Whey protein, creatine, protein powder, protein shakes, and other supplements are extremely popular not just with bodybuilders, but also with fitness enthusiasts and workout junkies, who are trying to gain muscle mass. While protein intake is vital for muscle growth, this presents great opportunity for manufacturers of protein supplements to make a quick buck, which is why they would lead you to believe that there can be no gain or performance improvement without their products. Although most of these protein supplements and protein shakes are not unhealthy and can even help in situations, not everyone needs them.
Facts About Protein Supplements
From appropriate dosage and the risks of excessive protein intake, to how protein can actually help you, there’s a general lack of awareness based on clinical facts. Here are some things that you should know about protein supplements.
1. Low Calories But High Protein
Dairy is considered a good source of protein, but a glass of low fat milk will give you just 8gms of protein and about 100 calories. A protein shake however, packs in around 20-25g of protein with just 100-120 calories!
2. Protein Supplements Are Not Always Necessary
While it is true that you need high protein intake to support high intensity and rigorous workout schedules aimed at building muscle mass, it does not mean that you cannot get your required protein intake without exceeding daily caloric limits. If modifying your diet to maintain caloric limits and boost protein intake still does not provide you with required proteins, you can use protein supplements like whey, protein shakes, and creatine to boost intake.
3. Protein Supplements Will Not Suffice For Weight Loss Or Muscle Growth
If you wish to use protein supplements you need to include them in your diet plan, as like any other food they provide you with nutrition and calories. If your activity levels are not high enough, any excess caloric intake will result in weight gain, not muscle gain. To utilize increased protein intake, you need to push yourself further when working out or you will instead land up gaining more body fat.
4. Not All Protein Supplements Are Good
Some protein supplements are packed with artificial sweeteners and other unhealthy ingredients that will do more harm than good. The main aim of boosting protein intake is to improve health and build muscles, which is why you need to check the labels carefully.
5. There Is Such A Thing As Too Much Protein
As is the case with any essential nutrient, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Protein side-effects, from excessive intake with protein supplements is a genuine concern, as studies have shown that toxicity levels rise with the intake of more than 250g of protein in a day. Studies have shown that ammonia levels rise with excessive protein intake, as your body struggles to convert ammonia to urea.
Protein Requirements For Fitness Enthusiasts
Now that we’ve established that protein supplements can be both good and bad, but are not always necessary, it would make more sense to look at regular protein intake. In the average diet, proteins account for 10 to 14 percent of caloric intake. If you are starting a new fitness regime and are trying to build lean muscle mass you should increase your protein intake so that 20 percent of your daily calories come from protein. With professional bodybuilders the requirement can be as high as 35 percent.
If your protein intake is inadequate for your lifestyle and workout routine, you’ll probably notice certain symptoms of protein deficiency. Several studies have shown that populations on high protein diets tend to be healthier, while those with low protein intake are more vulnerable to infections. Symptoms of deficiency or low protein intake could include exhaustion, lethargy, hair fall, and brittle nails. If you notice any of these conditions, you may need to boost protein intake.
The best way to meet your daily protein requirement would be by tracking protein intake.
Tracking Your Protein Intake
Find out how much protein you really require based on activity levels and current weight.
Use an app like myfitnesspal to record daily protein intake and calculate your average daily protein consumption.
In case of low protein intake, first tweak your diet by adding healthy protein sources like eggs, fish, chicken breasts, and cottage cheese, to name a few. There are plenty of healthy protein sources for vegetarians as well, like soy and nuts.
So, the bottom line is that dietary protein is the best choice when it comes to increasing intake, but when you cannot make dietary modifications to get enough protein (without exceeding caloric intake), protein shakes and supplements are the perfect choice. Just remember, when choosing protein supplements, quality is paramount, so don’t just opt for cheap products.