I’ve been asked several times recently about various supplements and additions to help athletes get “more”. Some of you know that I have strong opinions on this here are some of them…
Firstly, I strongly believe that the overwhelming majority of people, including CrossFitters and other physically active people who eat a primal/paleo based diet DO NOT NEED additional protein.
You’ll get plenty of high quality sources of protein from food. Grass-fed red meat, fish, pork and bird meats have no genuine substitutes, so if you’re a vegetarian or vegan…sorry, there is overwhelming proof that you simply cannot get all your necessary nutrient requirements for longterm health from non animal sources.
This blog post isn’t really about the arguments a vegetarian or vegan might have with a meat-eater and if you want to know the sources and evidence for these claims, I’ll freely supply them, otherwise lets get back to dealing with protein supplementation.
Supplements are a huge multi-billion dollar industry.
I have personally been approached on numerous occasions over the years by sales reps to promote, sell or use a lot of “special”, “one of a kind”, “superior” or “best in the market” products.
They all have 1 thing in common:
I made a decision a long time ago to be a coach. The only thing I “sell” is my coaching. I don’t want to be a powder salesman!
I’d rather see my athletes spending their hard earned cash on Olympic lifting shoes and a quality jump rope that magic powders, but if you do get sucked in and buy protein powder, you won’t really need more than one shake a day if you’re eating right.
The purpose of most magic powder companies is to get you to buy into their brand.
You get the pre-workout product, the post workout product, the just before bedtime so you can make muscle even during your sleep product and the drop 10 dress sizes in a week product.
It’s not the best way to spend money but, regardless, many of you will still buy the stuff so you might as well understand something about it.
There are many options available on the market: egg-white, whey, soy, pea, spirulina, hemp, etc.
All of these wonder powders go through heavy manufacturing/refining processes.
That should ring alarm bells straight away.
Whey protein is the by far the most popular and biggest money maker on the market so here are a few interesting facts:
Whey protein is a waste product in the production of cheese.
Whey protein typically comes in three major forms: Concentrate (WPC), Isolate (WPI), and Hydrolysate (WPH).
Concentrates have typically a low (but still significant) level of fat and cholesterol but, in general, have higher levels of bioactive compounds, and carbohydrates in the form of lactose — they are 29%–89% protein by weight.
Isolates are processed to remove the fat, and lactose, but are usually lower in bioactivated compounds as well — they are 90% + protein by weight. Like whey protein concentrates, whey protein isolates are mild to slightly milky in taste.
Hydrolysates are whey proteins that are predigested and partially hydrolyzed for the purpose of easier metabolizing, but their cost is generally higher. Highly-hydrolysed whey may be less allergenic than other forms of whey.
The basic processing method for Isolate which is the biggest sellers due to their protein content, is as follows:
1- Fresh cows milk (hopefully grass fed) gets fully pasteurised.
2- The major protein component, casein and the milk fat get separated to make cheese.
3- Lactose and other stuff get filtered out.
4- A process called ion exchange chromatography then concentrates and purities the whey protein.
5- The mix then goes into a drying tower to turn it into a powder.
6- The powder is mixed with sugars, flavours, caffiene, creatine and other crap before being packaged and labelled.
7- The special “Max Power Turbo Ultimo Mix Protein” is sold at a 200% mark up to skinny Dave who wants to get jacked and has watched too many UFC fights online.
We’ve said it repeatedly before: Eating a high fat, high protein, real food diet, coupled with a constantly varied functional training program from a good CrossFit coach, will do everything you want from weight loss, to building muscle, to looking your best in a bikini.
There are no shortcuts, no magic powders and no reasons not to do it.