A: Absolutely not. You can make amazing progress simply spreading out your meals over five or six smaller feedings a day—without taking a single supplement. If you’re using one of the diets in X-treme Lean, choose appropriate substitution meals to replace the protein shakes in that diet. For example, when a meal replacement is listed, you can use one of the X-treme Lean Meal Options on page 42 of our e-book instead. You could eat the soup with a few slices of cheese as a midafternoon snack or turkey jerky and raisins (only a few; they are high in carbs) or an apple. Even a couple of fast-food chicken tacos can work in a pinch, as listed in the e-book, or a chicken or tuna salad. Always be sure there are at least 20 grams of protein, no more than 20 grams of carbs (10 grams is better) and the total calorie count for the meal is around 300. Those should be your guidelines for every meal (except the one right after your workout; more on that in a moment).
Powders are mainly for convenience. Most people don’t have time to heat up food, for instance, or even scrounge up some turkey jerky and fruit. It’s easier to rip open a packet of powder with the right protein, carb and fat percentages and blend up a shake (Steve takes his to work premixed in a thermos, so all he has to do is shake and drink—quick and easy).
Do keep in mind that whatever you eat costs money, too. Does it add up to the cost of a meal replacement packet? Well, each packet is often about $2, but you can get 40 grams of protein with various vitamins, minerals and immune system boosters. Does the time, effort and ingredients of a solid-food meal you have to whip together cost less? You’ll have to determine that. We think protein supplements should be included in your grocery bill because they are food and you use them to supplement your other meals. That means the quantity of solid food you eat should go down if you use powders, which will significantly reduce your grocery bill and make room for at least a few protein supplements.
As for post-workout shakes, they can get pricey. Serious bodybuilders have no problem shelling out a few bucks for a quality post-workout powder because they know it’s their most important muscle-building meal. After a workout is when the anabolic window is wide open, so you need to get enough of the right nutrients.
Postworkout powders have fast carbs and fast protien, which is best for optimizing that prime grow time.