In the past few years, protein supplements have been one of the hottest topics in sports nutrition. According to its proponents, they can help with everything from weight loss to improved athletic performance. So what is the truth about the claim for protein supplements?
It is certainly true that many endurance athletes become stuck in a carbohydrate-overload syndrome.
For years there was such an emphasis on carbohydrates as the ultimate fuel that for many athletes protein was almost excluded. Any regular exercise increases protein needs, as do tough workouts or races, and of course strength training. The key question then becomes, how much should I be getting?
While daily needs vary from person to person to person, the normal figure is based on your body weight and activity level, and is measured in grams per pound of body weight. For example:
Grams of Protein per pound body weight:
Sedentary adult 0.4
Recreational exerciser 0.5-0.75
Competitive athlete 0.6-0.9
Growing teenage athlete 0.8-0.9
Building muscle mass 0.7-0.9
Athlete restricting calories 0.8-0.9
Maximum usable amount by adults 0.9
So a competitive athlete weighing 160 pounds should eat around 128-144 g per day. You'd get that from a quart of skimmed milk, 1 can of tuna, and 8 ounces of chicken.
You can get your daily allowance from either natural foods or supplements. While it is theoretically better to stick to fresh, natural foods, that ignores the realties of most people's lives. A supplement taken daily will do no harm as long as it is not in addition to your regular food intake - remember, our bodies store any extra calories as fat!
Finally, it is worth noting that for those looking to lose weight, studies have shown that dieters lose more weight on a low carbohydrate than a high carbohydrate diet, even when the total calories consumed is the same.