are not an excuse to be lazy nutritionally. Cook your food, plan your meals, design them to fit your caloric and macro nutrient needs. Put some work into it! You'll see better results in the long run, I guarantee.
Keep eating, love those whole foods, and as always, good luck!