Who buys it?
Who eats it?
Who spends advertising dollars on it?
The other day, I was at the gym, and a TV commercial for SPAM flashed up on the screen of an overhead TV.
I honestly thought SPAM was something people joked about, but didn’t really eat.
Although I certainly have not even toyed with the thought of consuming the fake-meat product…there apparently is a market out there and this particular commercial was appealing to all the folks sitting on their couches at home, wondering just what to fix for dinner (since they hate cooking).
And while I (or you) may never eat SPAM in your life…there certainly are other things that we eat or consume, sometimes on the daily, that actually may not be so appealing to our bodies.
In other words: Food like products.
Now, I agree, a little dirt never hurt in life…
But recently, I conducted an experiment with myself and a food that I have consumed for nearly 15 years of my life; and I was completely shocked at how amazing I actually felt without it.
The dirty? Protein powder.
I often get asked by clients, “What is the BEST protein powder to take?”
And as of late…I’ve had a hard time coming up with an answer.
Don’t get me wrong…I know a lot of brands…
For as long as I have been training and around a gym environment, working out and protein powder have gone hand in hand.
A pre-workout shake. A post-workout shake. A snack here. A pre-bed time drink there.
Protein is all the rage in the training world, and there are countless amounts of unwritten and unscientific facts out there claiming “You need to drink whey within 30-minutes of your workout” or “Drinking protein will make you stronger” or “Consuming protein before bed-time is necessary to fuel your muscle repair”, etc.
Over the years, I have tried probably at least 40-50 protein powders and brans: Chocolate, vanilla, coffee, mocha, strawberry, peaches and cream, cookies and cream, natural, original, tropical, coconut—you name a sweet flavor, and it’s available in protein form.
I’ve ordered 5 lbs. tubs, 2 lbs. bags, purchased monthly subscriptions for protein delivery, made friends with my local supplement store employees, and on and on.
And, at various times, I have consumed it as if it were a real food source (at one time: As my daily ‘protein’ for breakfast and lunch, as well as in between meals 2-3 times per day).
In other words: A lot of protein powder.
As of late (the past couple years), I have pretty much stuck to a brand called Progenex—a popular protein powder within the CrossFit community, and the ‘supplement of champions’ when it comes to strength and performance gains.
Typically consuming it pre- and/or post-WOD, the protein powder gave me the extra umph (so I thought) to get through my workouts or gain more strength.
And while my intake of this protein was definitely not anywhere near where it had been in years of my past (i.e. just once per day if I worked out—as opposed to a ‘meal replacement’ or several times per day)…I began to notice…my stomach always seemed to feel a little off after consuming it.
Bloated. Other days a little nauseous. Sometimes runny stools 20-30 minutes after consuming. Even constipated some days.
However…despite these signs and symptoms…I continued to consume it…daily. Not thinking anything more of it. I consumed it daily that is until about two months ago when I decided to see what going ‘sans protein powder’ would do for these feelings of discomfort.
Protein powders are highly processed and are typically heated to the point that the protein is denatured, which makes it practically impossible for the body to recognize and use. The result equals higher levels of acidity and toxicity in the body.
So even though it’s nowhere near a processed protein source like SPAM—something most of us would not ever even think about consuming–here we go, prescribing to eating something we think is supposed to be good for us, improve our ‘gains’, make us look and feel our best, and yet, it could very well be making us sick.
Protein powders are often filled with preservatives, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), allergens like dairy (whey protein isolate) and soy, and other synthetic toxins like aspartame, saccharin, and artificial flavors.
Check out this label for instance from a top selling protein powder in the industry to see what I mean.
Many of us consumers of protein powders claim that we want to be healthier, and fuel our bodies well…we don’t eat fast food or junk food…but yet, we drink a ‘healthy’ protein powder filled with all sorts of mystery, processed ingredients and chemicals that we honestly really have no idea what is really in there…and…we become addicted (Who doesn’t look forward to a rich chocolately or vanilla tasting drink? Like a baby’s bottle!).
And, ironically, while most stores that sell these products are touted as ‘health food stores’—they are actually quite the opposite. The majority of their products are anything more than packaged and processed foods tainted with labels, like the cereal boxes in grocery stores that claim “enriched with vitamins”, “heart healthy”, “added protein.”
A study from Consumer Reports actually revealed that many protein powders on the market contain dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals — specifically arsenic, cadmium and lead. For instance, Muscle Milk samples contained all the heavy metals mentioned: lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury with the daily recommended serving yielding 5.5 micrograms of cadmium (5 micrograms is the safe limit), 13.5 micrograms of lead (10 micrograms is the USP safe limit), and 12.2 micrograms of arsenic.
These heavy metals are essentially: No bueno.
- Lead intake has been linked to headaches, abdominal pain, impaired memory, male reproductive problems, and weakness, pain or tingling in the extremities.
- Cadmium is associated with kidney damage, since it can take 20 years for the body to eliminate even half the cadmium absorbed today.
- Arsenic has been pegged as a cancer causing agent of the skin, lungs, bladder and kidneys, as well as heart disease.
- And, mercury acts as a neurotoxin, interfering with the brain and nervous system; it can adversely affect fertility and blood pressure regulation and can cause memory loss, tremors, vision loss and numbness of the fingers and toes.
That’s a lot of side effects people.
In addition, most every brand on the mainstream market out there contains some sort of artificial sweetener, ‘artificial flavor’ or even high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient, some of them even list cookie crumbs as an ingredient- making it really challenging to believe any marketing pitch of a protein shake being ‘healthy’ seriously.
Artificial sweeteners are another topic for another day, but long story short, several side effects include:
- change in heart rate,
- impaired memory,
- abdominal and joint pains,
- insomnia and sleep problems,
- change in vision
…Just to name a few.
And, just this past year, several lawsuits have come into the public eye, with allegations that several protein companies have false claims around the amount of protein in their products—for example, a lab test of MusclePharm’s “Arnold Scharzenegger Series Iron Mass” that revealed that just 19 of the promised 40 grams of protein were present, according to exhibits in the lawsuit.
I feel worlds better on the days I don’t drink that ‘workout milk’ I’ve chugged for years.
Do I still have some in my pantry?
Yes I do.
And, if I am in a pinch, I have put 1 scoop into a shaker bottle with water and mixed it up…and time and time again…still not felt great. Even more, my ‘taste buds’ have changed quite a bit that I don’t even really ‘crave’ the protein powder any more.
Sure, a little dirt never hurt…but when was the last time you were really in tune to what your body was telling you?
(i.e. ‘I am not absorbing this well’…or ‘I am constipated’…or ‘I want REAL food’).
I’d challenge you to try going sans protein powder for at least 3 days…eat real food instead throughout the days and around your workouts…
And just FEEL if you experience a difference.
You may be very well surprised.
The bottom line?
REAL FOOD IS ALWAYS BEST. No MATTER if you workout or just live life—your body knows and recognizes a handful of pulled chicken or pork, eggs, almond butter, tuna salad, or a ‘real foods’ smoothie way better than it does packaged, processed fake protein ‘candy.’
On a side note, if you are still open to incorporating protein powders in your daily intake…there are definitely better options coming out there on the market.
- Hemp Protein, or even hemp seeds, for instance are a more complete, real protein source.
- Also, as of late, collagen is ALL THE RAGE. Vital Proteins makes an excellent collagen you can easily throw into a smoothie, tea or coffee to get a real-foods protein source.
- And who doesn’t love homemade bone broth (see recipe below)? Bone broth is awesome for improved digestion and gut healing, joint health, eliminating toxins in your body, and of course, amino acids supplied through the meat and bone marrow. Don’t like cooking? You can order bone broth and have it shipped directly to you if making your own is intimidating! And, if you live in Austin, a company called ‘It’s Food’ makes it available for locals, and so does Picnik (the Paleo food truck on South Lamar).
- As for whey, the new Wild Whey Grass-Fed Whey Protein on the market is a non-denature whey protein that uses the most minimal processing possible: It is flash pastured for 15 seconds (per FDA law) before being immediately cooled at 3° C. At this point, Wild Whey is not exposed to any form of heat (unlike whey sitting in your cupboard!). After it is cooled, Wild Whey is then dried using a proprietary ambient-air drying method that results in an easy-to-mix whey protein that does not require adding lecithin to aid in mixing the way most other protein powders do. They state: “Wild Whey is as close to nature as is (legally) possible.”
Homemade Bone Broth Recipe
*I like to use the whole chicken and this method that can last up to one week!
- 1 whole chicken (or the frame of a roasted chicken)
- 2 sweet bay leaves
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- any vegetable scraps you have on hand
- filtered water
- . Place one whole chicken or the frame of a roasted chicken into your slow cooker with sweet bay, black peppercorns and any vegetable scraps you have on hand. Cover with filtered water and cook on low for up to one week!!!
- . After twenty-four hours, you may begin using the broth. As you need broth or stock, simply dip a ladle or measuring cup into the slow cooker to remove the amount of stock you need. Pour it through a fine-mesh sieve or, preferably, a reusable coffee filter which will help to clarify the broth. Replace the broth you remove from the slow cooker with an equivalent amount of filtered water. If you’re using a whole, fresh chicken, you may also remove chicken meat from the slow cooker as desired for dishes such as stir-fries or soups.
- . At the end of the week, strain off any remaining broth and discard or compost the bones. The bones from your chicken should crumble when pressed between your thumb and forefinger. Their softness is an indication that much of the nourishment from the bones – minerals, amino acids – have leached from the bones and into the broth you’ve enjoyed all week long. Wash the insert of your slow cooker and start again.