Are Protein Shakes Shortening Your Life?

Walk into any health food store and many supermarkets and you will find row upon row of protein powders and other protein-packed supplementation products. Billed as the best tools to increase muscle mass, many of these questionable products rely on whey as a primary ingredient to make you buff.  But what if these whey protein products are causing more harm than good?

A recent study from researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia found that elevated levels of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), the type found in whey protein supplements, can be detrimental not only to your workout goals but to your long-term health as well. Fitness buffs and body-builders who rely heavily on whey products for high quantity protein intake often do so at the expense of other amino acids required by the body. BCAAs comprise three essential amino acids: leucine, valine and isoleucine. There are 20 amino acids in total, including nine essential amino acids that cannot be manufactured in the body. We get these critical amino acids through the food we eat.

The Australian researchers found that mice consuming a high BCAA diet suffered from mood disorders, food cravings, obesity and shorter life span. Because the mice had high levels of BCAAs in their blood, it out-competed other amino acids like tryptophan for transport to the brain. Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin, a hormone that promotes sleep, good moods and controls our appetite. According to the researchers, the high intake in BCAAs and the reduction in serotonin led to massive overeating in the mice, resulting in severe obesity and premature death.

While the effects of orally ingested BCAAs on humans have not been studied, results from human studies using intravenously-infused BCAAs found that BCAAs not only decreased muscle protein synthesis, they also decreased protein breakdown. Consequently, there is a decrease in muscle protein turnover which would negate any claims that BCAAs stimulate muscle protein synthesis or produce an anabolic response that would lead to increased muscle mass.

If you want the best results in your workout, make sure you are eating a healthy balanced diet of real food, not processed or synthesized powder supplements. Muscle building requires the presence of all amino acids, not just BCAAs. And yes, meat, eggs and dairy products do contain amino acids, including essential amino acids that the body does not produce but the downside of consuming large amounts of these protein sources is well documented.

Contrary to popular myth, plants contain protein and many of the amino acids required to build muscle and perform a multitude of more important functions in your body. Quinoa actually contains all of the essential amino acids, just like meat. Eating a wide variety of plant-based foods will ensure you get the protein and building blocks your body needs every day to stay healthy and strong.

The best way to get your protein is in real food, preferably plant-based options. They include: legumes like black beans, kidney beans, lentils and chickpeas; nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews and Brazil nuts; seeds like pumpkin seeds, quinoa, hempseeds and sunflower seeds. Some of the best vegetable sources of protein include: edamame (organic), peas, asparagus, potatoes, spinach, bean sprouts, avocado, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

While we need protein to ensure healthy muscle, other soft tissues, hair, skin, nails and a strong immune system, the reality is that most people already eat more protein than their body needs, so it’s not surprising that the excessive amount can throw off our body’s delicate brain neurotransmitter balance.

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Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM shares her food growing, cooking, preserving, and other food self-sufficiency adventures at FoodHouseProject.com. She is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life. Follow her work.

 

58 comments

Tracy Marotta
Tracy Marotta3 days ago

Go Vegan... and then there is no whey in your diet

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Dennis H
Dennis H3 days ago

Thanks

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Lesa D
Lesa D4 days ago

thank you Michelle...

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Hannah A
Hannah A4 days ago

Thank you

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Renata K
Renata Kovacs4 days ago

Thank you for sharing,,

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sandy Gardner
sandy Gardner4 days ago

They cause kidney stones!

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Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan Hill4 days ago

thanks

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Pearl W
Pearl W4 days ago

Hi All - I view whey as a fad not a food - Think about what you want, what you need and what you can afford, then chew it over - Simples - Thanks Michelle, we can better whey the choices - If you do something that requires muscles usually you will build them - smiles

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Irene S
Irene S4 days ago

Surely not. I will never have one.

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Janet B
Janet B4 days ago

Thanks

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