The last decade has seen a slow paradigm shift. Formerly fat was the bad guy. Now it’s sugar. Battalions of nutrition coaches praising the benefits of the Paleo or Keto diets have put good fat and protein front and centre.
The protein market is growing fast. Maybe even faster than your sneaker collection. For marketers, Protein has become the magic link between your gym bag and your grocery trolley.
The number of new high-protein products
has increased by 37% in one year
According to market researcher Mintel, the number of new food products claiming to be high-protein rose by almost 500% between 2010 and 2015. These new items aren't only the usual power drinks and energy bars.
Sugar-free and low-fat statements are a dying breed. But Sanitarium's Weetbix cereals and Up And Go Flavoured milk - mind you, even your classic milk - have turned into high-protein breakfast items. Heard of protein water? Yes, it now exists too, thanks to Vieve and the likes who managed to incorporate up to 20g of collagen-derived protein per 500mL bottle. In short, protein is the new money maker for many brands.
WHAT IS PROTEIN? WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
Put quite simply, protein is the building block of most of the structures in the body. Protein is the name given to groupings of amino acids. Protein is broken down to these amino acids which are then used to create enzymes, muscle tissue, bone matrix and many other structural components of the body. You have no choice but to ingest some protein to provide your body with all essential amino acids, so all its function can operate properly.
We all know that protein is present in milk in the form of whey and casein, red meat and poultry. But it is also widely available from vegan plant-based sources such as soy, rice, hemp or pea. And did you know that the high-protein industry is now looking closely at options derived from insects like grasshoppers and crickets? Protein is found in a huge variety of foods, the main difference from one source to the other is principally the percentage of protein and Amino Acids they contain. Truth is that most people following a balanced whole food diet - mixing meat, vegetables, eggs and nuts - are likely to absorb the recommended daily Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI).
Problem is that if you regularly use the “I don’t have time” excuse to skip leg day or cardio, you’re also more than likely to not have time to spend cooking a steak. You're the stereotypical target market for processed protein-enriched products, looking for options that deliver protein in manageable packages. But you’re are not alone! That’s why fortified food has risen to become a lucrative market. 18% of customers say they’d accept to pay more for a snack if it has added nutritional benefits. No wonder the “P” word is being added everywhere…
IS THERE SOMETHING AS TOO MUCH PROTEIN?
The Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) for protein is 0.75g per Kg of body weight per day, or 45g if you’re 60Kg. Again, that number honestly is quite easy to achieve every day if you eat a bit of everything in moderation. For example, 100g of chicken breast will deliver 30g of protein.
If protein is in excess in the body, whether it is stored as fat, or converted to glucose and burnt as energy, depends on your overall diet composition. If there is a lack of carbohydrates, then protein is transformed and burnt as fuel. If there are enough carbs, protein is stored as fat which over time can lead to unwanted weight gain.
If you are not training often, you’d better pass on the “added protein” craze. Consuming extra protein in combination with extra calories from other nutrients could not only hurt your wallet but also your waistline.
YOUR BODY NEEDS MORE PROTEIN WHEN YOU TRAIN
Protein plays a crucial role in the muscle recovery and growth process. So, if you are training regularly, it is generally recommended to double the RNI to properly repair tired and damaged muscles, and to increase your protein intake up to 2g per kilogram of body weight per day if you’re focusing on building or growing lean muscles.
In this case, your normal balanced diet will probably not contain enough protein. Still, you should probably avoid falling for the protein-fortified drinks and bars. Adding protein to potato chips and cake doesn’t make them virtuous. The enriched versions marketed to you contains a marginal amount of extra protein.
ENRICHED PRODUCTS CONTAIN ONLY LITTLE MORE PROTEIN
For example, a serving of Weetbix Protein Cereal contains 2.9g more protein than its classic counterpart (4.5g per serving). This won’t get you very far if you need an extra 80g of protein per day - unless you’re an ogre and can eat 20 biscuits …
Blue Dinosaurs Paleo Protein Bars taste fantastic. By all means, you should try them but not too often. For 25g of protein, the treat will also hit you with 11g of sugar!
If you serious about your fitness goals, don’t be tricked by the immediate apparent convenience of packaged enriched-product.
Whey and plant protein powders are 80% to 90% protein and contain very little carbs, fat and sugars - perfect to optimise protein’s higher thermic effect of feeding.
Whatever the marketing mermaids sing, there is still no better and convenient way to supplement protein than protein powder. A single scoop of protein powder will provide you with roughly 25g of protein and is very low in calories.
Inspired by “Eat Smart” by Olive Thring - Womens Health Magazine - Dec 2018.