What is Protein?
Proteins are basic chemical units of the body which are essential for cell growth and repair. About 15 percent of our body mass is made up of protein.
All body cells contain proteins but most of our protein are in our muscles, heart, liver kidneys and blood cells. Most proteins contain 50-1000 molecules of combinations of amino acids strung out on a long chain like a necklace.
Protein is manufactured in the body but only in small amounts, so we need to consume regular dietary protein. Fortunately, protein deficiency is extremely rare in the developed world.
Indeed, many medical experts believe that we consume far too much protein. [Example: the rise in Osteoporosis is attributed by some to excessive protein intake leaching calcium from bones.]
What are Protein Supplements?
Typically, protein supplements are made from extracts of protein rich foods. Types of protein supplements include: soy, whey protein isolate, and whey protein concentrate.
Protein supplements come in a variety of forms, including: protein bars, protein drink powders and protein tablets.
Are Protein Supplements Necessary?
It depends on your protein needs! The average person who eats a healthy balanced diet doesn’t need protein supplements. But if (for some strange reason) your diet is protein deficient or (more importantly) if you need to build/repair extra muscle then protein supplements might be a good idea.
How Effective are Protein Supplements at Building Muscle?
Evidence on protein supplements efficacy is unclear. For example, scientists have recently put protein supplements through rigorous tests, and the results have been disappointing. Consider these two studies which were reported in the February 1999 issue of the scientific journal Sports Medicine.
- Protein Supplements Trial No 1
Six inactive men and women and seven highly trained athletes spent 13 days on a diet that included a huge 2.4 grams of protein for kilogram body weight (approx. 218 grams for a 90 kilogram, or 200 pound person). They gained weight no faster than when they ate just 0.86 grams of protein per kilogram.
- Protein Supplements Trial No 2
An earlier study of 12 novice bodybuilders, all men, produced similar results. During four weeks of intensive training, the subjects who received 2.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day didn’t gain muscle or strength any faster than those who got only 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram.
After reviewing these studies, a leading physician reached the following conclusion: “although it is important for athletes to get an adequate amount of protein . . . consuming additional amounts of protein does not appear to promote muscle growth.”
Does This Mean Protein Supplements Don’t Build Muscle
Not necessarily. These tests on protein supplements were conducted several years ago. Meantime food and nutritional technology continues to improve. However, it may be advisable to lower your expectations of what protein supplements can do for your muscle mass. Besides, remember that protein doesn’t build muscle – exercise does.
Advice on Buying Protein Supplements
First, ask your doctor for advice about protein supplements. He/she may have specific recommendations about which protein supplements are best for you. Then, check out the best ones on your favorite fitness or weight-lifting forum and get as much advice as you can from other athletes or weight lifters.