By Alexander Perkins (@alexanderperkins)
You've only got to spend 5 minutes browsing the web or the fitness hashtag on Instagram to be privvy to the plethora of nutritional fallacies that saturate our industry. One major issue is the tendency for "experts" to have polar opinions on particular issues where in actual fact the scientific evidence is still in it's infancy; quite like nutritional science itself. In saying that, there are a few myths around protein powders that are so far from the truth they can be answered with undebatable fact. We've answered them here...
Will protein powders make me bulky?
Perhaps the most common question asked by ladies. The misinformation around this has no doubt been driven by the bodybuilder focussed marketing in the sports supplement industry. It’s a fallacy. The story is the same for boys and girls, protein alone will not make you “bulky”. Muscle growth is determined by a number of things including stimulus (training), protein intake, calorie intake and hormonal profile. Women simply do not have the hormonal profile necessary to build big “hulking” bodies. Look at protein powder the same as you would a serving of meat, except with less fat (usually), a higher absorption rate and far more convenient.
Can protein powder be used as a meal replacement?
Of course. However you have to look at what you’re removing from your diet and what you’re replacing it with. A lunch and dinner that consists of lean meat, salad and fruit aren’t going to be adequately replaced by 100% whey protein powder. The latter will be lacking in a range of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that you would have been getting from the food. Take your whole diet into consideration. If you’re consuming three nutrient dense meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner you should be fine replacing morning and afternoon tea with a protein shake. Perhaps it would be wise looking for a greens powder or multi-vitamin to fill in the gaps though.
Does protein powder burn body fat?
No, not directly. However, it can indirectly assist you in shedding body fat. How? It becomes part of a well-balanced, slightly hypocaloric diet that aids muscle growth (some ladies prefer to call it muscle tone), keeps you feeling fuller for longer, balances blood sugar levels and gets you using stored fat for energy. It must be reiterated though, as a sole entity, protein powder does not burn body fat. Although some companies will add ingredients that have themogenic qualities.
Are there different protein powders for women and men?
Most protein powders are not made for, or marketed towards, a specific gender. However there are products out there that have been developed and heavily marketed with one gender in mind. The differences are usually small. The “female” specific products will often have added fat burners to coincide with the goal of most women – to burn body fat – and also additional vitamins and minerals that women may require in larger amounts than men e.g. folate. More often than not though, you would be better off going with a good value protein powder that suits your goals, and buying vitamins and fat burners separately.
The message to take home:
Protein powders should be looked at more as a food source than a supplement. Their role is to serve as a protein replacement to meat for convenience, increased bioavailability and enhanced amino acid profile. They are great to take post workout after the gym or to replace the protein portion of some meals. They do not make you bulky, and are not gender specific. However some protein powders have additional ingredients added that are goal specific.