Why do we buy protein shakes?

With the way that society is concerned about body image in this day and age, it seems everyone is dieting or working out.  Whether it is through dieting or working out, the word “protein” is passed around a lot.  We talk about the importance of more protein than carbohydrates in losing weight.  We also talk about the importance of protein when trying to gain muscle mass.  A lot of people are substituting protein shakes for meals with the end goal of weight loss or increased muscle mass.  What we don’t talk about is the cost associated with using these synthetic protein powders versus absorbing our protein from natural sources be them plant or animal.  

Some animal protein sources seem relatively cheap.  A dozen eggs costs $1.38 and you get a total of 75.48 grams of protein for that cost.  Most animal sources such as beef, pork, chicken, or fish cost at least $3.00 for a comparable amount of protein.  Tofu costs around $25.00 for 288 grams of protein.  That’s way more than meat sources.  edamame (soy beans in shell) on the other hand costs $60.85 for a 20 pound bag that holds approximately 3311.22 grams of protein.  That equals out to about $3.04 per 165 grams of protein.  This is closer in price to the protein from eggs than that from meat.  If we look at popular protein powders from GNC breaking them down to a cost per serving of protein, we see that the GNC Amp protein powders cost about $4.56 per 79 grams of protein.  The generic brand of protein powder that should be the cheapest actually breaks down to $3.52 per 72 grams of protein.  A third popular powder that I chose was Optimum Nutrition, which broke down to $3.43 per 74 grams of protein.

Based on the above analysis, the reality is that protein powders are about the same or slightly more than most other forms of protein, with the exception of eggs and edamame.  So why do people buy protein powders?  The simple and easy answer is because it’s in a form that’s quick and ready when you need it.  So why is the consumer paying the same or slightly more for this powder?  The consumer is really paying for the convenience of it as a ready to go form of protein.