Have you ever gone to a supplement store and grimaced when you saw the prices of the tubs of protein – you know, the big brand stuff?
If your answer is yes, then you are welcome to join one of the biggest clubs in the world, ergo, everyone. I can tell you that my buttocks used to clench together when the guy at the counter scanned in my measly 2.2 lbs (that’s a kilogram for the metrically inclined) tub of whey isolate and my slightly bigger tub of casein before promptly demanded a 3 figure sum.
I live in the realm of dollars and cents now, whereas before I dealt in pounds sterling and pence. There’s nothing like emigration to help improve your mental arithmetic. Ninety per cent of my brain capacity is now used for conversion tables: changing odd things like inches into centimetres, lbs into kilos and yes, kilometres back to miles. Why do the English still use miles, by the way – when we have so neatly assimilated the rest of the metric-verse into our collective? Never mind, I’ve gone off track. Suffice it to say, dollars or pounds, you should never have to part with over a hundred of either for protein powders.
So I don’t do that anymore. I still get my protein. It’s still just as effective. It costs a fraction of high street supplement store prices.
Don’t get me wrong, there are people out there who swear by the latest and most expensive protein blend to come out and they are extremely convincing with it. The fast-enzyme isolate that gets into your system before you’ve even swallowed it (they don’t claim it does that but it’s a near enough analogy).
Or what about the proprietary blends. In a protein powder! Really!? So you’ve put something in my protein that makes it different and better than everyone else’s protein. Could this secret ingredient have the initials BS by any chance?
A protein powder is a supplement. Supplements are meant to supplement our diet. The fact is, we need to look after our diets and not rely so heavily on these products to get us where we want to be – athletically and physically.
Protein powders are important, and believe me, I have enough isolate, casein and protein/carb recovery blends to convince a cow that she’s safe from my carnivorous desires. She would be wrong, though…oh, so very wrong.
At the base of all the supplements I own is food. And it’s only at certain times that the protein powders come into effect. Here’s a few examples of those times:
- Within 20 minutes of finishing at the gym and it’s going to be a good hour before I can cook something nutritious (the 20 minute window is an important one to replenish your amino acid pools)
- An hour before going to bed. Casein is a slow-digester which doesn’t affect your sleep. A protein-rich meal on the other hand will do.
- I’ve just done a fast 20km run and my guts would say “not just yet, thank you very much” to a can of tuna.
The list goes on, but you get the point.
Now, where does that leave my original rant about the cost of protein powders? Ah yes, well, I’ll answer my question with another question.
Do you think, when you have finished a tough workout at the gym, your body is going to get a whole lot more from a $60 protein powder than one half that price?
The answer – as if you need it – is NO. There is no real need to change the amino acid profile of a protein. Even old school protein concentrate is good enough at that post-gym point to keep your muscles working on something until you can get to the kitchen.
Sure, a whey isolate is better straight after exercise to get it to your muscles quicker and a casein is better at night to keep them topped up for eight hours. Keeping your body in a just-anabolic state is the best situation for anyone spending their money on gym memberships and equipment and so forth. After all, if we are not improving, what’s the point.
Hype, profit margins, convincing advertising and pseudo-science are the factors that make someone pay two vastly different amounts of money for virtually the same thing. And be in no doubt, the money you save on not getting sucked into that can be spent on delicious, nutritious food.
And if you are in any doubt of the efficacy of a good diet with healthy supplementation then remember this: there are vegan athletes out there who can complete Ultraman triathlons or squat so much in the gym that it’s unclear whether they are pushing the weight up or the Earth down.
Those guys take the nutrition thing to the next level. Yes, it’s a lifestyle choice, but it’s better than riddling yourself with supplements and wondering why you’ve hit a plateau.
As for protein, well, follow this link and discover an alternative to the high street bandits that will rip you off before you’ve even unclenched your buttocks.