I have received plenty of emails and questions involving supplementation-but primarily whey protein. I will cover this ONCE. This is a highly debated topic and one that is in the midst of a lot of debate amongst researchers and athletes.
If you interview most athletes and ask what their go to supplement is, protein is generally the number one answer-but is it really that necessary? These same individuals that swear by it and drink 2-3 shakes a day are also the same people that could not state one fact about what they're actually putting into their bodies on a regular basis. These are also the people who have been on "hardcore workout plans" for months and have not had any significant results in the gym and wonder if they are just on the wrong set of supplements this month-GET REAL!
The world of supplementation has it's ups and downs. Without getting too much into the marketing side of supplement companies, I will just touch base on the fact that most supplements and the industry in general is complete BS. Half of what you are putting into your body is an additive, a "filler" of sorts-and mostly simple sugars. Whether it works for you on the other hand is a whole other story. On numerous occasions I hear athletes complain about bloating, heart rate increases, nausea, headaches, acne etc...
Yet they continue to take it because they are positive it is getting them bigger, or they cannot live without the "pump". The obscene amounts of money spent each month on these supplements could be put towards something as simple, effective and ESSENTIAL as food.
"I take 2-3 protein shakes a day"
"I'm just going have this protein shake and then hit up a workout"
"I'm going to drink a shake real quick, don't have time for a meal"
All of the statements listed above are things that can be overheard in locker rooms and varsity gyms daily. I am not here to deter anyone from taking a shake-but I am just going to throw out a few things you should all consider.
Protein requirements vary depending on several key elements:
-Carbohydrate Availability (Need more of it if Carb intake is low)
-Dietary Protein Quality (Focus on protein from primary sources such as meat and fish-plant dominant protein provides the body with a smaller source)
-Exercise Intensity & Exercise Duration
-Exercise Type (highly active individuals and high intensity endurance athletes need more protein generally)
-Training History (Inexperienced/new athletes-need more protein due to high tissue breakdown)
Quick Set of Pro's for Whey Protein Supplementation:
-Easily portable & Non Perishable
-For SOME individuals, it is very hard to eat the amount of protein they need to consume in food.
-Highest source of BCAA's (branch chain amino acids)
-High % of Leucine and Glutamine.
-Rapid Absorption Rate
-Helps Insulin Activity
Long Set of Con's
-Since whey protein is an animal based product, the conditions under which the animals were raised influences the product directly. (Especially in the United States of America)
-Dehydration is more likely. Increased protein promotes more frequent urination. Due to the fact that protein is broken down into urea (toxic) and eliminated through urine.
-Real food provides the proper balance of all amino acids, costs less and gives greater nutrient value as well as tastes better.
-Excess amino acids may be stored as fat
-Protein supplements raise protein intake while decreasing dietary fat- minimizing calorie intake. Great? No. As fat is directly correlated with testosterone levels, a driving force in male athletic performance.
-And the list goes on and on.....
Most athletes are taking this as a way to get big-this is totally the wrong approach. As stated in the pro section of the article, some athletes need to take it this way because eating the amount of food necessary to help with muscle repair and providing the proper amount protein for muscular growth would be impossible. This is for athletes who train numerous times a week, at a high rate-and may also be playing and practicing at the same time.
Example: (Referenced from Nutrition Professor at Queen's University)
Leucine (a main amino acid present in protein powders) is essential to create an anabolic, muscle building environment. To build and repair at a high rate, the amount of leucine must be between 8-16 grams daily. If you were trying to do this through eating, you would have to eat...
1.5 pounds of chicken
3 pounds of pork
1/2 pounds of raw cheese
Whereas 3 ounces of high-quality whey provides 8g or more of leucine.
The main point being: If you want to get big, EAT!
The debate is constantly moving from one side to the other. This is why it really comes down to personal preference. The main take home message is that as an athlete you need to eat a lot, and need to eat well. Especially in times where you are training at a high intensity numerous times a week. You can combine this with a shake. Also take into account that whey protein is a dairy based product. Most individuals are very sensitive to dairy products and thus the feeling of bloating and stomach pains. There are many different sources of protein-egg protein, almond milk, lactose free and so on. Be sure to stay away from isolates and be sure to look into what you are buying. I am in no way advising people to stay away from protein shakes, rather than advising people not to depend on them as your ONLY source of protein.
For repair, growth and performance look into buying some of these simple & cost effective alternatives:
EAA's (Essential Amino Acids)
Simple Sugars (Dextrose for example)
Drink lots of water
EAT protein rich food (Chicken, Lean Steak, Beef, Fish, Nuts, etc...)
Remember that the people who you see and admire most didn't get big, strong, fast and successful because they crowded their lockers with supplement bins and visited the local supplement store every second week. They put in hard time in the gym and on the field, took proper care of their nutrition and worked their asses off. Stop worrying about the minor things.