Protein Foods – Have We Gone Too Far?

Protein Foods – Have We Gone Too Far?

When doing your food shop, you surely will have noticed an abundance of ‘protein packed’ foods – and we’re not talking the usual chicken, beef or fish. We’re talking about protein bread, protein nut butter, protein pasta, protein pizza, and even protein Mars Bars!

Sure, protein is good for you and is arguably one of the most important macro-nutrients if wanting to radically change your body composition. But while it appears that protein foods are only worth purchasing if it is physically labelled ‘protein’ in huge lettering, is this really the best way to consume protein?

There are two clichés that spring to mind here: Too much of a good thing, and quality over quantity.

Protein quality

Protein quality can be gauged on several factors:

  • Digestibility
  • EAA & Leucine content
  • Is it a complete or incomplete protein?
  • Are there any health contraindications?


The two relatively cheap protein sources commonly used within ‘enhanced’ protein products are wheat and soy proteins, both of which aren’t arguably the best sources of protein.

Wheat scores as one of the lowest on the PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score), which assesses the quality of various proteins based on amino acid requirements and digestion.

While soy doesn’t appear as ‘bad’ as once thought, it does appear to contain phytoestrogens that may have both positive and negative effects.

The negative effects are that they can disrupt endocrine function, but to what degree we are uncertain. For this reason, it wouldn’t be recommended if someone was pregnant, nursing or even trying for a baby to remove any potential risk. Also, those using medication for thyroid conditions should likewise consider avoiding soy due to its apparent effects on impairing the absorption of thyroid medication.

While soy-based products remain to be trendy and popular right now, as a source of protein it’s considerably lower in Leucine (around 40%) than whey protein, so there are much better options out there – no matter what Instagram influencers say.

Too much of a good thing – and at what cost?

What do all macro-nutrients have in common? They all contain calories.

Say you have a meal that contains 125g chicken breast. You would have already hit your 30g target for that meal. To then add 60g of protein pasta on top adds a further 30g protein. Do you really need that additional 30g of protein? Probably not.

What else you might you not need? The calories! 30g protein also comes at a caloric cost of 120 calories. In fact, the 125g chicken breast alongside 50-60g of normal pasta would end up being less calories!

The same can be said for nut butters. A great, easily digestible protein and fat meal when on the go is 30g whey and 20g nut butter. Typically, this would give you around 30g protein and 10-12g fat. Should you supplement one of the popular protein peanut butters however, you’re looking at increasing your protein intake to 40g with an additional 40 calories on top.

The additional (and unnecessary) protein increase comes at a calorific cost which, if on a transformation journey, would be highly counter-productive. So, while thinking reaching for the protein pasta is a better option than the normal pasta, think again.

While we don’t aim to quash protein, protein supplements or certain foods containing protein, you don’t need to be adding additional protein to everything for a successful health/weight loss diet. Your daily protein target can be reached easily through everyday foods, such as whole eggs, egg whites, protein powders, Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese, chicken, turkey, beef and fish etc.

So next time you do your food shop and are pondering over the protein labels, pick the chicken over a protein Mars Bar.

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Akash Vaghela is the Founder of RNT Fitness, where his mission is to see a world where everyone experiences the power of a physical body transformation to act as a vehicle for the greater good in their lives. Akash has produced 200+ blogs, 100+ videos and hosts the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, which has amassed over 110,000 downloads in 90+ countries across 100+ episodes. Alongside this, he's been seen in Men's Health, BBC, T-Nation, Elite FTS and the PTDC, while also regularly speaking nationally and internationally on all things transformation.