A variety of images pop into your head when someone casually mentions... 'protein powder'.
You could think of a meathead bodybuilder. Sweat glistening of his steroid-infused biceps. In one hand, curling more weight than you can squat. In the other hand, chugging down foamy liquid from a shaker bottle.
Or you could think it's all a waste of money. A dream in a bottle. You won't be fooled by the schemes of dirty marketers. Why pay your hard earned cash on some weird, magical substance.
Whatever you happen to think, let's give protein powder a chance. Let go of any pre-judgements and I'll help you determine if whey protein powder is actually worth the cost.
We should probably start at the top...
What is whey protein powder?
Whey protein powder is simply the protein from milk made into a powder form for ease of use. It’s no different from protein in chicken or eggs or real milk.
It won't instantly bulk you up, the same as a steak won't instantly turn you into the Hulk.
Whats with all the fuss about it?
Protein is all the rage these days. And with a little glance into the research, it's not surprising why.
Your muscles are made of proteins. They are the building blocks to your castle. When you cause damage to your muscles during a training session you need protein to help them recover.
Higher protein diets are the best for people who want to be lean and healthy. Those who eat more protein tend to eat fewer calories and stay fuller for longer. It is the most appetite blunting nutrient, compared to carbs or fat. Diets higher in protein also cause slightly more fat loss and better muscle growth, compared to low protein diets.
It's safe to say that protein is the bee's knees.
As I said earlier, whey protein is no different to the protein in beef, chicken, turkey or eggs. People are making a big fuss over it as it has all the above benefits, but it comes in a container. It's easy to consume. You can mix it with water and go. It makes consuming more protein in your diet completely hassle-free.
And anything hassle-free is a major plus these days.
If protein is so good, can't I just eat a bunch of it from meat?
You can. Absolutely.
For some people though, you'd have to eat a whole lot of meat to reach the ideal amount of protein. And do this every single day.
The general rule of thumb for protein targets is set at 0.82 grams per pound of body weight (or 1.8g/kg). This is the point where research says it supports fat-loss, muscle gain and sustainability. And if you're lean, going above this point is even more beneficial.
For myself, I aim for at least 200 grams of protein a day. To do this through meat only would require me to eat six chicken breasts a day. That's a fair amount of chicken. Instead, I find it easier to cut that in half and consume two whey protein shakes to make up the difference.
It saves time. It saves energy. It makes life easier.
Whey protein powder is convenient.
The hardest thing about trying to consume a high protein diet is when you don't have time to cook.
Meat takes ages to prepare compared to most other food items. And meat is where most of your protein comes from. You can't rush it either (take it from the guy who has eaten his fair share of undercooked chicken breast).
It's much easier to mix a scoop of protein powder in water.
In some situations, it's either cook up some meat or make a shake. Both give you protein. Which would you prefer to do when you're rushing to work? Which will cause the least hassle at the office?
Another struggle people find with high protein diets is eating out. A lot of restaurants and fast food places stack up the tasty carbs and mouth-watering fats. But they skimp on the protein. They know it... It's the most expensive part of the meal for them to make and serve.
Protein powder allows you to stress less about eating out or eating meals on the go. Less stress is good.
Whey protein powder is cheap.
Surprisingly, protein powder isn't very expensive when you break down the cost.
Because you buy it in bulk (60+ servings at a time) the initial cost feels expensive. But consider how much protein you get per serving and what you'd have to eat to match that.
One serving of whey powder gives you around 25g of protein. When you buy it in bulk, one serving costs around $0.75
To match this you'd need to eat:
Five whole eggs. ($1.75)
100g of chicken breast. ($1)
100g of beef rump steak. ($2)
Two Chobani greek yoghurts. ($4.50)
Yes, you get other goodness with the real food, like micronutrients and fats. But, if you're trying to up your protein intake then whey protein powder is the cheapest way to do so.
Is whey protein powder worth the cost for you?
It might be.
It depends on how much you need and how much time you have.
If you're light, you can probably reach your target through the food you normally eat. If you're bigger with more muscle mass, or leaner (<18% body fat) your protein requirements might be difficult to reach without a supplement.
Also if you have the time and money to cook all of your own food, good for you. Whey protein powder may not be needed.
For most of us though, we are busy and we want results. It is worth every penny.
The benefits of whey protein powder mainly comes from it's convenience and it's cost-effectiveness.
Remember, it's only a supplement. It's not made to replace normal food. It's made to enhance your diet. It simply allows you to increase your daily protein intake and receive the benefits.
In my eyes, it's more than worth the cost.