4 Reasons Why I Stopped Using Protein Powder After the GymSeptember 8, 2017
Just a few years ago, I singlehandedly used to keep the protein powder industry in business (that’s obviously an over exaggeration, but paints the picture of how frequently I used it- we’re talking multiple scoops a day).
And then, one glorious day, my former coaches Sal Distefano from Mind Pump Media, and Jessica Rothenberg, told me I didn’t need to have protein powder after my workouts. Huh? This came as a shock. Since I had always heard that it was necessary to consume protein powder directly following exercise (as I’m sure is true for most of you, too), this advice prompted me to do some research on the topic before stopping cold turkey. What I discovered convinced me to stop taking it, and guess what? I didn’t notice a single difference. My muscle growth did not stall. In fact, I’m not sure the protein powder really did much at all.
So, here are the reasons I no longer take protein powder after the gym:
1.) I was actually consuming too much protein a day. With the shakes I was consuming about 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, and that’s just way too much! We think we need way more protein than we actually do. Yes, protein does help to build muscle, but past a certain point it’s diminishing returns. Studies have shown that for the majority of people, a daily amount of 0.6-0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight is adequate. Now, while this varies from person to person based on activity levels, satiety levels, and other factors, you should be good in that range. Since I’ve made eating intuitively my main focus, I do not know the exact amount of protein I consume on a daily basis, I just know that it falls within that range and feels good for me. Some days it’ll be more and other days less. We are easily able to hit that target from food alone, unless you’re a big dude, then that might be more of a challenge. To know how much daily protein consumption is appropriate for you, Harvard Medical School recommends to multiply your weight (in pounds) by 0.36. This will tell you the minimum amount you need to consume a day in order to stay healthy, but obviously keep in mind that your lifestyle factors (i.e. exercise habits, age) should be taken into consideration as well.
2.) Protein powder is highly processed. It’s not real food. So, since health is my priority, I wanted to eliminate daily consumption of something that is very engineered. Look, I’m not 100% compliant and I do still consume some packaged snacks when I’m in a pinch, on-the-go, or need to be held over between meals. But, this is not a daily occurance and I wanted to compromise by keeping some packaged snacks and eliminating daily packaged protein when I could easily get all my protein needs met from real food. Now, while I did at least opt for a “clean” protein powder, with minimal ingredients, I do want to mention that most of them out there are not. Most powders have ingredients that are really not good for you (if you still choose to take protein powder after reading this, see below for my recommendations).
3.) My digestion has improved. Protein powders have been known to make you constipated. I never thought I fell into this camp because I had daily bowel movements (sorry, if that’s TMI), but then I remembered I was taking magnesium to help keep me regular. While I still take magnesium in my daily supplement, I am taking a normal dose, not in excess and am proud to share I still have daily movements!
4.) It’s a myth that you need to replenish glycogen stores in the 30 minutes after exercise (known as the anabolic window). Studies have shown that unless your last meal prior to exercises was more than 5-6 hours before, you will not benefit from immediate post consumption. If you fasted before exercising then it makes it sense to replenish your nutrients immediately afterwards, but it is recommended for those who want to increase muscle size and strength to eat 1-2 hours before exercising to maximize performance. Therefore, most of us are covered from a pre-workout meal and don’t need to feel anxious about making it home in time to gulp down a protein shake within the 30 minute window. Yes, consuming a shake right after your workout will accelerate repletion of glycogen stores, but unless you plan to train again a few hours later (which i don’t recommend) then you can get adequate protein intake for recovery at your next meal in the form of real foods.
I want to mention that, although I will occasionally use protein powder to make a smoothie, I no longer use it every single day as a replacement for real food. Health is about balance and moderation, and so I do not want send the message that protein powder is bad and you should never, ever consume it. Rather, I just want to encourage you to stop and reflect on how much protein powder you are consuming and for what purpose.
Protein Powders I recommend:
Whey Option: Teres Whey (it is grassfed)
Beef Option: Paleo Protein (it is grassfed, and this is what I used since I cannot tolerate Whey)
Vegan Option: Vega Sport
*Notice I didn’t recommend an egg white protein as a whey alternative. This is because many people are highly sensitive to egg whites without even knowing it. Egg whites are not supposed to be consumed without the yolk and thus we have a reaction to them.
For those of you out there who are part of the protein powder fan club, I encourage you to try stopping or reducing your consumption and see what difference, if at all, it makes. It is really important to get to know your body and what works well for it, so take the time to see if the protein powder actually affects your muscles and if it is really worth it to consume. If it turns out that you notice a difference, I highly recommend trying one of the alternatives above. Conscious Health is all about trying new things and seeing what is best for you–not just eating or doing something because it’s supposed to be the right thing. Go out there and see for yourself!
Have A Good Workout,
Disclaimer: this is not intended to be medical advice, this is my opinion based on input and advice from experts in the health and wellness industry.
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