Are protein powder and Creatine beneficial?
I'm often asked about whether certain supplements are good or which one is “best” or which one I like. Well, here is my take on supplementing with protein powder and creatine, specifically. I chose these two supplements because I was most recently asked by the mother of a 19-year-old young man, whether protein powder and creatine were safe and how those two substances would help or harm her son. Creatine is probably the most studied supplement in the sports world, and protein powder is probably one of the most common (and misused) supplements that exists. So I'll start with these two, and if there are others you would like me to comment on in the future, please email me and let me know!
You should know that I have a strong preference for real food over supplements. Unless you were born with a specific deficiency, have a medical condition, or engage in some activity or sport that requires additional assistance for recovery, you should be able to get all the nutrients your body needs from real food. And I mean real, organic food – not processed, packaged food.
So, that's my bias, and here's what I think about protein powder...
…the source of the protein must be clean with nothing added, meaning it needs to come from organic animals, that have been grass-fed. This kind of protein is not cheap. Not all protein powders were created equal, and there are a ton of products on the market, most of which actually make you worse off than having not taken them at all. Watch out for anything that has soy, sugar, or any sweeter at all hidden in the ingredients on the label. Basically there should be zero grams of sugar because the insulin spike alone will do more damage than good. The soy in most products will actually promote more “man boobs” than bicep muscle.
If you're going to use a protein supplement, the best thing to get is a hydro-isolate whey protein.
As far as the affects go, protein taken as a supplement doesn’t make you big or strong. It can only support recovery and tissue repair. However, only a certain amount of protein is healthy – about .08 to 1.5 g per KG of Body weight is ideal. This means if you already eat this amount in real food (chicken, steak, seafood, ….) then protein powder can actually become toxic in your body, and again, spike your insulin and produce excess nitrogen, which is hard on your liver.
The point I'm trying to make here, especially for teens and kids, is to eat real food! Along with real food comes vitamins and minerals in their original whole form. Protein powder may also include vitamins and minerals, they are typically synthetic and not absorbed well by our bodies. Teens and kids (and many adults) often don't follow the rules of protein intake either. They end up flushing money down the toilet and harming their organs at the same time.
…and here's my take on creatine…
....creatine is a different story. It's the most studied supplement on the face of the earth. It’s been shown to increase strength and brain function, and I am actually a fan of it. But it's not that simple. Here's why:
1. Creatine only helps build muscle in the sense that it allows for increased power output. If you’re not training correctly, then it’s useless. In other words, if you’re not lifting the right loads, with the right recovery, on the right days, then it isn’t doing anything for you.
2. Loading and dosing is important. 5g of creatine per day, 30-60 minutes pre-workout is good. There are some who believe creatine-loading for two weeks before you go on regular dosing is beneficial, but if you use good creatine, then it doesn’t matter.
The best source I know for creatine is Exos.