Protein shakes are the most popular forms of protein supplements. There is way too much marketing around them and very less factual information. The supplement companies want you to believe that it is a miracle drug without which you can forget about any gains or performance improvements. This is simply not true. But neither are they the chemical concoction that they are made out to be. Here is what you should know about taking protein supplements:
- In limited calories you get a great protein boost – A glass of low fat milk has about 100 calories and only 8gms of proteins. Compare that to a protein shake that can deliver upto 20-25g of proteins in 100-120 calories!
- You do not need them if you are within your calorie limit and meet your protein requirements – If you have are exceeding your calorie limit to meet your protein requirements, then replacing a few items in your diet with a protein shake is a good idea. Wit this, you will be meeting your protein intake and will be within your calorie limit.
- Protein supplements by themselves will not help you gain muscles or lose weight – Think of them like food, they are just calories in your overall diet as any other good protein source. If you are not active or using your muscles, the extra calories get converted to fat. In order to get any gains in muscle size, or athletic performance, you need to increase your protein turnover by pushing your physical limits atleast a few times a week.
- There are good protein supplements AND there are garbage ones. By ‘garbage protein supplements’, I refer to the ones laden with artificial sweeteners and over-processed to their limits.They will do more harm to your body than good (more detailed article on this is coming soon!).If you are taking protein supplements, it is to help heal your body and progress it on its healthy way. Your protein selection should also keep this in mind and you should choose wisely. I will review popular brands of supplements in this week and by the end of the week you will be able to easily tell apart the great ones from the lousy ones. 😉
A lot of people are also concerned about the ‘side-effects’ of taking too much protein. Studies have indicated that the body starts showing toxicity signs above 250g of protein consumed in a day. It saturates its ability to convert ammonia to urea and the ammonia stays on in your body causing toxicity (Ref1)**. This works out to be ~50% in a 2,000 calorie diet.
Most habitual diets were found to have 10-14% of their calories from protein. If you are physically active or have started a new fitness regime or are looking to increase your lean muscle mass, you would want your protein to be close to 20% of your total calorie intake. Professional body builders go as high as 35%.
Studies have indicated that population that have characteristically high protein diets tend to live under healthier conditions, whereas those with habitually lower intakes are likely to be exposed to infections and similar diseases (Ref2). If you suffer from any of the low protein symptoms of fatigue, tiredness, hair fall and/ or brittle nails, you should definitely explore if your are deficient in your protein intake.
Tracking your Protein intake:
> Find out here how much protein you need to take based on your weight and current physical activity levels.
> Log your food intake into a smart app like myfitnesspal and find out your average daily protein consumption.
> If you fall short, modify your diet by including lean sources of proteins like eggs, chicken breasts, fish, cottage cheese, etc.
In conclusion, when it comes to convenience, a high protein source and limiting your calorie intake a good protein shake is a great addition to your diet. I take protein shakes only in the months that I want to increase my lean body weight as I find it difficult to meet my protein requirement from my diet alone.
However, good protein shakes are expensive. If convenience is a big factor in your consideration and you can afford to pay for it, then opt for protein shakes else whole foods are any time more preferable.
Continue Reading about Protein Shakes: All You Wanted to Know About Protein Shakes (Part 1- The Basics)
Ref1: Rudman D et al. Maximal rates of excretion and synthesis of urea in normal and cirrhotic subjects. J Clin Invest. 1973 Sep;52(9):2241-9.
Ref2: Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations Document. Principles of Estimating Protein Requirements. http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/aa040e/AA040E05.htm. Last accessed May 2015.
**Note: The toxicity levels were determined for normal individuals. This might not hold true for someone like say ‘The Rock’ (aka Dwayne Johnson) as his lean muscle mass is so huge that his protein turnover rate (/utilisation rate) would be several times that of normal individuals referred to in these studies.