By: Austin Schanzenbach
Hold on to your protein shakers, this has potential to be the most controversial article written for Massenomics, yet.
The fitness world has this weird obsession with peanut butter. I think many years ago peanut butter must have been touted as some super fitness food. A calorically dense, energy bomb with ample protein. People flocked to the stores and bought it by the tub. They would hurry home to take giant gobs of it, going in bare-handed, forgoing a spoon or any other civilized eating utensil. Complete barbarians feeding on the nutty nectar.
After stuffing their bellies, they would head to the gym, presumably fueled to the max from this peanut superfood. There may even be a post-workout peanut butter feast to help recover, because you know, the protein in it.
Unfortunately, peanut butter is just a poor food choice from a lot of different angles:
1. They contain lectins
Ahhh lectins, which of course, have their name derived from Hannibal Lecter because they are evil bastards hell bent on tearing up your insides. Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins that can be toxic to humans. In fact, ricin, the poison Walter White in Breaking Bad extracts from a castor bean and tries to use to kill Tuco, is an example of a lectin.
Fortunately, lectins can be largely deactivated by heat. Roasted peanuts will have much lower lectin content than raw peanuts, but still can contain a small amount that are toxic.
You know what doesn't contain lectins? Our Weekend Warrior shirts and hats.
2. They contain phytic acid
Phytic acid is a substance that binds to nutrients and prevents their absorption. They are common in nuts, grains, and legumes and tend to reduce the overall nutrient benefits of those foods or other foods you consume with them.
3. They (probably) contain aflatoxins
Aflatoxins are a type of mold that grows on the peanuts and it is extremely difficult to eliminate. The FDA has declared it an unavoidable contaminant and says it is unreasonable to expect to eliminate all aflatoxins from crops such as peanuts. Aflatoxins are among the most carcinogenic substances known, so it would be prudent to minimize exposure.
4. Peanuts are highly allergenic
The current cause of peanut allergies is unknown, but after learning the above 3 points, it does not seem surprising that there is a high incidence of allergic reactions to peanuts. Along with the high incidence, the reactions are often severe and life threatening, requiring epinephrine to prevent anaphylaxis.
5. Peanut butter is packed full of trans fats
A wide variety of peanut butter, especially the most commercial brands, are loaded with artificial trans fats. These artificial trans fats are universally known for being an unhealthy food product that is correlated with conditions such as heart disease. Food companies use these artificial trans fats because they are cheap, and significantly extend shelf life. Look on the label for partially or fully hydrogenated vegetable oil for your culprit.
6. Added Sugars
Again, a wide variety of peanut butter, especially the commercial brands, have significant amounts of added sugar to the peanut butter to make it even more delicious. Most people are familiar with the harm excess sugars can cause in a diet, not to mention the increase of calories it adds. Which brings me to my next point…
7. Peanut Butter is a Calorie Bomb
The high fat, moderate protein and moderate carbohydrate content of peanut butter make it a mega calorie bomb. Two tablespoons of these lawless legumes deliver a whopping 200 calories and 16g of fat, on average. Let’s be honest, though, nobody eats peanut butter by the tablespoon. The only thing that is stopping an entire jar of peanut butter from turning into a “single serving” is that we can’t fit our entire fist in there, yet. Coming soon “New Mega Lid Peanut Butter Jars.” “Wide enough for an entire adult fist.”
8. It is a poor energy source for anyone lifting weights
Most weight training is done in a glycolytic range, meaning glucose is used as the primary fuel for work being done. Glucose is also used as a primary nutrient for the immediate recovery process such as protein and glycogen synthesis. Peanut butter, as has been mentioned, is loaded with fats, these fats can slow down the digestion and gastric emptying of other nutrients (such as glucose) along with providing a relatively poor fuel for anything weight training related.
So, what is an alternative solution?
From a macro standpoint, they make some physique friendly peanut butter that are lower in fat and sugar, while having more protein. This lowers the overall calorie content while adding in more of a macro (protein) with a high thermic effect. But, you still have the problem of lectins, phytic acid, and aflatoxins.
You could switch to a different nut butter like almond or cashew. While they are more expensive, you will likely lessen your exposure to the lectins and aflatoxins. Remember to avoid the raw nuts or nut butter though as they will have a significant amount of lectins, regardless.
Ultimately, nut butter should probably be consumed in a more moderate fashion and we should avoid peanut butter gluttony.
Ha ha ha, right.
*5 minutes later*
“I am Sir Percival Peanut, Lord of the Nut Butters. Taste my legumes or perish!”
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