Dr Czys,
“What kind of protein should I be taking? What kind of protein shakes do you take?” I am asked these questions all the time and my answer is often surprising. I do not drink protein shakes and I do not think the vast majority of people need to take them either.  

Like you, I see the marketing everywhere: High protein shakes, high protein bars, protein this and protein that! Do we really need to take protein shakes or is it just a clever marketing ploy to make sales?

Proteins are made of building blocks called amino acids. There are 20 amino acids and depending how you link them together you get different proteins. Imagine you had billions of 20 different colored legos; each color is a different amino acid. You can build trillions of different structures with all of the legos. Similarly, the different amounts and combinations of various amino acids are what give you different proteins.

Of the 20 amino acids 9 of them are essential. What that means is you need them to survive and the only way to get those 9 is through diet. Your body can create the other 11 as long as you have the 9 essential amino acids.

Complete protein means it contains all 9 essential amino acids. An egg or piece of meat are both complete proteins. When you eat complete proteins your body digests it, or breaks it down, into individual amino acids. Your body then rearranges those amino acids to build the proteins that make up your body. Your genes are the recipes for the different cells that make up your body. The amino acids are some of the ingredients. Think about how amazing your body is. Right now as you are reading this your body is building cells based on the recipes in your gene code from the ingredients or foods that you eat! If you aren’t getting enough of any of the ingredients to build healthy cells then you will have problems.

38-years old

38-years-old

Now the only reason to take protein shakes is if you aren’t getting enough of the 9 essential amino acids in your diet. As you can see on the right I’m a fairly built 205 pound, 38-year-old dude and I use zero protein shakes. If I’m getting enough protein to maintain a lean 205 pounds through my diet, odds are you are getting enough too.

I get that body builders or some other high level athletes might need to supplement protein. But for you and I, the average folks, it’s most likely a waste of money.

“It’s clever marketing,” said Commane. “Unless you’re doing extreme exercise or pursuing extreme lifestyle goals, you don’t need extra protein.”

So where did the protein craze come from? One of the waste products in the manufacturing of cheese is whey. What’s a good way to get rid of this cheap waste product? Create a clever marketing strategy and sell it.

Tom Sanders, professor emeritus of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London, said people were being taken in by “nutri-babble”. “There’s been a lot of hype in gyms pushing high-protein shakes, there’s also a need to get rid of a waste product from the dairy industry, which is whey protein,” he said. “It’s a lot of crap, a way of selling a cheap product at a high price.”

So what happens with the extra protein that you are paying for that your body doesn’t need? You pee it out. You are literally pissing money away.

The most common protein supplement source is whey protein. Here is a bit of ironic and clever marketing for you. People often ask me if “Greek Yogurt” is healthy. So what makes yogurt into Greek yogurt? They strain out the whey! Greek yogurt is really just strained yogurt and they strain out the whey that people will go and pay extra for because they think they need it. Both are hugely profitable products based on nothing more than clever marketing.

If someone tries to sell you on whey protein from grass fed cows roaming the fields of some exotic country, that means nothing. A grass fed diet will affect the fats in the cow. It has no impact on a whey isolate protein composition. That is nothing more than marketing.

Casein is another dairy protein often sold as a supplement. Casein has been linked to a number of diseases that I talked about in this article. Spending money on casein is an awful idea. Acne, allergies, asthma….it could be casein causing it. Take the time to read that. You may be paying for a supplement that is actually hurting you.

Soy protein is another common ingredient in protein and meal replacement shakes. Why? Because it is dirt cheap. The problem with soy protein is it has high levels of protease inhibitors which block your digestion of the protein you just paid for. It’s also high in saponins. Moral of the story, don’t waste money on soy protein.

Collagen is a popular protein of late and it’s not even a complete protein. Collagen contains no tryptophan and is deficient in isoleucine, threonine, and methionine. There is something called a protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS). It is a method of evaluating the protein quality based on both the amino acid requirements of humans and the ability to digest it. Collagen scores a ZERO. You won’t see me spending any money on it. It’s too easy and cheaper to get the same amino acids from food.

Eggs score a 100, the highest score possible, on the PDCAAS. This brings me to my recommended dietary sources of eggprotein. I eat eggs or add eggs to my smoothies every single day. If you’re thinking eggs will raise cholesterol, you have to stop. Eating eggs does not raise cholesterol! Eating pro-inflammatory foods like processed foods, grains, vegetable oils, sugary drinks, etc….that’ll raise your cholesterol.

Back to eggs. Not only are eggs a great source of protein they are also loaded with naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. Check out the image on the right. That is just 1 egg! Protein shakes are almost always full of synthetic vitamins and/or vitamers and at a lesser amount then you find in eggs, and they’re more expensive! Plus shakes often have added sugars or artificial sweeteners.

On average people are deficient in vitamins and minerals, we get more protein then we need through diet, and we spend extra money on protein but don’t spend extra money on a good vitamin/mineral product…..Clever marketing!

It’s a no brainer really. I spend the extra money and get local free range eggs. At $4 a dozen, my 6 egg breakfast is still only $2! And yes, I eat 6 eggs pretty much every single day. The free range eggs taste better and have more vitamins and minerals.

My second source of complete proteins is meat. Obviously eating muscles gives you all the right parts for building muscles. But Dr Czys, don’t you know eating meat causes cancer and ruins the planet? When you see a study headline that claims meat causes cancer you’re only getting a small part of the story. They are observational studies. And the people they observe that eat the most meat also smoke the most, exercise the least, eat the most sugars, etc… but meat is the cause of the cancer? Give me a break. Not to mention the fact that the meat they are eating is processed or gross conventionally raised meats. It is far from the free ranging, grass fed beef or wild game I eat and recommend you eat as a great source of protein. Meat is also a great source of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.

On top of the meat and eggs, just about every other food you eat will have some protein in it. Even vegetarians can get adequate amounts of proteins if they combine the right plant sources.

I have 5 rules for you. In order for you to justify supplementing anything, the product must satisfy these 5 criteria. If it does not, then you should not spend your money on it. Let’s address each of these 5 rules in regards to protein shakes.

1)  Is the supplement an essential nutrient complex?                                                                                                              —-->Essential means that the only way you can get it is by eating it. Your body cannot produce it. Protein is made up of amino acids. Amino acids are chained together to make different proteins. There are 20 amino acids and of them, 9 are essential. The only way to get these 9 is through diet. Your body can synthesize the other 11. Yes, protein is an essential nutrient complex.


2) There must be a BODY of RESEARCH showing people are not getting enough from their diet.
->In other words, is there research showing Americans are not eating enough protein and thus need to supplement? The fact is that on average Americans are already consuming much more protein than we need. If we are already consuming more than enough, there is no reason to supplement it.

3) There must be a BODY of RESEARCH that getting enough is unlikely to be achieved by changing your diet. 
->We are already eating too much protein. It is easy to get enough protein in a reasonable diet.

4) There must be a BODY of RESEARCH showing that supplementing improves HEALTH, PERFORMANCE and PREVENTION.
If a supplement doesn’t have research showing it works…DO NOT buy it!! Some sales person’s stories are not research. 
->Protein supplementation may be useful for elite athletes, vegetarians, and of course body builders. This comprises a very small section of the population. For the vast majority of us, supplementing protein will not improve health or performance. If we are already eating too much protein, how can eating even more be of benefit?

5) The supplement must be in the most naturally occurring, most genetically compatible, purest, most beneficial form possible.  It must be a nutrient complex in the exact form that it would exist in nature, NOT a synthetic complex made in a chemical lab. 

->Most protein shakes are chalk full of artificial sweeteners, colorings, and synthetic vitamins. There is very little naturally occurring about it.

Protein powders only passed on 1 of 5 criteria for supplementation. Protein powders are more about marketing and profit, not improving health, performance, and prevention. I would be especially wary of any company that promotes their shake as a meal replacement. The only thing you should replace a meal with is a healthier meal! Protein can never replace the naturally occurring nutrients you find in your whole food meal. 

Here’s the real kicker. My fitness company Eupraxia currently has 5 locations. It would be very easy for me to develop an inexpensive protein powder to sell in my gyms. It would be an easy source of added income. The marketing has already been done for me. I’d just have to sell it. Why don’t I? Because the data shows it would be of no benefit to my members I would be scamming them. 

So I don’t use any protein supplements for the reasons above. Are there any supplements that meet the 5 criteria that I do take? There are 3 that I never miss and I never miss giving to my baby. That is a high quality Fish Oil, Vitamin D, and Probiotics. Click on each if you’d like to learn more about how to choose a quality product and to see exactly what I use and why.

Fruits and veggies are extremely important for good health and foods the average person doesn’t get nearly enough of in their diet. The problem I found was most fruit and veggie powders were spiked with synthetic vitamins, used artificial sweeteners or added sugars, or were full of fillers with very little actual fruits and veggies. For that reason I decided to create my own which you can see HERE.  It’s a very simple concept. My goal was to create a way to get more fruits and veggies in a person’s diet in a great tasting drink. If you’d like some good home made smoothie recipes you can download them for FREE HERE. Ideally you’d get a ton of fruits in veggies in your diet but in my experience many people struggle with that, especially at breakfast. This is just a way to make them easier to get.

There is so much more I want to talk about but this post is already too long. Take the money you were going to spend on protein powders and spend it on high quality food. You are much better served spending that money on vegetables, fruits, nuts, free range eggs, and grass fed meats.

Yours in good health
~Dr. Steve Czys