nutrition bite 005 - busting supplement myths pt. 1: protein powders


Here’s the thing about protein supplements… yes, they may be waved around as an essential ingredient for professional athletes - as they’re marketed incredibly well... and yes, they may take up the majority of the space in supplement shops… but this doesn’t mean that young athlete’s, or adolescents & even adults for that matter, need them

"Little miss muffet sat on her tuffet, eating her curds and whey…"

I am sure you’ve heard this nursery rhyme many times before. And if you’re like me, you were probably asking yourself “what the hell is curds and whey”

Well it turns out that both is simply a portion/compound found in milk… and the whey is the liquid that remains after milk has been curdled, and is oftentimes used to make some form of cheeses such as hard cheeses like cheddar or swiss

And it also turns out, it’s what they package inside the tubs of “protein supplements” too

Yep, you read that correct. Protein supplements are no different to real food sources of protein in essence, it’s just in a different, powdered form. All of the amino acids are the same - and if you read THIS ARTICLE - you’d know there are twenty amino acids in total, some of which are essential - meaning we need to get them from foods as our body cannot synthesise them

And when it comes to protein supplements, many young athletes get incredibly confused. They see them as this “magical” formula that will help them reach their goals faster. But in essence, it’s just food…

Then they’re confused in their complexity of variety, as people will tell them “this one is isolate, this one is concentrate, this one is calcium caseinate”… and they’ll try and make you see that you ‘need' all three as they are absorbed at differing rates

But here’s the thing... milk contains all three of these proteins

As milk is ~ 80% casein and 20% whey (isolate & concentrate), with whey isolate being absorbed quicker than casein. And when you look at other animal sources of protein, such as lean meats, all of your protein sources are covered anyway, so there’s no need for the supplement as it adds no additional benefits except for making parents wallets lighter

 

The Real Problem

To a young athlete (and everyone else except for elite athletes), none of this supplement talk truly matters. All this talk of protein ‘timing’ & the need for supplements is only 10% of the entire equation. You can get everything you require from real-food sources - and your body and wallet will love you so much more for it

The nutritional base needs to be built on a solid foundational diet that provides adequate calories and nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and vitamins + minerals) to aid in proper growth, recovery, and repair. This needs to be the focus of every young athlete & adolescent when it comes to nutrition - not looking for a shortcut or buying into the BS of needing a protein supplement

 

When They Are Beneficial

If young athletes or adolescents have specific digestive issues/possible intolerances whereby they cannot get an adequate intake of protein, or if we have a vegetarian athlete who’s lacking adequate protein intake -  they're the only times we look at using them here at The Academy

Oftentimes, people will look to them if a young athlete needs to put on weight and simply cannot eat anymore food, as drinking calories is easier than eating them. In this latter situation however, the focus for adding weight is overall calories and carbohydrates, not essentially more protein, and we have much simpler options to choose from when it comes to trying to add weight, such as making “milkshakes/smoothies” using the following ingredients

  • Milk (natural protein)
  • Skim Milk Powder (added protein)
  • Peanut Butter (added protein & calories)
  • Fruits (adds essential nutrients)
  • Ice Cream or Cream (added calories and healthy fats for proper hormonal production)

And that ladies and gents, is a simple, no BS approach to protein supplements and young athletes. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

 

Biggest Takeaways

  • Protein powders are simply “food” in powdered form and offer no additional benefit over consuming real food for young athletes & adolescents
  • The main focus should be on consuming a diet that provides adequate calories and nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and vitamins + minerals) to aid in proper growth, recovery, and repair
Nick Maier