Is “protein” the latest marketing fad?

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At Clandestine Strength, we like to emphasize a well-balanced diet with adequate protein to promote a healthy metabolism and muscle growth. This isn’t revolutionary, but it’s a new enough concept that food marketers are starting to catch on. Protein, rather than standing in as the least-glamorous supporting actor of the macronutrient family, is now front and center, and “protein” has quickly become a buzzword in the food marketing world.

Protein pancakes. Protein cookies. Protein ice cream. Protein chips. Protein water. Protein cereal. Protein pizza. Name any food, and some food marketers somewhere have probably affixed “protein” to the front of the packaging, and now it’s selling like hot cakes (er, protein hot cakes).

Here’s our take. This isn’t always a bad thing. Setting all cynicism aside, making protein more convenient and readily available is the clear upside here. However, high-protein labels are no different than gluten-free labels, high-fiber labels, or just about any other label “X” you can imagine: just because it’s “X” doesn’t automatically make it a health food.

If you feel inclined to increase your protein intake, look to whole foods as sources of protein first. Secondly, look to a clean protein powder supplement. For 99% of the population (and this includes recreational exercisers that weight train), this is an adequate amount of protein. If you’ve got your bases covered on these two fronts, there should be no need to reach for the protein popcorn or the protein brownie. It’s best to save your money, as these products are often more expensive, too. Consuming a lot of high-protein “junk food” will also lead to the same caloric surplus that makes weight loss impossible, even though we’re led into the illusion that we’re making a healthy choice.

And if you are going to reach for the product adorned with “high protein!” splashed across the front of its packaging, check their math and read the nutrition label on the back, too. How many grams of protein are there per serving? Where is the protein coming from? Does the item also contain loads of sugars, additives, or other undesirable ingredients? If it passes the smell test, then live your life! Go ahead and eat it, but grab for these items sparingly. You’re doing just fine already!

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