I like drinking protein shakes. MyProtein’s vanilla shake is just delicious with some cold milk, and feels more like a treat than a requisite diet supplement for hypertrophy. But if you’re a student or just on a budget, don’t worry if you can’t afford whey protein powder. Just drink some whole milk.
Yes, whey protein powder can be cheap if you look in the right places. Yes, they’re a byword for the bodybuilding industry. Yes, they’re synonymous with muscle growth and hypertrophy. I’m also not arguing about the relative protein contents – clearly whey protein comes out on top by definition. Whole milk is great by itself and should be valued highly.
The cheapest whey protein powder I could find was from MyProtein, thanks to their in-house manufacturing. A kilo of the unflavoured stuff is a cool £12.89. But if you don’t want to wince as you force a Dickensian medicine-like liquid past your mouth, most will buy the flavoured stuff, usually around £14.99 per kilogram.
Say then you use the average dose of 25g whey protein powder in every protein shake. For a kilo bag, this means you get 40 servings. Drinking one per day on average, you’ll get just over a month of use. Using it less often, you can extend this to two months at a stretch. This is actually really good value when you think about it, but you still need to keep up the milk purchases for the protein shakes. £14.99 every 40 days works out to roughly £137 a year extra, and less if you drink protein shakes less often, or if you buy in bulk. Not a bad investment really.
But that’s not the point. Drinking a pint of two of whole milk is enough as far as muscle gains and hypertrophy are concerned. 20g of protein per pint of whole milk, with prices as low as £1 per 4-pinter (thank you Iceland) mean you’ll add at least 20g-40g of complete proteins to your daily diet. Assuming you’re already eating other good proteins like tuna and chicken, you’ll be sorted.
Whole milk is just far more natural. No animal was ever designed to ingest a pure whey protein shake, no matter how much protein is in them. Conversely, almost every mammal has evolved to use milk to grow big and strong. In spite of human society’s inexplicable rank fear of lactase and other live enzymes (you can actually go to jail for having raw milk), we’re still reared on naturally-occurring breast milk from the week we’re born. If you’ve drank protein shakes however, you’ve almost certainly experienced wind, or protein shake farts. Much less of a problem if you’re drinking a good amount of milk instead.
HOWEVER, whey protein is a very fast-acting form of protein, and one that contains a nice amount of leucine – a key component in building muscle. There is a place for it in your routine if you can afford it. Even then, eating a chicken breast is a much better scenario than a quick protein shake. You get a larger variety of nutrients as well as just the raw protein.
So if you’re worried that not having protein shakes in your diet will limit your muscle gains, relax and fret not. Just stick to whole, blue cap milk.