Do we need to consume protein supplements before, during or after a workout? Most would say yes because exercising breaks down muscles, especially if you’re doing lots of cardio. But, before deciding if you need more protein, it would be great to know how much you’re already consuming. The average American male consumes 102 grams of protein per day, while the average female consumes 72 grams per day. That’s twice as much as recommended by health professionals (the recommendation is .36 grams per pound of body weight).[i] If that’s the case, why are we so obsessed with consuming more protein?
I’ve never recommended protein supplements for my clients and I’ve not taken them myself. But, if you’re a high-performance athlete that works out multiple hours a day, I may advise differently. However, the average American, who may exercise for 45 minutes to an hour, is certainly not a high-performance athlete. Furthermore, he is certainly not breaking down as much muscle as he may believe.
The American obsession with protein supplements benefits from savvy marketing by the meat and dairy industries. We all know that excessive meat consumption correlates to cancer growth. However, when people focus on the “protein” in meat, positive images of strength and power are invoked. People may want to eat fewer animal products, but still get that protein jolt—hence the rapid growth of the protein supplement industry. It is expected to grow from $14.0 billion in 2018 to $21.5 billion by 2025.[ii] But excessive protein intake is dangerous, regardless of its source. Since it is not stored in the body for later use, excess protein must be discarded, which disturbs your metabolism. Consequently, long term you may suffer from common illnesses in America, such as kidney malfunction, acidic blood, weak bones and calcium loss.[iii]
If you want to grow your muscles, while protecting your metabolism, simply challenge yourself with more resistance through weight training. If you engage in it properly and consistently, you’ll have all the strength and power you need. Yes, in the short-term protein supplements accelerate muscle growth, but they accelerate negative consequences also. Is it worth it? If you’re the average person consuming twice as much protein as recommended, it doesn’t seem to make much sense.