What is Protein World actually selling?

Protests against Protein World have garnered widespread attention as women reject the brand's "beach body" ads. But what exactly is the company selling – and is it healthy, asks Alexandra Heminsley 

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By Alexandra Heminsley on

As the grim Protein World saga rumbles on, it’s easy to get distracted by the obnoxious Twitter feed and embarrassing Tube advertisements, and miss the real disservice the company is doing towards anyone who values a healthy body over one deemed appropriate for the beach: the products do absolutely nothing to help you lose weight in any real or sustainable way. How you look on the beach, whether you’re wearing a bikini or a top hat and tails, simply won’t be helped by their old-fashioned products. 

The company brands itself as one making a product for “gym-goers, endurance nuts and even busy mums”, and pushes an idea of “fitness and wellbeing goals”; in reality sells a combination of basic whey protein (96 per cent protein and four per cent flavouring and sweeteners), meal-replacement shakes (93 per cent protein with four per cent flavouring and sweeteners, then some vitamins) and the grim-sounding Slender Blend capsules. Formerly known as Fat Melters, the latter contain 200mg caffeine per serving and not much else of any use. The average espresso contains 77mg caffeine. Little surprise online reviews talk largely of their laxative and nausea-inducing effects, and Protein World itself recommends you never take them after 3pm. 

If you want to be healthy, eat three meals a day, even if one is just an egg

Whey-protein supplements were designed for those in the weight-lifting world, to help them take on enough protein to repair muscles after workouts when they couldn’t physically take on more without the bulk of eating “too much” food. They only really help if you want that “creosoted walnuts in heels” look, and all power to you if you do, but the model in their ads shows no muscle tone. Whether that is because she doesn't have any or because it has been airbrushed out to create the injection-moulded beach ideal, I don’t know. But, while I like her yellow bikini, she cannot claim any visible muscle definition. 

This leads me to believe that the "beach body ideal" being peddled here is thin rather than fit, after all. Their comprehensive range of meal replacements in the advertised Weight Loss collection back this suspicion up. The shakes are just the same old powdery junk that women have been taking for a few desperate weeks before a big wedding or a beach holiday for 30-odd years. The clue is in the title: they are not meals; they are replacements for them, and inadequate at that. 

If you want to be healthy, eat three meals a day, even if one is just a (protein-packed) egg. Any other option will leave you lacking in the fibre, vitamins and minerals you need to grow healthy hair and nails, shiny skin and a functioning digestive system. Maybe I'm being too harsh. After all, the guys over at Protein World have also come up with the intriguing Luminous Capsules, which have some basic vitamins (also found in food), to help you out. 

To be fair, Protein World should not be taking the hit for generations of women being told that they need to look different before they can walk on sand. We’re strong enough to see this junk for what it is, and as we’ve admirably displayed over the last few days, we can laugh, tear out our hair or even just ignore it. A good diet and exercise do a better job than anything Protein World has to offer – and they don’t tweet you back, sounding like a mean-spirited boyfriend with issues.

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