For those who work out, protein supplements are a part of their life. Protein intake may vary from person to person, but a diet is incomplete without it.
Medical researchers advise against protein supplements for an average person, because the amount of protein every person requires depends on factors like age, sex, health and activity level. Ideally, your daily food should provide you with the required protein, say Dr Sanjay Shah, general physician, Fortis Hospital, Mulund and Shweta Mahadik, clinical nutritionist, Fortis Hospital Kalyan.
But many sports trainers continue to push them on amateur athletes.
The question then arises of whether you need protein when you exercise, particularly when you try to build muscle through weightlifting or other forms of resistance training. The doctors answer in the affirmative. “The process of building muscle involves causing damage to muscle filaments and then rebuilding them, and this requires more protein,” they say.
Why do we need proteins?
Protein is an essential macronutrient made up of amino acids. These chain-like compounds can be broken apart and put back together in a nearly endless variety of patterns which are used to create different kinds of cells.
“Your body can make some of these amino acids on its own, but not all of them. The complete proteins found in animal products are your best sources of the essential amino acids that your body cannot produce.”
But keep in mind that you shouldn’t consume extra protein. “Dairy products are also high in protein, as are certain green leafy vegetables and legumes. Too much protein can put a strain on your kidneys, so if you’re using protein supplements to lose or maintain weight without working out, you need to balance your diet with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and 1-2 litres of water per day. Tofu, soya milk, lentils, chickpeas, pinto beans, almond milk, nuts and oil seeds like sunflower, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds etc., are rich sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans,” they explain.
Consuming proteins in the right way
A healthy individual needs 1g protein per kg body weight per day. When training, however, they need about a half gram of protein per pound of body weight.
“If you want to slim down or need more protein in your diet, feel free to have a protein shake on your off-training days. For example, if you skip breakfast or have a meeting to rush to in the morning, drinking a protein shake can provide you with the energy needed to function optimally. These, however, cannot replace meals; their role is to supplement your diet only,” the experts say.
The risk factor is that all food and beverages provide calories. Protein supplements — in the form of shakes and bars — are no exception. They work best when used as part of a training program since they fuel your muscles into growth and increase fat burning.
Keep in mind
The doctors say that incorporating protein supplements in your diet with no workout at all is not recommended. “If you go overboard, you may end up gaining weight — especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle. You may also develop hyperaminoacidemia (excess of amino acid in the bloodstream) with nausea and diarrhoea symptoms; other health concerns may include kidney problems. Extra intake will slow down the kidney’s metabolism.
“If you need to consume more protein, but you do not exercise, it is best to have natural sources of the macronutrient — as mentioned above — coupled with minimum exercising. Remember to keep the nutrition factor high, and the calorie counts low if you aren’t exercising– to burn off extra calories.”