Who Needs Them?
Not many people know that
one of my biggest professional and personal interests is in sports and exercise
I am a bit(!) of
an exercise junkie myself and I enjoy helping people to achieve their ideal
body composition for their particular sport through optimal nutrition.
One of the
things that comes up time and time again in the world of sports nutrition is
protein supplementation and you can buy THOUSANDS of different protein
supplements online in the most obscure flavours – peanut butter and jelly protein
So what I
thought I would do is sum up what we know about how much protein is needed for
different exercise intensities, the best sources of protein and optimum timing
of protein intake. So here goes…
protein do you need?
depends on three important things. The first is your weight, because if you are
bigger, you need more protein; the second is what activity you are doing and
the third is what you are trying to achieve.
For people who
are exercising regularly, for more than an hour every day, you need 1-1.2 grams
of protein, per kilogram, per day.
So if I weighed
10stone (for maths ease), that’s 63.5kg so I would need 63.5-76.2g of
protein per day.
To give you an
idea, a large chicken breast contains 64g of protein. So even if I am
exercising for an hour every day, at 63.5kg one chicken breast would meet my
needs. Do I need supplements? Nope.
If I decided
that I wanted to be an endurance athlete and started training to run
marathons (professionally). We think that I might get some benefit from
increasing my protein intake to 1.2-1.4g per kilo per day. Which works out to be 76.2-88.9g protein per day.
So as well as my
large chicken breast, I might also drink a glass of milk (10g protein)
and eat an egg (8g protein) which would give me 82g of protein. Do I need
protein supplements? NOPE
If I decided
that I wanted to be a body builder and get a massive booty and a chick
pack (and maybe I do…) then we think that as a maximum – and this goes
for everyone, not just women – as a MAXIMUM, we might use 1.7g of protein, per kilogram, per day.
That would be
108g of protein per day at 63.5kg.
So I might have
2 eggs and a glass of milk at breakfast, tuna salad for lunch (17g protein in ½ tin), and
chicken for dinner (plus some carbs and fruit and vegetables throughout the
day). So just eating like a normal human gives me 107g protein. EVEN FOR BODY
BUILDING that is all you need. No more. No supplements needed.
Now obviously, I
am talking about a 63.5kg person here. If you are already a large muscly man
(and hi by the way…if you are) then you might weigh something more
like 85 or 90kg. That is when the convenience of protein shakes plays a role.
If I was a 90kg
male body builder and I decided that I needed 1.7g of protein per day to
maintain my muscle mass, I would need 153g of protein per day and so my protein
take would need to be something like:
And that’s is
quite a lot to get through. I know guys can eat a lot but never the less that
is a lot of protein to try and eat in a day.
So, if you take
the average protein supplement, you’re typically looking at 30g of protein per
serving. So our friend in the example above could skip his morning milk (20g
protein) and one of his eggs (8g) and enjoy the convenience of drinking his
shake on the way into the office (I’m starting to like the sound of this guy).
It is important
to remember that there is no benefit to taking more than 2 grams of protein per
kilo per day. You will just pee out the extra protein and that is literally
money down the toilet. LITERALLY. We used to worry about too much protein being
a strain on your kidneys too but unless you have a kidney problem it isn’t
harmful, just wasteful and making your body work harder than it needs to.
When we talk
about sources of protein we need to consider the building blocks of proteins
which are called amino acids. Every protein food has a different amino acid
profile, for example, the protein found in meat, dairy, eggs and fish has a
very different amino acid profile than the protein found in tofu, almonds and
lentils. We all need plenty of the amino acids that we call ‘essential amino
acids’ (these are sometimes called ‘branch chain amino acids’ BCAAs in the body
building world) and foods from animal sources contain all of these essential
amino acids where are vegetarian and vegan sources are much more limited. I’m
not being mean about vegetarian or vegan foods. It’s just a science fact.
Despite what the
protein shake manufacturers will have you believe, the ideal amino acid profile
can be provided by something that is available in almost every shop in the
country and its skimmed milk. Milk doesn’t have a website or a promo team
(except for me) but it is cheap and doesn’t contain any weird ingredients or
additives or flavourings and it is THE MOST EFFECTIVE ‘supplement’ for muscle
recovery and growth.
And don’t even
think about talking to me about how milk isn’t healthy because cave men didn’t
drink it or because of hormones or anything else. Do you think cave men had
protein shakes? DO YA?!
Whey protein is
popular and is made from milk but has been played around and had additives
crammed into it in the manufacturing process so you actually lose some of the
benefits of just drinking milk…and it will cost you twice as much.
One thing to
remember is that up to 50% of the world’s population are lactose intolerant
which means that they can’t digest milk properly which causes stomach cramps
and wind. When people take loads of protein supplements this often happens. If
you think this applies to you, buy milk with the lactose predigested (Lactofree
milk) or buy some lactase tablets which should solve the problem for you. If it
doesn’t, I know a good dietitian so look me up.
Timing of protein intake
We do know that
in order for muscles to recover and grow from exercise, we need to take some protein with some carbohydrate
after exercise. Not as much protein as the salesmen would have you believe, but
some. This also doesn’t need to be immediately after the exercise but within a
couple of hours or so and the carbohydrate bit is really important to help us
to use the protein effectively.
We also think
that there is likely to be some benefit to having around 6g of protein before
milk has an ideal balance of carbohydrate and protein so if you drank half a
pint on the way to the gym and half a pint on the way home, even for someone
who is a big bodybuilder that would be ideal.
your protein needs from the table below:
Don’t exceed 2g protein per kilo (I don’t care if you think you’re Arnie, this still applies to you)
THE OPTIMUM supplement is half a
pint of milk before and half a pint of milk after training
And don’t forget, anyone with a agenda to sell you
something will tell you that their product is the best. Milk doesn’t have a
publicist and I’m not benefiting from telling you this … so why would I lie?
For information about clinics, appointments and services visit: sophiedietitian.com