10th August 2015
Swig a protein drink after your workout? And another one mid-morning to boost muscle growth? Then again before bedtime to ensure your muscles continue growing while you sleep?
Well, you’re not alone. More and more men are gearing up their use of protein drinks and other legal bodybuilding supplements in their quest to achieve their vision of the perfect physique. So much so, say psychologists that they could be harming their psychological health. While protein drinks are not harmful in themselves they can be considered harmful when they fuel obsessive eating behaviour.
Here, we’re talking about obsessive calorie counting, ‘macro’ counting, measuring your food out all the time, feeling guilty about eating certain foods and worrying about food all the time. In a nutshell, it’s when healthy eating tips over into an unhealthy obsession and impacts negatively on your social life and family life. I’ve seen plenty of people develop rituals around food, avoid social situations involving ‘unhealthy’ foods and no longer enjoy eating out with friends.
According to a new study, over-consuming protein supplements should be considered on the same scale as eating disorders such as anorexia. “Men are using the supplements in a way that is risky both to their physical health and their health in terms of relationships and their own emotional wellbeing,” Richard Achiro of the California School of Professional Psychology told Reuters. “It is an expression, or variance, of eating disorder behaviour in these men.”
This may sound alarmist but the researchers found that 40% of men had increased their intake of supplements, while 22% said they regularly replaced meals with them and – most tellingly – 29% admitted that their health could be negatively impacted by these products.
Overall, the current findings suggest that excessive legal appearance and performance-enhancing drugs use may represent a variant of disordered eating that threatens the health of gym-active men, the study’s abstract reads.
There’s no doubt that the fashion for protein drinks has reached a new high. Drinking them after a training session is as much about image as about recovery. We live in more body-conscious age than ever before, thanks to Instagram and twitter. But however much you want to craft a better body, don’t get taken in by the hype and clever marketing of these drinks.
The truth is protein supplements are no better for you than protein in foods like milk, eggs and fish. You only need about 20g (equivalent to 500ml milk, ½ a chicken breast or 3 eggs) after a workout. Eating more protein than you need doesn’t equal bigger gains. When may supplements be worth it?
- When you’re out and about – for convenience
- If you’re vegetarian and who don’t get enough protein from food
- If you’re an elite athlete training twice a day and require rapid recovery
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