Everyone who has at least some very basic knowledge of nutrition and weight lifting knows, that the media is often times misleading, poorly researched (if at all) or sometimes just downright lying when it comes to those topics. Hunting for views and reads rather than educating their audience.
The German ‘newspaper’ Zeit lately published such an article. You can find a Google-translated version here. In this post I want to address a few of their claims and straighten things out, so you know the whole picture. This is relevant beyond the Zeit article of course and suits as a general guidance.
Whey is garbage
Well, of course whey protein is a byproduct of cheese manufacturing. Which makes it, on a protein-per-dollar-basis, one of the cheapest proteins to buy while also being very high in important amino acids like Leucine. Only legumes are cheaper, but have a worse amino acid profile on their own.
So in my opinion it’s nice that we have a very good protein source that is cheap because it’s a byproduct, rather than relying on more expensive options — after all protein is by far the most expensive macro nutrient.
Plus, if you don’t like whey or you are lactose intolerant, there are plenty of vegan options available as well, mainly rice, pea and soy protein powder.
Lastly to wrap this point up: of course you don’t need whey or any other protein powder to be healthy and grow muscle. But it tastes nice and is cheap, so why not. And by the way: whey is actually considered a food, rather than a supplement. Or would you say cheese is a supplement as well?
Whey is for bodybuilder
To make this one short: as explained in the above paragraph, whey is cheap and therefore even more interesting for ‘normal’ people who just want to consume more protein and generally don’t spend a lot of money on food (e.g. students).
Most people eat not enough protein to be even healthy, especially on weight loss diets. Latest studies show that the current daily recommendation for protein might be as much as half of what is actually healthy. Unfortunately, laws take a long time to be changed.
So no, everyone can benefit from whey.
Boosters are evil
First things first: if you are not training very serious, but rather just to be a bit more healthy and fit: you do not need a booster, period.
However, if you think you need one: it’s true, there are some shady ones out there, unless you live in Europe where supplements are quite regulated.
Caffeine being the main ingredient, the Zeit says 3g have the same amount of caffeine as 14 cups of coffee. Obviously stupid.
But let’s put the Zeit’s claims to the test:
One cup of coffee has on average 80mg caffeine. Most people will actually have more in there because the ‘real average coffee’ is stronger than that. Who brews a weak coffee on purpose, right?!
But let’s cut them some slack. This means 3g of booster would have to have 1.1g of pure caffeine per 3g in order to contain 14 cups’ worth. Which would not be allowed in any regulated market, not even the States. Plus the manufacturer would have a time hard to squeeze more ingredients in there, if more than a third is taken by caffeine already…
The booster they target in particular (Tunnelblick) does have a lot of caffeine indeed. Pretty much every booster has less, often just half. But again, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and check the facts:
Tunnelblick is produced in Germany which means it’s super regulated and the label is very likely correct. The label states 400mg of caffeine per 18g! Yes that’s 5 ‘cups’ of coffee per shot, a lot, but not even close to 14.
Furthermore, 18g is the maximum dose. Most people should take half of it (which is one scoop or 2.5 cups of coffee/200mg caffeine). Guess what else has 200mg of caffeine? Starbuck’s cold brew. Just saying…
Now I get the point, it’s dangerous if a 16 years old spaghetti boy takes 4 scoops. But he might as well drink 10 cups of coffee and 10 cans of Red Bull and would be worse off. Are those not as bad? Plus, since there’s a label, you actually know how much caffeine is in there. Not so with coffee!
Booster was illegal and taken down
True, Tunnelblick was taken off the market because of a certain ingredient. So were other products. But the ingredient was made illegal after the product was already on the market. That’s a huge difference. Plus in most other countries, this ingredient is still fine to include. And it’s not like you’d actually become ill from it. But the media likes to exaggerate, doesn’t it.
The industry can just ‘put together’ powders as they wish
Nope, not really. The market is quite regulated in Europe. Remember that time your local supermarket had to throw away food products because the manufacturer found out that a particular batch of something had pieces of metal or other potentially deadly things in there?
Happens all the time. But nobody writes about it much, because it’s not a sub culture and the big food corps don’t like it, when papers write about them. Not to mention your local kebab shop with rats in the kitchen :)
Some products have dangerous ingredients
Again, in Europe not a problem. If you live in the US and really want to buy something like a booster, just go with the highly rated products and buy them directly from the manufacturer’s websites if possible. If you buy a supplement or protein powder from a local store or GNC, it will be much more expensive or have the same price with less useful ingredients.
Creatine is bad for your kidneys
Jesus fucking christ. Creatine is by far the most researched supplement of the last 20 years. It’s freaking safe! People are taking it for decades without issues.
Yes, too much creatine in your blood means you very likely have a kidney issue. But what people miss is the concentration. The difference between taking creatine and having a real kidney problem is literally 10x!
By the way, guess what, red meat has creatine in it as well! Just 2 pounds of steak or fish have the same amount of creatine as a supplement would have (BBQ anyone?). Didn’t say anything about that, did they?
And for the people who want to build muscle: yes, creatine helps you build muscle faster, but just very little. It’s not like taking steroids! You might notice a very small difference. But maybe not. Furthermore, some people are non-responders and creatine just does nothing for them. Keep that in mind. Don’t expect to grow like Arnold. And don’t even consider it unless your goal is strength and muscle growth and you want to spend money on supplements.
As mentioned in the beginning of the article — don’t listen to mainstream media when it comes to diet, nutrition and weight training. As one would assume, given the current ‘level’ of journalism. But this article was so bad that I had to jump in.
If you really want to dig into those kind of things, start to read real studies and books based on those, not some random bullshit somebody came up between 10 and lunch, just to get the article out the door and hit their quota.
If you have questions about supplements, nutrition and training, let us know in the comments!