The global sports nutrition market is valued to more than 15 billion USD. Protein supplements is a substantial part of that. You can get it in all kinds of forms. Powder, shakes, chocolate, pancakes and even milk, to mention a few. Do you need it and should you use it?
The great majority of athletes get enough proteins from a healthy diet. Even if the need for protein varies between different kinds of sports, and is increased for athletes in growth, it doesn´t change a thing. The fact is, that if you exercise or even work out to build muscles, you probably eat more. That is more than enough to cover the bodies need for proteins.
The conclusions concerning protein intake are diverging. A previous meta-analysis concluded that ingestion of more than 1.6g/kg bodyweight a day, did not increase strength og muscles. Later results from another study, suggests that 2.2 g/kg bodyweight is beneficial for well trained athletes training for strength. High intake of proteins are also associated with increased energy expenditure.
Proteins are made up from amino acids. They combine to form the proteins, and is divided into:
- Essential amino acids
- Nonessential amino acids
- Conditional amino acids (used for illness and stress)
Your body can not make essential amino acids itself, and you have to get it from food. There are 9 essential amino acids, and animal protein contains more of them, than plant protein. The amino acids in animal protein is also more available. A healthy diet should mix both animal and plant protein to every meal, and balance them through out the day.
Balance is a key word. You should balance your diet in relation to what kind of sports you are doing. If you train strenght, you will have a greater turnover of proteins in the muscles. Eating more of a healthy diet is necessary, and you probably will eat more, because you get more hungry. People in endurance training can actually be more prone to insufficient amount of protein in their diet. They may need more carbohydrates, but if they increase the carbohydrates on behalf of reduced protein, it may not be enough. They can eat or drink more carbohydrates, but not reduce the amount of proteins to avoid this.
Food containing animal proteins:
- Egg, Cheese, Chicken, Meat, Fish and Tuna fish
Food containing plant proteins:
- Beans, boiled rice, boiled pasta, wholegrain bread, soya milk and nuts.
World famous athletes have a strong focus on their diets. Top level soccer players or NFL stars have chosen different diets to perform professional levels. We are not promoting any specific diet, but illustrating that a healthy diet is mandatory in sport.
According to Harvard Medical School it is up to each manufacturer in the US to evaluate the safety and labeling of their products. This makes it difficult to know what the protein powder actually contains. Some of the products contains a lot of calories, due to added sugars. This might cause gaining too much weight, and it can be hazardous if you have Diabetes mellitus. It is also limited data about the possible long term adverse effects of protein supplements. If you have liver or kidney disease, you should consult a doctor.
Clean Label Project, a nonprofit group, previously released a report about toxins in protein powders. Researchers had found that many protein powders contained heavy metals and bisphenol-A , or BPA, which is used to make plastic. They also found pesticides, or other contaminants associated with cancer. Some toxins were present in amounts above the allowed limit. This does not counts for all manufacturers of course. The list is here.
We recommend to have a healthy and balanced diet including fat, proteins and carbohydrates. In addition you also need daily recommendations for vitamins and minerals.
The decision to use protein supplements is an individual choice to make. You have to consider how much proteins your diet contains, the level of your strength training and your goals.
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