There is an ongoing argument as to whether people really NEED protein supplementation, especially following a workout, or if they simply receive enough from their diet. The truth is, IT DEPENDS. If you’re the novice trainee, someone who is in the gym training moderately 2-3 times per week, chances are there is no need for you the supplement with protein. For those of us, however, who train intensely 4+ times per week and have a hectic schedule, protein supplementation may not only be warranted, but a necessity for reaching your goals. Although there is no evidence to support the fact that protein supplementation post workout has any added benefit on restoring muscle tissue better than natural food sources, there are some benefits to doing so. Here are some things to consider when selecting for protein supplementation:
1. In my experience, most people DO NOT get enough protein from their diet. The typical recommendation for protein is .8-1.2g/kg of body weight every day. The problem with this is although this recommendation poses no threat to the kidneys or mineral density of bones, for someone who weighs 150lbs and is looking to lose weight, this would only allow an intake of 55-80g of protein, making up 220-320 calories in a diet that should consist of roughly 1,500 calories in order to reduce body fat without risking loss of lean muscle mass. The additional calories has to be made up of carbohydrates and fat.
2. Protein intake below 2.8g/kg of body weight per day has been shown to have no negative impact on the kidneys. For the same person listed above, this would mean that same person could consume upwards of 150g+ of protein per day without any negative effect on the kidneys. When considering the risks of loss of bone mineral density that could lead to osteopenia, we’re talking about the acidic profile of protein (amino acids). Although this is true, this can easily be negated by ingesting dark leafy greens to create a balance in blood pH. A fairly safe recommendation I use is 1g/pound of LEAN BODY MASS. To do this, simply find your body fat percentage and subtract that from 100%. That number will give you your lean body mass.
3. When the remaining amount of calories is to be made up of carbohydrates and fats, people tend not to make smart choices. This is because carbohydrates do not have the same “filling” effect as protein. Carbohydrates begin digestion in the mouth, whereas protein begins being digested in the stomach. Protein also has a greater impact on raising insulin levels, a major hormone in satiety. I know that the word insulin may scare some people, but unlike carbohydrates, for individuals who are extremely active, this insulin helps pull the amino acids present in the blood into the cell for aiding in recovery.
4. Food is expensive, and takes time! Protein supplements are cheap. Although it is NOT A GOOD IDEA to get your protein strictly from supplements, supplements do have the added benefit of being more economical. It is also ideal for those people who are constantly on the run. Ingesting a protein shake an hour before a workout is ideal for someone on the go, as is immediately following the workout to aid in protein synthesis. Natural food sources can do the same exact thing, but may not be as conducive to someone who doesn’t have the opportunity to sit down for a pre-workout and post-workout meal.
The benefits of protein has become somewhat common knowledge. This article is not meant to suggest people go on an “all protein, all supplement, no carb diet”, but instead urge people to consider how much they really need to support their goals.