Ahh protein. It’s probably the most topical macro-nutrient. The debate over protein supplements, their benefits and whether or not they’re actually needed is forever in the mind of gym enthusiasts. We all know the importance of protein in our diet, especially when we are looking to develop muscle mass. There are numerous advantages of increasing muscle mass including; a faster rate of burning calories, greater strength and stamina, not to mention the appeal of a fit and healthy looking body! Also, participants of resistance training have a reduced risk of developing bone fractures, osteoporosis and are more likely to maintain their muscle capacity as they age (with continued weight training of course). Neil McCartney, Audrey L.Hicks et al.,Long-term Resistance Training in the Elderly: Effects on Dynamic Strength, Exercise Capacity, Muscle and Bone. The Journals of Gerontology. 1995. Volume 50A. Issue 2. By weight training regularly and meeting recommended protein intakes you can develop a leaner muscle mass. Although increased exercise and resistance training results in an increase in protein requirements, do our diets contain enough protein to sustain muscle development and is the hype over protein supplementation actually worth it? Let’s find out!
Do you know your Protein Requirements?
The World Health Organisation (WHO), recommends consumption of 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight per day. PL Pellet. Protein requirements in humans. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. May 1990. Vol.51 No.5. 723-737.
Daily Australian protein intakes have been reported to be approximately 106g/day. Daily Protein Intake Per Capita. http://chartsbin.com/view/1155 Animal products such as fish, poultry, red meat and dairy all contain high amounts of protein. For example, red meat contains approximately 40g of protein per 100g. As these are some of the most popular foods in our diets, protein supplements are usually unnecessary. Although, as vegan-like diets increase in popularity, requirements for protein supplements are on the rise. Symptoms of low dietary protein include fatigue, unexplained weight-loss and poor muscle mass. The best way to check serum protein levels is to ask a physician to perform a blood test.
In order to maximise muscle health, it is recommended to spread your protein intakes out evenly throughout the day. Experts have found that on average we consume less than 15g of protein at breakfast. Researchers suggest to try and consume around 30g of protein per meal, as muscle protein synthesis can be up to 25% higher once protein intake is evenly distributed. Denise Webb. Athletes and Protein Intakes. Today’s Dietitian. June 2014. It sounds like a lot, but you will be surprised at how easy it actually is.
Can protein be TOXIC?
For the most part, excess protein is not deemed to be harmful, especially in a healthy individual. However, if an individual consumes more protein than required, this does not automatically correspond to muscle hypertrophy. Muscle hypertrophy is the process of the increasing size and amount of contractile protein within skeletal muscle fibres. In most cases, excess protein is excreted out as urine. This essentially means money down the drain if you don’t need it!
Studies have shown that endurance athletes, as well as the elderly, do have an increased protein requirement. The average protein requirement for an endurance athlete is approximately 1.2-1.4g/kg/day. Denise Webb. Athletes and Protein Intakes. Today’s Dietitian. June 2014. This is when protein supplementation proves to be useful as the athlete is not neglecting other important food groups when trying to achieve their protein requirements without exceeding their caloric limit. The elderly, along with vegetarians and vegans, sometimes require the aid of protein supplementation as their diets are not providing sufficient amounts of dietary protein.
However, too much protein can sometimes be a problem. Patients with poor kidney function may have issues concerning the build up of ketones in the body. Some research has hinted that where the kidneys are over worked with protein, absorption of other necessities such as vitamin A and fibre may be lacking. Also, bone mineral density may be hindered as a result of a high protein diet. Tipton KD. Efficacy and consequences of very – high -protein diets for athletes and exercises. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2011
Time to WHEY up
Recent studies have illustrated that those in the developed world already have a higher than required intake of protein from their diets. So why are protein supplements deemed to be so successful for muscle hypertrophy if we have enough dietary protein? It all comes down to the timing of protein intake after a workout. Experts have said that the opportune window for protein intake after a workout is up to 30 minutes. This is an essential step in maximising muscle protein accretion. The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Brad Jon Schoenfed et al. 2013. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-10-53 Most protein powders contain 20g of protein per serving. Alternative post-exercise snacks to protein shakes could include Greek yoghurt (up to 10g of protein per 100ml!!), two handfuls of nuts (20g of protein), a bowl of porridge (17g/100g) or quark, yes quark, cheese (11g/100g). 2017. 12 post-workout alternatives to protein shakes. 9Coach. http://coach.nine.com.au/2016/04/20/12/28/12-alternatives-to-protein-shakes Although dairy products are usually the best source of protein (containing both whey and casein) eggs, lentils and kidney beans are also naturally a great source of protein. Tim Crowe. Who needs to use protein supplements? Thinking Nutrition. August 2015. http://www.thinkingnutrition.com.au/protein-supplements/ Denise Webb. High-Protein Snacking. Today’s Dietitian. June 2015. Vol.17 No.6 Pg.22. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/060415p22.shtml
Our diets are already very rich in protein as our meals tend to be based around protein rich foods. As long as our intake is dispersed throughout the day and gotten from different sources there should be no need for artificial supplementation for the ordinary exercise gurus among us. To ensure we get the results we want from our resistance training, research has shown that it is important that we consume protein (about 20g) within half an hour after training to support muscle regeneration and growth. Tim Crowe. Who needs to use protein supplements? Thinking Nutrition. August 2015. http://www.thinkingnutrition.com.au/protein-supplements Protein shakes are one way of conveniently getting sufficient intakes quickly post workout. But if you want to save some cash and stock up on some additional nutrients, vitamins and minerals, naturally protein dense foods work a treat. Just remember you know your own body best, and whatever works for you, stick to it! Personally, for now, I’m off to get some eggs and am putting the protein powder to bed.
References [ + ]
|1.||⇪||Neil McCartney, Audrey L.Hicks et al.,Long-term Resistance Training in the Elderly: Effects on Dynamic Strength, Exercise Capacity, Muscle and Bone. The Journals of Gerontology. 1995. Volume 50A. Issue 2.|
|2.||⇪||PL Pellet. Protein requirements in humans. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. May 1990. Vol.51 No.5. 723-737.|
|3.||⇪||Daily Protein Intake Per Capita. http://chartsbin.com/view/1155|
|4.||⇪ab||Denise Webb. Athletes and Protein Intakes. Today’s Dietitian. June 2014.|
|5.||⇪||Tipton KD. Efficacy and consequences of very – high -protein diets for athletes and exercises. The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 2011|
|6.||⇪||The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Brad Jon Schoenfed et al. 2013. https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-10-53|
|7.||⇪||2017. 12 post-workout alternatives to protein shakes. 9Coach. http://coach.nine.com.au/2016/04/20/12/28/12-alternatives-to-protein-shakes|
|8.||⇪||Tim Crowe. Who needs to use protein supplements? Thinking Nutrition. August 2015. http://www.thinkingnutrition.com.au/protein-supplements/|
|9.||⇪||Denise Webb. High-Protein Snacking. Today’s Dietitian. June 2015. Vol.17 No.6 Pg.22. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/060415p22.shtml|
|10.||⇪||Tim Crowe. Who needs to use protein supplements? Thinking Nutrition. August 2015. http://www.thinkingnutrition.com.au/protein-supplements|