Body Fortress, Math, and Me

Last week I needed to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy. My husband was home. I occasionally adore him, so I asked him if he needed anything. “Body Fortress,” he replied. “Vanilla.”

That’s when I realized my mistake. To ask my husband if he needs anything from the store is to risk losing many long minutes roaming the loneliest aisles, hunting down a particular ointment or cream, lotion or lozenge, powder or pill. If you know what it’s like to look for dry mouth rinse at Target for an entire afternoon, I see you.

“And Old Spice,” he called as I was closing the door behind me. “Classic.” With the weary sigh of a long-married person, I headed out.

At the store, I found a big tub of Body Fortress on the bottom shelf of one of those lonely aisles  and brought it home. Later, my husband found me at my desk, staring at it. “What are you doing?” he asked.

“Nothing,” I said, feeling guilty. He took the tub away, but a few minutes later I snuck it back into my office. I didn’t want him to think I was judging him. I simply had questions that needed answering. Questions like, what is Body Fortress? Why is Body Fortress? I looked at the chaotic gathering of words, mysterious punctuation, and random font styles and sizes on the packaging.

Body Fortress.
100% Isolate Easy to Digest Protein.
BUILDS lean muscle & strength.
BOOSTS post-workout recovery.
SUPPORTS daily immunity.
Simply add one (1) scoop to 6–8 ounces or two (2) scoops to 12–16 ounces
of your favorite beverage.

There are asterisks and symbols. There are claims and disclaimers. There are boxes of text and text crawling sideways up the tub. It’s a whole thing. But what is it? I went to the ingredients list, which starts with the words “Other ingredients.” Okay. Surely that means there must be other, other ingredients, in some other place? I failed to locate the other, other ingredients. Strange, or I was stupid. I went to the list: “Other ingredients: Premium isolate protein blend (hydrolyzed whey protein isolate, whey protein isolate, milk protein isolate).” There are also natural and artificial flavors, followed by another line and a half of…other ingredients.

I did not know what any of it meant. I asked Google, “What is a protein isolate?” The top result was this featured snippet: “A protein isolate is a type of protein powder that has undergone more processing than a concentrate.”

The snippet Google gave me was from a blog post on a website that sells expensive protein powders, power greens, and something called “Customized Hydration.” This is not my world. This is not my language. Further down on the results page, I found a better answer. A protein isolate is a highly processed product that is stripped of everything but protein.

Is that good, or bad? I didn’t know how anything that processed could be good. Maybe it just depends on what you’re looking for. I spent some more time on Google trying to figure out if I should worry that my husband BLENDS one (1) scoop of Body Fortress with his favorite beverage for lunch a few times a week. It’s fine, maybe, I guess, but maybe not. I took a nap.

The next morning I forced myself to crack an egg and scramble it slowly in a pan. I doused it with Cholula and ate it with my true love, golden buttered toast. I’m not a big fan of dealing with eggs in the morning, but if I skip the egg I feel pretty tired pretty quick. I have never found anything more adequate to start the day than an egg. I buy the good eggs that say the good things on the carton—organic, certified humane, free range, et cetera, et cetera. I can only hope the claims are true. Unfortunately, for the rest of the day, whatever protein I get in my diet is whatever protein happens to be in the food I eat. And double unfortunately, for the past while the food I eat has not been green enough, unrefined enough, whole enough, or, well, protein enough.

Should I start pounding Body Fortress shakes at the kitchen sink? I don’t think so. I think I should just get more, and better, protein in my diet. I suddenly realized what I should have done the day before. Hit up the SRP Historical Archives.

That’s where I rediscovered an article I read awhile ago, published in the Applied Trophology newsletter in 1978: “Food and Health vs. Chemical and Drugs.” Like most of the resources in the Archives, this was written before protein powders were a thing. But do you know what was a thing in the 70s? The egg:

“In further defense of the lowly besieged egg, let it be noted that its proteins have the highest biological value for human adults of all food proteins. The amino acid composition of whole hens’ eggs is used as a standard against which the chemical score of other proteins is compared.”
—Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr, MD

Amino acids are important. Essential, even, because the body cannot make them and must get them from food. I went back to the tub of Body Fortress to see what it had to say for itself. No info on amino acids, but there was triangle thing that proclaimed: “5g BCAAs.” I asked Google, “What are BCAAs?” I learned they are naturally occurring branch-chain amino acids. There are three of them—leucine, valine, and isoleucine—and they are called “branch chain” because they, well, branch. They are also primarily metabolized in muscle tissue, which must be why a gym-bro loving product called Body Fortress has 5g in every serving.

This is all well and good, but there are nine essential amino acids. And every single last one of them can be found in the entirely unprocessed yet perfectly packaged little egg. Body Fortress couldn’t last one round with this em-effer.

So for now, I’ll stick with my eggs and let my husband keep his Body Fortress to himself. I’ll also keep bopping around in the Archives when I have questions about diet and health. You might have noticed already, but I’ve got lots of them.

Images from iStock/JackF (main), Koval Nadiya (post).

Heather Wilkinson

Heather Wilkinson is Senior Editor at Selene River Press.

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