Protein Supplementation – Do You Need It?
When it comes to supplements, I will admit I am not a connoisseur of daily supplements other than a multi-vitamin and an occasional whey protein drink when I feel my diet is not supporting my daily protein needs. Basically, I will add protein supplements to my day when I lack regular food that is high in protein (meats, chicken, fish, eggs). If I cannot make up for it with nuts, vegetables, beans, whole grains, I will then add a protein shake or two in the day. So, I treat extra protein the way I would treat consuming a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE). If I do not have any access to good food (home, restaurant, packed food) I will eat an MRE. Naturally, since I am no longer in the military, the need for me to eat an MRE is reduced significantly. It is simply an analogy of how and why I add protein to my diet.
During high mileage / high repetition / intensity cycles of my workouts, there is a need for more protein. Here is where it gets confusing if you are trying to deduce how much you need:
1. Metric to Standard Units: Sometimes kilograms to pounds can confuse people. A common formula that takes a more moderate approach to protein intake is:
0.8-1 gram of protein for every kilogram of body weight
1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds. Therefore, a 200 pound man is approximately 90 kilograms. So a daily amount of protein is roughly 75-90 grams a day. Some will argue this is on the lower end for people who train hard. I would agree, depending upon your goals.
In many email correspondences over the years, some people who are new to supplements (and apparently math) have read that as TWO TIMES your body weight in pounds. So they may actually try 400 grams of protein for a 200 pound body. No kidding!
A more common recommendation for protein supplementation for muscle growth and repair is 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. This one is pretty simple but borders on the high side, unless you are extremely active (strength / endurance).
The math is easy – a 200 pound man "requires" 200 grams of protein. Here is some research evidence that this is too much or not needed. In fact, other studies recommend there is no need to go greater than 0.75 grams per 1 pound. That would be 150 grams of protein for the 200 pound man. This has been my go-to limit during higher intensity training cycles.
The key is to READ carefully – notice that 0.75 grams per pound is not 0.75 grams per kilogram. People can easily miss that and get either half of or twice what they need in a day.
2. Our Needs Differ: If you search online for recommendation daily allowances of protein, you will get many different numbers. You will see:
- A set number of grams per day regardless of weight or activity of the person. (WebMD from Harvard Medical Study)
- A scale recommending different amounts of protein depending upon your age, weight, and activity level.
- A recommendation bordering on maximum levels to gain "optimal muscle mass."
- As well as daily minimums to survive as humans. (10-30 percent of diet in protein calories).
Set aside the mixture of grams and pounds, the volume of information that is easily obtained on protein is confusing. Here is a simple tool to help with any grey area -- a protein calculator on the webpage of one of the best protein powders I have ever used -- Native Fuel - Whey Protein by AscentProtein.com. This is a moderate use of the equation, but still leans on the active to highly active side, and is perfect for tactical athletes.
3. What is Good Protein? Just because I am not an avid user of supplements does not mean I have not studied and tested them for the past twenty years. I have consistently been looking for what works best for my personal recovery as I age and continue to train hard year-round. What I typically look for is more nutrition from protein. That means more food from protein sources. Depending on the protein powder you use, you could be using a less pure protein with little scrutiny from outside regulatory sources. Think of protein as a food, not a supplement. There are food grade proteins on the market.
Why I Like the Whey Protein Nutrition?
The Ascent whey protein blend contains Native Whey, and the Native Whey is the specific protein that has 17 percent higher levels of Leucine. (See why leucine in important). Native Whey is the least processed dairy protein available today. It is a very fine powder and does not clump when shaken. This same protein powder is used in baby formula, so it is so pure it is actually considered a food -- not a supplement. This requires greater scrutiny and regulation by the Food and Drug Administration. In fact, there are two types of protein powders on the market. One will state NUTRITION FACTS and the other will have SUPPLEMENT FACTS when it explains the amount of protein, carbs, fat calories and other nutrients in the powder. More on Filtering.
Other Packaging Information:
If you see this, you are consuming a supplement that may make unfounded statements: "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease." (You will typically not see this statement on a NUTRITION FACTS label.)
The following is especially important if you participate in programs that test for performance enhancers: "Free of banned substances."Our products are tested for athletic banned substances in compliance with the NSF International Certified for Sport® program, which includes semi-annual facility audits, verifying that no NSF 306-Certification Guideline Annex A List banned substances exist in our facility. (Some proteins / other supplements may have banned substances / unneeded fillers).
When To Add More Protein
Notice I did not say "supplement" more protein. It is up to you how you add more protein to your diet. You can do it with REAL FOOD like boiled eggs, more chicken and tuna fish, snacking on nuts (especially almonds) throughout the day, and adding more meat to your diet. If that is not appealing or possible, a good (food grade) protein supplement will come in handy especially when needed due to an increased volume of activity. The harder you train, the more protein your muscles will need for recovery. But practice moderation.
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