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Protein Shakes & Powders: Why, What & Buyer Beware

Some protein shakes and powders are seductive; they sport pictures of bulging muscles and indecipherable scientific formulas, they seem to suggest that merely drinking them will have us busting our shirt buttons. And yet, one of the biggest myths is that eating large amounts of protein equates to big muscles.

Don’t get sucked in by hype. If you are considering introducing a protein shake into your daily diet it is critical that you make an informed decision or you can risk doing more damage than good.

What Are They For?

Many studies have shown that a combined protein / carbohydrate meal directly after training enhances recovery which helps reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).

It is important to remember that carbs play a crucial role in pre and post workout fuelling. Many people mistakenly believe that they only need protein to get the best results and carbs only result in unwanted weight gain.

However, carbohydrates are vital for the best performance and are the main source of fuel. Too little carbs can lead to fatigue and delayed recovery.

Carbs will help replenish lost energy stores and proteins can be used for building and maintenance of lean muscle mass. Make sure any supplement you take is balanced.

Can I Have Too Much?

You sure can… once energy requirements are met, surplus protein, just like carbohydrate or fat, tends to be stored as body fat.

The British Dietetic Association warns that high levels of additional protein over a period of time can cause kidney and liver damage. (Read more…)

Also, it is wise to know your ingredients; many of the protein powders contain synthetic chemicals, sugars and artificial flavourings. Some people have reported reactions (eg: skin rash, nausea) to these additives.

Don’t We Get Enough Protein Already?

For most of us, the short answer is YES!

The National Health and Medical Research Council’s dietary guidelines recommend an intake of 40 to 50 grams of protein a day – the size of one piece of steak plus a wedge of cheese.(Read more….) However, the exact amount of protein needed in your diet will vary depending on your weight, age, level of activity and health.

Most people, even athletes, can also get everything they need by eating sources of lean protein (eg: meat, fish, chicken, and dairy products). So Are They Useful?

In very specific circumstances, protein powders can be useful and a good product can be a convenient source of complete, high-quality protein.

You will have probably noticed that a lot of protein shakes have ‘whey’ as a primary ingredient. Whey protein is easily absorbed and retained which means it’s highly usable by the body.

It is also one of the richest sources of leucine, an essential amino acid that triggers initiation of muscle protein synthesis (muscle growth).

When Might I Want To Use Them?

When you’re starting a program: If working out hard (ie: a strength or High Intensity routine) is new to you and you’re trying to build muscle, you may not have adequate protein in your diet. When You Are Training Harder: If you decide to go from a few workouts a week to an athlete standard or prepare for a big event your body may need more protein. When Recovering From Sports Injuries: In some cases people who work out at an athlete standard will increase protein intake when recovering from sports injuries to help them heal. If your diet is lacking: If you have a Vegan or Vegetarian diet that has inadequate protein you may benefit from a protein powder. IN SUMMARY…..if you are considering protein shakes & supplements, remember:

More is not always better. Consider discussing it with your Nutritionist, Doctor and Personal Trainer. Make an informed decision based on your needs, not one that is just designed to line someone else’s pocket. Only use protein powders to compliment a healthy balanced diet. Find a powder that uses natural, organic and raw ingredients devoid of rubbish additives. Nicky McKimmie – Mobile Personal Training Specialist

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