Images of “protein powder” containers
with accomplished bodybuilders on their labels help inform consumers
that protein is a critical macronutrient in strength training
success. Yet what is sometimes lost in this protein-bodybuilding
link is that protein is an essential component for everyone,
regardless of physical activity. Even those who live sedentary lives
must ensure that their protein intake is complete and balanced.
The importance of protein in diet is undeniable. Protein creates
digestive enzymes, transports other vitamins and nutrients, builds
and repairs body tissue, and helps keep harmful bacteria at bay[i].
These are bodily system functions that all people need – not just
bodybuilders and other athletes.
Eating the appropriate composition of protein in meals is, however,
proving to be an unusually difficult challenge for many Americans.
To begin with, many protein sources are not considered “complete”
because they do not provide all of the required amino acids
necessary in order to build newer proteins. These incomplete
proteins are often derived from fruit, grain, vegetable, and nut
sources[ii]. However, the alternative to these incomplete protein
sources – such as meats and dairy – present their own unique dietary
The first challenge with respect to
these meat-based sources of complete protein is that they are not an
option for vegetarians. While the number of US vegetarians is
difficult to pinpoint, educated estimates suggest that there are
about 6 million adult vegetarians in the US, and the number is
growing annually[iii]. Therefore, 6 million adult Americans cannot
access complete protein through meat sources.
The second challenge is that many meat- and dairy-based meals in the
US are excessively high in saturated fat, calories, sodium, and
other unhealthy elements. As such, while those who frequent fast
food restaurants for their source of complete protein may not suffer
from protein deficiency, a disconcerting number of these people will
suffer from poor health. This includes: obesity, clogged arteries,
high blood pressure, and other adverse consequences what medical
experts call the “social irresponsibility” of the fast food
The clear challenge for nutritional experts is to identify a protein
source that is both healthy and complete. The consequences of not
finding a suitable protein source range from underperforming
digestive systems and chemical imbalances to the ill effects of a
condition called “Kwashiorkor”. More frequent in developing
countries but with reported incidinces in the US, Kwashiorkor occurs
in extreme protein-deficiency situations when when the body
cannibalizes itself in a desperate attempt to find a source of
Several attempts have been made to find the ideal complete protein
source: one that is healthy, accessible to all eaters, and
convenient. Indeed, this last criterion of convenience is of
particular importance, because many Americans in the 21st century
evidently have less time to eat than ever before.
Some of these attempts to find the ideal complete protein source
hearken back a few generations. The classic peanut butter and jelly
sandwich has been adopted as a complete protein source by some, but
rejected by many more. While peanut butter does provide a good
source of protein, the sodium content of most grocery store peanut
butter brands, and the high carbohydrate and fat levels of the
average “PB&J on white” keep it from being an ideal choice[v].
Other proposed solutions are more recent inventions. These include
the range of nutritional powders and “energy” bars available in most
health food stores, and in a growing number of grocery stores. With
respect to protein powders, while some of them do provide a decent
source of protein, it is simply not a convenient source for most
people. With respect to energy bars, many of them have been
criticized for their high calorie and carbohydrate levels.
Another solution – and one that is garnering some serious acclaim
from within the health community – is fluid nutritional supplements
that are easy to transport, and offer a complete protein source
suitable for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. At the
same time, these products are specifically designed to be
low-calorie (and therefore diet-friendly), and offer additional
nutrients and vitamins that the body needs in addition to complete
These innovative, complete protein products are a positive sign in a
nutritional sector that has struggled with misinformation.
Regrettably, many so-called energy bars and protein powders are
laden with calories and carbohydrates. Some of them – in particular
many energy bars – hardly offer any protein, which is a curious
omission that most consumers do not realize as they ingest these
Fortunately, as noted above, there are scientifically engineered
products on the market that deliver the complete protein and
nutrition that consumers expect when they purchase something with
the words “nutritional supplement” on the container.
 These products use “Actinase®” protein, which is derived from
isolated animal sources that do not contain the lactose and fat
normally associated with animal-based proteins.
[i] Source: “The Importance of Protein”. OhioHealth.
[ii] Source: “Protein: Moving Closer to Center Stage”. Harvard
School of Public Health.
[iii] Source: “How Many Vegetarians are There? A 2003 National
Harris Interactive Survey Question Sponsored by The Vegetarian
Resource Group”. Vegetarian Journal.
[iv] Source: “Supersized Nation: Bigger Burgers Still Rule”. WebMD.
[v] Source: “How Nutritious is a PB&J?”. About.