A week of workouts powered by protein powder

Welcome to my debate of the moment: To protein powder or not to protein powder?

When it comes to running I am pretty stripped down. Bare bones. No GPS watch, no heart rate monitor. No headphones or music. And no post-workout recovery routine.

As I head into racing season and build up the training, I’m working on the latter. It’s not like this is a completely new concept to me, I’m just slow on the uptake. My friend Renae at McCloud Fitness had been encouraging me to get this going a long time ago. I just didn’t think I was working out hard enough to need it. Silly, I know. But now I’m ready. Better late than never, right?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the recommended protein intake for athletes is more significant than what I was probably consuming. I started by replacing my post-workout coffee with a glass of milk. Good, but a baby step. Next I went down the rabbit hole of looking into protein powders. Two things struck me.

1. Each option has about a gazillion ingredients that I can’t pronounce.

2. Each option costs like a gazillion dollars.

Part of my hesitation to jump into the protein powder world is my preference for whole foods. I’d rather eat real food than take a supplement, open a bar, or drink a shake. I’m no chemist. Who knows what all of those ingredients are on the labels? Glucomannan this, acesulfame potassium that. What the heck is any of that and why do I want it in my body? And then there’s the cost. Holy sticker shock! Do you know how much this shit costs? This is one that came recommended by my trainer, Orgain Organic Protein Plant-Based Powder, and will cost you $26.40 for just over 2 pounds of powder (around 20 servings). Being the cheapskate that I am, I shelved the idea and went back to my milk.

But on a shopping trip to Costco, high on $1 frozen yogurt and the promise of a good deal, they got me. They were sampling the Orgain powder and though I didn’t like the taste of it (too Splenda-y), I saw the Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Protein and went for it. At $59.99 for 90 servings, it’s still an investment in something I’m not convinced that I need, but I decided to try it.

I chose this brand because of its shorter list of ingredients, and because it doesn’t have an obvious artificial sweetener aftertaste to it, though doing some after-the-fact research has made me realize that there is apparently a higher level of Optimum Nutrition “Gold Standard” product that completely removes artificial flavors and sweeteners. If I continue down this road I might need to head there next.

The whole foods hippie in me really wants to hate this. It would be like the time I tried to prove to Mike that I had an open mind about moving to Bainbridge Island by agreeing to a one-day house-hunt out here. I figured we’d drag ourselves and our (at the time) very small children on a day-long odyssey from our perfectly located Seattle home, find it to be way too much trouble, and leave it at that. That obviously worked well.

So I’ve spent the last few weeks whirring up recovery drinks of milk, ice, fruit, and protein powder (thank god for the Vitamix) as soon as I return from a run or the gym. And, I have to say, I do feel pretty good. These last few weeks have been building weeks and normally I’d be a bit more run down. I tend to have trouble sleeping in a phase like this, and it hasn’t been that bad lately. Is this a placebo effect? Part of me really wants that to be the case. I’d love to go back to my old ways, or at least stick with the old fashioned glass of milk. What do you think? Is protein powder worth the cost and consumption of unfamiliar substances?

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