Protein supplements are one of the most controversial aspects of the fitness industry there is. Now I'm not talking about steroids here, but food supplements such as protein powders and multivitamins. Many seem to associate these types of supplements with professional bodybuilders, and few realise that many athletes use supplements to, well .... supplement their diet. Here we will discuss what a basic protein supplement really does and how it can help you with your training and nutritional requirements.
Protein powder is probably one of the most popular supplements going and is also probably one of the most feared, but what does it do. Well for one, despite popular belief, it will not turn you into a 21 stone bodybuilder over night, or in a few months for that matter. Many people and fitness enthusiast seem to think that protein bulks you up. Well it doesn't. It is just a food substitute. It bulks you up no quicker or differently than eating the equivalent amount of beef steak. So why all the worry over it. Well, this is probably due to the way in which they are advertised.
You see the fitness supplements industry is a big market, and most people take a protein supplement to increase muscle mass. So who better to promote a muscle building supplement than the biggest muscle freaks in the world! The image on the left is common place in advertising protein supplements, after all, bodybuilders are the best at building muscle as it is their chosen career. What most don't realise though is that people like Ronnie Coleman on the left are a very, very small minority of people who have the right genetics to get that big, and who are willing to put in the time and effort to get to that size. It takes years and years of training to achieve the muscle mass on the left, and I mean years. Yet some still believe that taking a protein supplement will turn you into someone with that type of physique. Another way to look at it is to think about how many people in the world take a protein supplement, compared to how many people look like Ronnie Coleman. The difference is vast, quite simply, if it was that easy to put that much muscle on, then there would be a lot more professional bodybuilders out there.
Christian Malcolm on the right has a protein shake every morning for breakfast and is evidence that protein supplements should not be feared.
So What Exactly Does Protein Do?
Protein is the building block of body muscle tissue. It helps to repair muscle tissue damaged by exercise, particularly resistance training, and helps to increase the strength of those muscles. You see, when you exercise or put strain on your muscles (as with resistance training), you cause tiny little tears on your muscles fibers which, during rest periods, are repaired by your body and made stronger. To do this your body needs protein. Without it you simply cannot repair muscles efficiently. Now you can get protein from many food sources, but if you don’t get enough in your diet, your body will breakdown your stored protein (your muscles!) And utilize that for what it needs.
How Much Should I Take?
This is the million dollar question. There are so many variables to take into account that it's just not possible to give a definitive answer. Things to consider are your height, weight, body fat levels, lean mas levels, activity levels for the day, what type of diet you fancy having. One simple, none fitness orientated, rule is that you should have roughly 0.8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. So a 100kg individual would need roughly 80 grams of protein per day. But this doesn't really work for people embarking on a fitness regime, especially those who want to concentrate more on strength training. For this category of people it is recommended to have between 1.2 and 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. So a 100kg individual would have between 120 and 180 grams of protein per day. Another way to work out how much protein you need is to use the ratio method such as that described in the Zone diet.
The zone diet stipulates that 40% of your daily calorific needs should come from protein. For example a man requiring 2,000 calories per day would need 600 calories worth of protein per day. Every 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories so that equates to 150g of protein per day. Now that may seem like a lot for one person to eat in one day, but that's the beauty of protein supplements. You can easily bulk up your protein intake by supplement your daily meals with a protein shake. 000 calories per day would need 600 calories worth of protein per day. Every 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories so that equates to 150g of protein per day. Now that may seem like a lot for one person to eat in one day, but that's the beauty of protein supplements. You can easily bulk up your protein intake by supplement your daily meals with a protein shake. 000 calories per day would need 600 calories worth of protein per day. Every 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories so that equates to 150g of protein per day. Now that may seem like a lot for one person to eat in one day, but that's the beauty of protein supplements. You can easily bulk up your protein intake by supplement your daily meals with a protein shake.
But I Can Get Protein From Normal Food, Right?
Absolutely. In fact it is better to try and get all your nutritional requirements from whole foods, but that's not always possible for some. Take bodybuilders for example. They require such a large amount of food that it's not always possible to consume whole foods. Some have 6-8 meals per day, every day, and simply don't have the time to prepare that much food. The same can be said for busy athletes. Many Olympic athletes use protein powder to supplement their diets because of the ease of it. Many people have a protein shake for breakfast as it's quick and convenient when you're trying to get out of the door to work or to drop the kids off at school. Other people committing to a fitness regime simply cannot afford to eat 5 or 6 whole food meals a day. Protein supplements can offer a cheaper alternative.
Protein supplements are exactly what they say on the tin. They are there to supplement your food intake to make it easier for you to get the protein you require, and are basically just an alternative to whole food. One or two protein shakes throughout the day can increase your protein intake substantially without the need for cooking lots of extra food. They should not be feared, rather should be embraced for what they are; a quick, easy substitute for whole food perfect for when eating whole food is not convenient.