Protein Supplements – Is there really any need?

It’s becoming increasingly evident that a lot “health” products and supplements on our shelves aren’t healthy at all. Protein supplements are a best seller and can also come with a lot of health problems when they’re not used properly, in fact, a growing body of research shows you don’t need protein supplementation unless you are a professional-level athlete in intense training or perhaps really ill from starvation or a wasting disease, and even then the need would be a case-by-case call.


Protein supplements aren’t cheap and research suggests there are little, if none, benefits to be had from supplementation. You’re just putting yourself at risk for kidney, bone and heart disease. Even though there’s a lot of research out there proving the risks are far greater than the benefits, Joe Bloggs down the gym is still the main target audience for protein supplements.

Don’t get me wrong, you do need protein when you exercise, particularly when you try to build muscle through weightlifting or other forms of resistance training. The process of building muscle involves causing damage to muscle filaments and then rebuilding them, and this requires more protein. But unless the Mr. Universe competition is in your future your diet will supply all the protein you need.



A study published in the journal Nutrition, surveyed more than 1,000 adults at 50 ordinary commercial gyms and found that nearly half the men were taking dietary supplements, largely protein powders, with no supervision. And NONE needed the extra protein, the researchers concluded.

Another study looked at the prevalence of protein supplementation in athletes, more than 90% of these athletes were taking dietary supplements on recommendation of trainers or friends; only 25% could explain why they were taking it; and of those using protein supplements, more than 80% already had sufficient dietary protein intake.


Health Risks

Short term risks have yet to be identified, however, in the long, protein supplementation has been associated with kidney failure, osteoporosis and heart disease.

As you’re increasing your protein intake far more than you body needs unused protein ends up breaking down into urea and acid byproducts. These byproducts strain the kidneys as they are filtered through and cause your bones to release calcium. Recently, protein supplementation has also been linked to inflammation and the increased risk of clogged arteries.

Few people in the West suffer from lack of protein. The average non-exercising adult only needs about 60 grams a day. People who add powered soy, whey or other protein sources to their diet usually are just adding calories with no impact on muscle growth. Any excess protein that isn’t broken down and used is stored as fat.

Even though there’s an increasing amount of research proving protein supplementation is largely unnecessary, the “sport-related” protein product sector is still booming. It’s estimated that the world will be chewing and gulping down £8bn a year of bars, drinks, and other supplements by 2017…

One response to “Protein Supplements – Is there really any need?

  1. Pingback: Proteinshakes « inspiration·

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