This may be a divisive post for some, but hear me out.
I wrote about the benefits of protein and protein powder earlier in the year. You can read about it here and here. But I have since changed my views on the subject.
Since writing those articles, a lot has changed. I set out on a mission (yet again) to improve my health, and it took me through some very unexpected experiences. I have followed a mostly plant-based diet for the last 5 years. As I cut out meat and animal products, I believed I needed to use protein powder to hit my protein requirements. Most of them were pretty yummy and I began to rely on them for a huge portion of my protein. In February, I hired a coach to help me work through my low thyroid issues. She recommended that I go off pretty much every supplement I was taking, including protein powders.
I was a little hesitant, but I took the leap. I cleared out (almost) all my supplements and passed them on to others who I knew would use them. Instead of relying on isolated substances (hmmmm... isn't that what a drug is?), she encouraged me to focus on eating all my nutrients from real, whole foods. Yes, I knew that was how I should have been eating, but I sometimes let others get in my head about protein and supplements...
Here's what happened:
1. Within 3 days, my energy began to improve.
2. My bloating substantially decreased (hello flatter stomach!!!).
3. My digestion improved.
4. My joint pain and inflammation decreased and went away.
5. My sleep improved.
6. My physical endurance improved.
7. My strength continued to increase with my training (I did NOT lose any muscle mass).
8. My nails grew stronger and longer (I've been an avid nail biter most of my life, so, consequently, my nails were short and brittle).
9. I SAVED A LOT of money by not buying all the supplements!!!!!
After 12 weeks, I decided to try a little of my vegan protein powder to see what would happen. I used about 1/3 scoop and mixed it with some almond milk, just like I used to do. It tasted just ok. It didn't taste as good as I remembered. And within 30 minutes, my stomach was hard and bloated and felt heavy. It did not feel good!
I couldn't believe how gross I felt! And I used to kinda live off of that stuff, mostly because it was super convenient and I supposedly "needed" it to be healthy and train hard. Lesson learned. I DON'T need it. And I feel MUCH better without it.
So where DO I get my protein?
From high-quality, whole, REAL foods.
Here are my top picks:
1. Dark leafy greens (broccoli, spinach, kale, etc.)
3. Beans & Legumes
5. Tofu, Tempeh, & Edamame
6. Nutritional Yeast
7. Seeds (Hemp, Flax, Chia, Sunflower, Sesame)
I don't consider nuts to be a high source of protein. They have great nutritional benefits, but they are much higher in fat than protein. I consider them to be a healthy fat source with the benefit of a little extra protein.
As long as you are consuming a varied diet, you can get plenty of protein to sustain an active lifestyle. It takes a little extra planning and effort, but you don't need protein powder to "make you healthier."
Protein powders (and bars and shakes) are supplements (or drugs), NOT real food. They don't come packaged as nature intended them. They are heavily processed and almost always have extra sugar and additives to make them palatable (or somewhat palatable). In 2016, the protein powder market was valued at about 12.4 billion dollars (USD)! I highly doubt all those companies have your health in their best interest. Protein supplements are expensive! Wouldn't you rather spend your hard-earned money on some real, nutritious, health-building food instead?
Do you use protein powder, bars or shakes?
If you do, what would happen if you cut it out for a week?
Are you ready to try it?
I challenge you to give it up for a week or a month or more.
See what happens.
Do you notice any difference?
Is your digestion any better?
Is your wallet happier?
Is it hard? Easy?
Document it and let me know what you discover and learn!