Let’s start by saying that for general nutrition, real food wins hands down. At one point in time, society thought that engineered, altered and enhanced were good, healthy words. We now know that nothing man-made tops Mother Nature. Whole foods should make up the majority of your diet, whether you are eating to build muscle, lose fat or just because it tastes good. In fact, I like to say,
“If you want to look solid and feel solid, your diet should consist of solid foods.”
The Pros of the Powder
Convenience. We are all busy. Once we factor in work, a social life and working out, there is little time left in the day. Taking the time to prepare protein rich foods several times a day is not always possible. In fact, body-builders require up to 7 meals a day. Quality, protein-dense foods like fish, lean meats and eggs just are not available via vending machine or offered at the local drive-thru (pink slime, anyone?). Having the option to use a few scoops of protein powder in an on-the-go shake is a great time-saving trick for anyone when time is tight.
Dieter’s Compliance. When losing weight, calories need to be cut. Unfortunately, cutting calories sometimes leads to cutting down grams of protein when, in fact, protein is needed to maintain muscle mass, manage appetite, control blood sugars and provide a feeling of fullness. Protein powders can accomplish all these duties while keeping the overall caloric intake lower.
Absorption Rate. Whereas whole foods are great for nutrition, it takes time for our bodies to break them down and be able to absorb them. Protein powder, on the other hand, is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and put to work. This is especially helpful post-workout, when protein synthesis and glycogen re-synthesis have increased rates.
Drinkable. That may seem like an obvious statement, but, when adding calories to your diet in order to bulk up, sometimes physically eating that much whole food is not possible. Skinny guys with smaller appetites have difficulty consuming the necessary calories when they are still full from the last meal. In fact, even body-builders know that it can be easier to drink the extra calories than to chew them. Plus, you can add a variety of foods to your shake to change the flavor and up the caloric content.
The Real Deal
Processed. We have all seen enough in-depth reports, nightly news stories and YouTube videos to know to be wary of processed foods. The truth is that no man-made product can come close to reproducing the high quality nutrients that come from whole foods. The nutrients are either damaged during processing, unnaturally fortified or just plain synthetic. Your body simply cannot optimize the nutrients available in a powder the way it can in whole foods.
Variety. I am a huge proponent of food rotation. Not only does it help with boredom, but it is essential in avoiding food allergies. Many athletes develop allergies, from mild to severe, due to their constant consumption of the same protein sources. In fact, rotating protein sources is key to promoting optimal heath and building lean muscle. It is difficult to rotate your protein sources when they are in powder form. With whole foods, however, it is much easier to change from fish to chicken to beef and back again.
I am known as the skinny guy savior. A former skinny guy myself, I developed the techniques that turned me from a skinny guy to a national champion fitness model. I share my muscle growth techniques, diets and inspirations on my blog, Vince Del Monte Fitness, and on sites such as AskMen.com and BodyBuilding.Com.