Protein is an absolutely essential nutrient for the human body.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, protein supplementation and the ‘protein shake’ has been turned in to a sort of bodybuilder taboo by over concerned mothers and the media.
General consensus being that only hard-core bodybuilders looking to achieve monstrous size use protein shakes.
So let’s debunk the myths here and clear this up in our usual direct way. Protein is an essential part of our existence.
Without protein our bodies would not be able to produce new cells, we wouldn’t heal, our immune system would stop working and we would eventually wither away in a slow and painful manner.
By the end, looking not entirely unlike the slowly melting flesh zombies from the Walking Dead TV show. The scary thing being that isn’t all that exaggerated either!
Where can you find protein?
Protein is found in much of the food we consume in what would be considered an ‘ordinary person’ diet.
All dairy products, eggs, meat and fish, lentils, beans, nuts, even some vegetables, broccoli being a great example.
Protein supplements, taking the most common product type as an example, whey protein is derived from dairy. It is not grown or artificially manufactured in an underground lab as many a rumour will tell you.
Depending on the filtering process used and the addition of flavouring and such things, Whey Protein is a relatively clean and easily digested form of protein.
Protein ‘shakes’ or the powder used in the vast majority of protein supplements serves a simple primary purpose. To act as an easily accessible, low preparation and relatively cost effective way to increase an individual’s daily protein intake.
Everyone, even the more sedentary among us, needs protein in their diet. The difference between athletes and bodybuilders vs the more sedentary (coach potatoes, there we said it!) among us, is that the more active you are, particularly in the case of bodybuilding in which you’re actively damaging muscle tissue for the purpose of causing hypertrophy, your bodies protein demands are higher.
If you do not meet these protein demands vs your activity, you will take longer to heal, potentially become run down and ill. And worst of all for a bodybuilder, you won’t be able to grow new muscle tissue. So no gains for you!
What else do you need to see those gains?
Yes, protein is absolutely essential for muscle growth as we’ve just stated, but a high protein intake on its own won’t result in excessive muscle development. This is dictated by your workouts and overall calorie intake.
What most don’t realise is that along with additional protein intake, the bodybuilders you see on the cover of magazines and posing on stage at Mr Olympia are likely consuming upwards of 8,000-10,000 calories per day, four times the average person’s calorie needs and training with insanely heavy weights with serious intensity almost every day.
Can you gain muscle without supplementation?
Now let’s pause for a second and address a common question. Can you be a bodybuilder without using protein supplements? The simple answer would be yes. You can get your protein intake from ‘real food’ instead of using supplements.
On the flip side however, if you’re looking to build serious size and muscle mass, doing so without supplements is possible yes but honestly, a little unrealistic. Here’s why.
Let’s assume we follow the popular premise that in order to grow new muscle as an active individual you need at least 2 grams of protein consumed daily, per kilo of bodyweight. So for a 90kg (roughly 15 stone) guy you’re talking 180grams of protein per day.
The average supermarket bought chicken breast contains around 20grams of protein. So if we take the very simple approach to this equation, that’s nine chicken breasts you would need to consume per day. 900grams of chicken breast.
Not to mention you need to cook all of this, store in your fridge etc.
Yes, it can be done, but who wants to eat nine chicken breasts a day every day? That’s 63 in total.
Protein supplements exist at a base level to provide the extra daily protein you need to function as an athlete and continue to grow.
That’s it, there is nothing sinister or unnatural about these products.
Next time someone gives you stick for downing your chocolate whey protein shake at work, ask them to try drinking 1.5 blended chicken breasts and see how they like that as an alternative. We’ve done it guys, it’s not pretty and it tastes like ass. We don’t recommend it.