How Safe Is Your Protein Drink?

By Janet Smith, PEERtrainer Health and Fitness Writer
Protein powders claim to help you bulk up, ‘energy’ drinks supposedly help to keep you up all night and fuel your metabolism and sugary drinks are full of electrolytes. But do these drinks really live up to the hype? More importantly, are protein drinks even safe?

The overwhelming majority of Americans eat at least 50% more protein than their bodies need. It is true that working out intensely does slightly increase the need for protein. However, people who work out a lot naturally get hungrier and eat more so they consume enough protein as long as they are eating a varied diet with sufficient calories.

Consider the fact that the body has no use for excess protein. Eating amounts of protein far beyond what the body needs puts a strain on the kidneys, as they struggle to rid the body of the waste. In this case, the body excretes vitamins and minerals along with the protein waste, sometimes leading to vitamin deficiencies. Protein powders are calorie-rich, so extra protein that is not turned into muscle or used as fuel is converted to fat, the same as any other type of food.

Bodybuilders, or others who are looking to increase muscle mass, should consider recent studies showing that there is no demonstrable difference in muscle gains between those athletes who drink protein supplements vs. those on a regular diet. It is exercise, not protein, which builds muscle. Most people will not be able to achieve a muscle weight gain of more than 1 pound per week, regardless of diet.

Whey Protein Shakes Vs Plant Protein Shakes

Joel Fuhrman, renowned MD, nutrition expert and author, also points out that the production and marketing of protein drinks is, for the most part, unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration. There is no data regarding the long-term use of protein drinks or supplements, so it is a gamble, at best, to use them.

Protein drinks do not contribute to a well-balanced diet. They contain protein, but little else. Like other types of junk food, protein drinks are calorie-dense and nutrition-poor. Dr. Fuhrman asserts that people should instead get their protein in its natural form, rather than from ‘empty-calorie’ drinks and mixes. The proteins easiest for humans to digest come from plants and are found in a wide variety of foods- most noticeably nuts, beans and legumes.

Related: What Kind Of Protein Shake Is Right For A Cleanse?
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