Protein supplements for fitness—is it a good idea?

Protein supplements have become an essential part of the lives of many athletes, sportspersons, and bodybuilders, enabling them to perform at their best. However, the benefits of protein supplements aren’t limited to weight lifters. People like us who want to trim that belly fat or tone up their muscles can use protein supplements to their advantage.

With a huge variety and easy availability, everyone seems to be turning towards protein supplements, so why not you?

What is protein? And why is it important?

Protein is a macronutrient found in meats, dairy products, nuts, and beans to name a few. It is comprised of amino acids which are the building blocks of proteins and proteins are building blocks of the muscle mass, according to NIH. Protein makes up to 15% of the human body weight. One gram of protein contains 4 calories.

When protein is broken down in the body, it gives energy and results in increased metabolism and muscle mass. Protein helps in improving the immune system and has satiety effects, this was stated by Jessica Crandall a registered nutritionist and certified diabetes educator. This was also supported by two studies published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2014 and 2015.

Proteins have a very positive effect on physical activity and overall health. It may also help in reducing blood pressure.  According to a study, “A protein mixture, consisting of 20% pea, 20% soy, 30% egg, and 30% milk-protein isolate, reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure in overweight individuals (body mass index between 25 and 35)”.

Proteins are also used for improving the production of hormones, immune system components, cellular messengers and nucleic acids. It is impossible for our body to build up structures of different tissues and organs as they are on its own. Also, proteins help with muscle recovery and growth.

 

What is a protein supplement?

Protein supplements are getting more common each day. You enter a gym or a bodybuilding club and you can hear rattles of protein shake bottles. Everyone boasts about the supplement they take. At grocery and health food stores, you can find aisles packed with a variety of protein supplements; each of them claiming to be the best.

Protein supplements are an easy way of getting everything in one package (just a scoop or a bar a day). Good physique, enhanced performance, less tiredness — protein supplements promise them all.

Types of protein supplements:

Protein supplements can be categorized as:

  • Concentrated: This is by far the most easily available and affordable protein in the market. Beginners at protein supplements can take up this form of supplement. It can be tough to digest for some and few may experience bloating and uncomfortable feelings in the stomach. It can be used pre-workout as well as post workout supplement.
  • Isolated: These are a step higher than the concentrated ones and obviously, more costly too. They are quickly absorbed by the body and thus provide better results for muscle growth and recovery. They are ideal for people who are following a low carb diet.
  • Hydrolysate: They are the most expensive and the best quality protein available in the market. They are the quickest to be absorbed. Most of the bodybuilders and athletes use this type as it gives out quick and required results.

 

Which protein supplement should you use?

When there is a huge variety of a thing available, we get confused about which one to choose. There are supplements consisting of different types of proteins or even blends of different proteins. Each type of protein has a different purpose. Before choosing the right one for you, you need to know the purpose of each protein and then decide the one that best matches your needs.

  • Whey protein:

The most popular protein supplement on the market is whey protein. Whey is actually a by-product created during the process of turning milk into cheese. It is known to have all the nine essential amino acids needed by the body. It promotes muscle growth which ensures better physique and improved health. It also supports cardiovascular health and increases metabolism. Since whey protein supplements have a pleasant taste and are water soluble, it is considered the best choice among the protein supplement users.

 

  • Casein Protein

Casein is produced when the protein from milk is separated from carbohydrates and fats in a special process. People with a lactose intolerance can be allergic to this protein. Since casein protein is not quickly absorbed and has a different release process; it is not the best choice to be taken as a post workout supplement. It is expensive and unpleasant in taste. This means if you come across a Casein protein supplement that tastes good; it must be full of artificial flavors and sweeteners.

 

  • Egg Protein

Egg protein comes from eggs, obviously. It is a complete protein made by separating out the yolks and dehydrating the egg whites. This was the most popular protein before whey protein came into the limelight. Egg protein is not as quickly digested as whey but is quicker than casein. An ideal supplement would be the combination of egg, whey and casein proteins in it. This will ensure muscle growth at all times of the day. This protein might not be suitable for people who are allergic to eggs!

 

  • Soy protein

Soy beans are one of the few plant protein sources that offer all of the essential amino acids—good news for Vegans! The protein is concentrated or isolated after the soy beans have been hulled and dried into soy flour.

Soy protein boosts the nitric oxide levels which help in improving the release of growth hormones and helps in muscle recovery after workouts. It also improves body’s immune system and ensures healthy bones. Soy also helps in preventing cardiovascular diseases and reduces the risk of certain cancers.

 

  • Rice protein

Surprise! Rice is not all carbohydrates, it does have some protein too. Today, brown rice is becoming a standard source for vegetarian protein powder. The best thing about rice protein is the fact that it is hypoallergenic–meaning it will not cause allergies, it is easily digestible and almost all of it used by the body.

 

Who needs proteins?

At this point, you might be wondering, who needs extra protein in their diet? Protein is needed by,

  • Someone who is growing. A teenager needs more protein to fuel his workouts because his body is in the growing process and might do with some extra protein for better growth.
  • Someone who is a beginner. If a person is new to exercise and trying to build muscle, he will require more protein than usual.
  • Someone who is thinking of increasing their workouts.If a person normally works out for half an hour a few times a week but decides to train for a marathon, his body will need more workout sessions – and more protein.
  • Someone who is recovering from an injury. Athletes with injuries may frequently require more calories to help them re-cover.
  • Someone who wants to become a vegan.People who pursue a vegetarian lifestyle eliminate a number of regular protein origin from their diet, including meat, chicken, and fish, and other dairy products and eggs as well. They require protein to fulfill their diet deficiencies.

 

How much protein is actually needed?

According to the studies, around 10% to 35% of calories come from protein on a daily basis. The amount of protein an average person should consume depends on his/her age, gender and the level of physical activity. This clearly indicates that an athlete or a body builder does need additional protein in order to build muscle mass and perform better.

The ideal protein intake should be from 0.8 grams to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of the body weight.

Benefits of protein supplements:

Although many studies and dieticians state that a daily requirement of protein can easily be fulfilled by taking a healthy and balanced diet, it is not as easy and true for many. In today’s busy life, people do not have time to prepare healthy meals and monitor their nutrition.

After a workout, the body needs to be replenished and refueled quickly, which is not possible through normal foods as they take a lot of time in getting digested. A protein shake or a protein bar are best choices in such cases. It starts working within 30 minutes of consumption and promises a fixed amount of protein intake regularly. In short, it saves time, effort and money.

 

You need to be wise to know your protein needs. Choose a protein supplement that best suits your needs. A good protein supplement is very beneficial and helps you remain fit and healthy.

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