Protein Supplements Unveiled

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To assuage concerned readers; This post is in no way affiliated with MyProtein, it’s about YourProtein and there won’t be a single protein pun either so read on.

Protein supplements are like icing on a cake. They’re not necessary if that cake is just going to sit there. But if it’s a special cake that exercises a lot, that wants to maximise recovery, increase exercise load, build and preserve lean muscle then that cake probably needs protein supplements, I mean icing. This analogy is balls but you get the picture. Ideally we should attempt to hit our protein targets through whole foods, however there are only so many eggs and chickpeas one can eat and often there just isn’t time. Before I get into the types of supplements and finding the right one for you, let’s see if you need them at all.

Protein targets

Your protein target for the day is based primarily on your weight, gender, level of activity and your own metabolic rate, which is why these are simply ‘loose guidelines.’  If you’re hitting these ranges through whole foods like chicken, eggs, chickpeas etc, Go you, protein supplementation is not required at all. (Females generally aim for the lower end of the range and males the higher)

  • If you’re an athlete, very active person or bodybuilder type who is trying to lose body fat while preserving lean muscle mass while focusing on performance, the recommended daily intake for you is 1.5-2.2g/kg bodyweight some number between 1.5 and 2.2 multiplied by your body weight in kg to get the number of grams of protein you need per day. (or for the metrics out there: 0.68-1.0g/lb bodyweight) For example you’re a footballer, training 5 days/week, weighing 80kg AND you are trying to lower you body fat% while staying strong and muscular. You need between 120-180 grams of protein each day.
  • If you’re an athlete/very active person maintaining yourself and your performance OR a moderately active person attempting to lose body fat while preserving lean mass, then a daily intake of 1.0-1.5g/kg bodyweight (0.45-0.68g/lb bodyweight) is a decent goal. Either you’re in training with no major fat loss or muscle building goals or You’re going to Ibiza in a month, working out a decent amount and you want to lose your pudge but not your muscle, this is a good target.
  • If you don’t exercise very much , a sedentary human so to speak and you’re not looking to shape up then your daily protein goal should be at least 0.8g/kg bodyweight (0.36g/lb bodyweight) The Average sedentary man needs 56 grams/day and the average sedentary woman needs 46 grams/day just to get by.
  • If you’re obese (body fat over 20/30%) these guideline don’t exactly apply. They would completely overshoot your their protein requirements. You should place a higher priority on adjusting your calorie intake first to lose weight before worrying about supplements.

Sources of Protein Powder

Protein powder is the leading light in assisting you to hit your protein targets. Quality does matter. The ‘protein digestibility corrected amino acid score’ (PDCAAS) which has been adopted by the FAO/WHO, tells you the quality of the protein. It tells you: 1) how “complete” the protein is (complete meaning it provides all essential amino acids) and 2) how easily digestible the protein powder is. The PDCAAS gives protein sources a score from 0–1. 1 is the highest and most ideal. Protein can be made from a variety of sources like; whey, casein, hemp, pea, soy etc  so there’s one for everyone, even the vegans.

  • Whey & Casein (PDCAAS=1)

Remember Little Miss Muffet eating her ‘curds and whey’? Yeah? Casein is the curds and Whey is the ‘water-soluble’ part of milk. They are by-products of the transformation of milk to cheese. When a coagulant is added to the milk, whey and casein separate. Both are sources of all the essential amino acids, meaning they are complete. There is one big difference between them. Whey is a fast-digesting protein meaning it gets into the blood quicker than Casein which is slow. Whey quickly increases protein synthesis and Casein blocks protein breakdown, so they do have complementary effects. A combination of both might be ideal. So like a glass of milk…. ah Yeah (protein supplement industry crushed.) Whey is great for recovery because of it’s quick action, it also has anti-inflammatory effects which are obviously good for recovering muscles. It contains a high abundance of the important amino acid Leucine which is good for protein synthesis.

Casein leads to a slow, steady release of amino acids into your blood. It has gel-forming capabilities and so moves through the gut slowly and acts for a longer time period. A good time to take Casein would be before bed. Note on milk proteins: Watch out for acne breakouts here. Some people react badly to the dairy and so a vegan protein blend may work better for you in this case. Alarm bells also for the lactose intolerant readers as this will not sit well, just use an alternative protein powder.

  • Egg-White Protein Powder

Egg protein is also complete, it provides all of the essential amino acids that your body needs to maintain and repair body tissue – nb for weight training . It’s non dairy- a bonus for the lactose intolerants. It contains very little carbs- ideal for cutting. The protein content is very similar to that of whey and casein. Note: Egg protein powder is usually made by spray drying. Raw eggs should not be consumed over long periods so it’s best to use your Egg protein powder to make ‘protein pancakes’ like cook them in some way before consuming them. Salmonella is not fun, at all.

In terms of speed of digestion, egg protein is moderate and thus slower into the blood than whey protein but faster than casein. It may be ideal to combine whey and egg together as it will keep muscle protein synthesis going for longer than if you consumed just whey alone.

  • Plant sources

Pea PDCAAS: 0.69, Rice: 0.47, Hemp: 0.46

These proteins score lower on the PDCAAS as they don’t provide all nine essential amino acids by themselves so they’re usually found mixed together in a plant-based protein powder blend. Additionally rice and hemp proteins are not as easily digestible. They are good as they are be hypoallergenic, a great dairy alternative if you do suffer from lactose intolerance or acne breakouts. They’re also vegan and vegetarian friendly and more ethically sound.

Creatine

Looking to get massive? This is probably what you’re looking for. Creatine is a molecule produced in the body. One that stores high-energy phosphate groups in the form of phosphocreatine. This ‘Phosphocreatine’ releases energy to aid cellular function during stress. Creatine can be found in some foods, mostly meat, eggs, and fish. It does make you big as it increases overall weight due to water retention. It draws water into your muscles and away from the rest of the body. This sounds dehydrating to me and so not really functional for an athlete and better for aesthetics in i.e. ‘getting swole’. (Potential benefit athletes if used correctly-I’d consult an expert here though) Up to 5g/day of creatine is pretty safe to take. If you’re seriously looking into creatine, you need to research loading and maintenance phases as it’s quite specific to the individual. Make sure when taking creatine that you drink sufficient water or you’ll get pretty bad cramps. Beware during the creatine ‘loading phase’ diarrhea and nausea can occur. Spread it out throughout the day and take with food. It doesn’t go well with zinc magnesium and iron due to competition with calcium. If you’re an adolescent, don’t take creatine at all. Anyone taking Muscle- bulking agents at this age are “at risk of developing potentially career-ending injuries caused by ruptures of the tendinous insertion of over- developed muscles into an immature skeleton” So avoid until you and your skeleton are nice and mature.

Amino acid supplementation (esp BCAAs)

Amino acids make up protein. There are 9 ‘essential’ amino acids. Essential? Our bodies can’t produce them so we need to eat them Supplementing with isolated amino acids or groups of amino acids (BCAAs) is more specific than protein supplements and involves lower doses. If you’re into the gym already you’ve probably already heard or ‘BCAAs’ and maybe wondered wtf. Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs) are three amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine that benefit muscle growth and reduce fatigue during exercise. BCAAs are not only found in supplements, but also in foods such as eggs and meat, so supplementation is unnecessary for most. For people with low dietary protein intake, BCAA supplementation helps a lot. Supplementing them maintains the level of serum BCAAs during exercise. A serum decline would otherwise lead to fatigue. Leucine is the strongest BCAA in terms of inducing muscle protein synthesis, Valine is the weakest. Isoleucine increases glucose uptake and the usage of glucose during exercise.

Protein Supplements and weight loss?

Meh. Focusing on achieving an overall caloric deficit will be far more beneficial to you right now. Protein will help you to hold onto your lean muscle while losing weight. It may help keep you fuller meaning it will lead to you eat less calories overall. But you really should get enough protein from your diet if your only goal is losing fat. Be wary there are calories in supplements too.

Pre-workout?

Mmm. I would air caution here. Most unbiased trials show that if there is only minimal performance benefit. I can’t really tell you if they’re good or bad because each brand has such a different formula. Most of the usual ingredients are safe in moderation but potentially harmful in the high concentrations found in these supplements, especially when combined with intense exercise. Pre-workout formulae usually contain caffeine, creatine, amino acids and beetroot juices to increase nitric oxide levels in the blood and dilate your blood vessels , increase blood flow for that ever coveted ‘pump’. Dilate your blood vessels too much and you’ll give yourself nosebleeds.. Nice. Some pre-workouts contain absurd ingredients like deer antler velvet to increase levels of insulin growth factor-1. Your body will do that itself when necessary ok.

Pre-workout supplements raise your heart rate. In combo with strenuous cardiovascular activity you could be putting too much strain on your heart. Sudden adult death syndrome is a thing and they do not know what causes the hearts of young guys and girls to stop, usually during exercise. I’m being morbid, I know. I just want you to be safe. Don’t mess with your heart<3

I’m not saying don’t take them but I just dunno about all that risk. I favour a coffee, I also like jellybabies or like yano, a banana. I like these because the caffeine and carbs give me energy without the risk of going into cardiac arrest. It’s up to you, I think no. If you do take it, do a bit of research. Google the ingredients, check the concentrations and make sure their safe.

Me?

Well I’m a girl, a relatively new to the gym-world girl. Initially I was a bit afraid of protein supplements as I had very little understanding of them. What about my kidneys? What if it makes me fat? I didn’t really think I needed supplements. To be fair for the most part I do get enough protein from my diet, but not always.

High intensity training periods tend to fall at the same time as end of semester exams. Meaning just as my training load increases, my diet falls out of whack and I’m surviving on flapjacks and coffee. So I absolutely need supplements at times like these to ensure my recovery doesn’t suffer.

For the next few weeks I’m just doing Strength and Conditioning and no running so I won’t need much supplementation. I do put half a scoop (quarter of a serving) of diet whey protein in my oats simply because it tastes nice and keeps me fuller for longer. When Winter training kicks off, efficient recovery will be important so combined with a high protein diet, I’ll be having whey protein after every gym session. I’m not actually 100% sure yet about track sessions, it really will depend on the session itself and how I feel. I’ll do that for a couple of weeks on then switch to egg-white protein powder simply because I don’t like letting my body get too used to anything.

Wow, you read ALL of that. You either got to here because you’re determined to poke holes in my information or you’re incredibly dedicated to your gains. Either way, I’m honestly impressed. I used an array of very reliable sources and studies but nonetheless here’s a disclaimer for you: I am in no way qualified to give you any of this advice (yet) and hold no responsibility for anything that happens as a result of you taking it. i.e. If you die, please don’t sue me. Oh wait..

References

https://examine.com

https://www.livescience.com/53095-do-preworkout-supplements-work.html

http://www.irishhealth.com/article.html?id=657\

https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/nutrients-food-and-ingredients/protein.html?start=2

https://blog.myfitnesspal.com/need-know-protein-supplements/

5 comments

  1. Cool post. I’ve used whey protein and creatine monohydrate daily for years along with my weight training. I’m by no means “massive,” but I think those two supplements helped me go from a lean 170 to a lean 200. Again, though, it’s taken years. Other than those two and some over the counter fish-oil, I don’t take supplements. Nothing else I’ve tried has seemed to do much good.

    Regarding the creatine, I’ve never had cramps or any other side effect, and I used it when I was a long distance runner without problems. I do only take 5mg a day, though, just as you stated.

    1. Thanks for your feedback! Ammounts taken, frequency and exercise level are also crucial!

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