However, protein drink manufacturers target busy people who are either trying to lose weight or gain muscle quickly with fancy and enticing marketing ploys. Protein shakes are popular with a wide variety of people from teenagers to serious bodybuilders who are drawn to the convenience and protein content of these products.
Protein accounts for about 20% of our body weight and is needed for a number of physiological functions. It helps to keep the immune system functioning at top speed, maintains healthy skin, nails and hair and assists in the production of enzymes.
But, protein drinks may not be the best way to supply the body. Some drinks are unhealthy, even though they may seem healthy while others, are downright dangerous.
According to a 2010 study, published by Consumer Reports, consuming too many protein shake can cause serious problems with your health. The study uncovered some very dangerous ingredients in these drinks such as arsenic, cadmium and lead, not exactly “healthy” additives to what manufacturers say is an extremely healthy protein product.
Consumers Report tested 15 brands of protein drinks and looked for four different heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead. Heavy metals were present in all 15 brands that they tested, some in larger amounts than others.
According to the report, three products were especially concerning because just three servings a day could result in exposure to cadmium, arsenic and lead that exceed proposed safe limits. These three were Eas Myoplex, which contained arsenic and cadmium, Muscle Milk-Chocolate, which contained cadmium and lead and Muscle-Milk Vanilla Creme which contained lead.
The biggest concern with heavy metal exposure is that once the body has been exposed, the metals tend to accumulate and stick around for a very long time. Many people who consume these drinks have more than one a day. Another concern is minimal regulation – in general, there are inadequate controls on the manufacturers to prove that these drinks are safe.
Because label laws are so lax, manufacturers can easily slip ingredients past consumers who are certain that the product they are drinking is safe and effective.
The good news is that healthier and certainly less expensive protein options exist. Rather than chance your health to a laboratory birthed protein shake, why not choose something safe? Here are three great “real” sources of protein to consider, each costing about a dollar (US):
- A 3.5 oz (100 g) serving of grass-fed beef has 25 grams of protein
- A 3.5 oz (100 g) serving of free range chicken has 21 grams of protein
- Three free range eggs have 18 grams of protein
For vegans, nuts, seeds and beans are good sources of both protein and fiber.