Sports supplements are only used by bodybuilders, but an increasing number of individuals are using these supplements as part of their health and fitness routine, noted David Rogerson of news and analysis website The Conversation.
The sports supplement industry is gaining traction across the globe as protein powders, shakes, bars, and pills are now marketed to the average gym-goer to enhance their fitness. Protein is an important nutrient and each cell in your body has protein.
Protein helps build and repair tissues and produce hormones and enzymes. It is also a source of energy, but should you consider buying one?
Studies On Protein Supplements and Consumption
In their 2016 study, Prachi Deota and Suneeta Sanjay Chandorkar of journal portal Research Gate surveyed 59 products for their protein content, the source of protein utilized, and the cost of the products. Protein supplements were in the form of powder (83.05%), bar (13.56%), and beverage (3.39%).
The sources of protein in the supplements were whey protein concentrate (58.3%), whey protein isolate (50%), milk protein concentrate (23.3%), milk protein concentrate (23.3%), and milk protein isolate (21.6%). Other sources included micellar casein (20%), soy protein isolate (15%), hydrolyzed whey protein (8.3%), hydrolyzed whey protein isolate (8.3%), and egg albumin (8.3%).
The protein content per 100g of supplements were as follows: 80-90g (11.7%), 70-80g (30%), 60-70g (25%), 50-60g (6.6%), 40-50g (8.3%), 30-40g (8.3%), 20-30g (5%), and 0-10 g (3.3%). Likewise, sugar plus sweetener were found in 61.6% of protein supplements.
Some protein supplements contained only sweeteners (28.3%) or only sugar (10%). 90% of supplements contained sweeteners while 71.6% had sugar. The study showed that consumers have a wide variety of protein supplements to choose from.
Antonino Bianco and colleagues of BMC, an open-access publisher, administered a face-to-face questionnaire to 561 participants for their 2014 study, with 207 of those from the city center (CC) and 354 from the suburbs (SB) of Palermo, Italy. The authors found that 70.8% of all participants use supplements compared to 29.2% of those who don’t.
CC gyms users who consume protein supplements were 69.5% for men and 30.5% for women. In the SB, the figures were 93.1% for men and 6.9% for women. 5.5% of all participants consume supplements once a week and twice a week. 28% used supplements three times a week, 11% consumed them four times a week, and 36% used them five times a week. 12.8% used supplements seven times a week while only 1.2% of participants consumed supplements six times per week.
Other supplements consumed in association with protein supplements were vitamins (7.5%), creatine (14%), amino acids (39.2%), creatine + amino acids (29%), vitamins + amino acids (1.9%), and creatine + vitamins + amino acids (8.4%). Meanwhile, respondents turned to an instructor (37%), to themselves (33%), a physician (14%), a friend (11%), a nutritionist (3%), and the internet (1%).
The authors concluded that gym adepts who use protein supplements were unaware of objective recommendations for their protein intake, possibly perceiving their need for protein to be excessively high.
Types of Protein
Whey protein is one of the most common proteins that are best for everyday use, stated Cleveland Clinic, a non-profit academic medical center. Not only is it easily digested, whey protein has all of the essential amino acids. It boosts your energy and reduces stress levels. Another common protein is soy protein, which reduces high cholesterol levels and alleviates symptoms of menopause for some women. It can build bone mass, curbing the onset of osteoporosis.
Other types of are egg protein, which is released more slowly than whey and can be consumed throughout the day, and milk protein, which aids in muscle growth and immune function. Brown rice protein is also an alternative source of protein for vegetarians and for those who don’t consume dairy. Hemp protein contains omega-3 fatty acids while pea protein is an economic, highly digestible, and hypo-allergenic type of protein.
The Truth Behind Protein Supplements
Protein supplements are available online and over-the-counter and you have the option to take them before, during, and after training to enhance your performance and recovery, explained Azmina Govindji from the British Dietetic Association (BDA), as quoted by the National Health Service, the UK’s healthcare system. You can also add protein supplements to your food to increase its protein content or drink them in between meals as a snack.
However, you could also get the same benefits from consuming high-protein meals or adding them to your normal meals. Some examples of protein-rich foods are beef, lamb, pork, poultry, effs, dairy, beans, and tofu. For men and women, the Department of Health suggested consuming 55.5g and 45g of protein, respectively. Protein shakes may be convenient, but not all supplements serve as a replacement for your meals because they don’t have the same vitamins and minerals that a balanced diet would have. Bear in mind that excessive consumption of protein can increase your risk of osteoporosis and exacerbate existing kidney problems.
Advice For Gym-Goers Who Plan to Take or Are Taking Protein Supplements
Rick Miller of the BDA suggested incorporating a simple change in your food choices, as it will help enhance the protein content of your meal. For example, you can switch plain cereal and milk with Greek yogurt, muesli, and fruit. Then, start consuming your protein supplement, which should come from a reputable brand.
Before choosing or using a protein supplement, be sure to read the label, take the recommended serving size, and avoid consuming far more than what is necessary. According to Miller, this is not yet supported by current evidence. Consider asking your GP to refer you to a registered dietician regarding protein supplements. Children are not recommended to take these supplements, as there is a lack of scientific research surrounding its long-term effects.
Competitive powerlifter from Chesterfield, Chris Gibbons, said people may mistakenly perceive supplements as a shortcut to achieve their goals, which can be dangerous. However, protein supplements are not a substitute for hard work and dedication if you want to achieve the physique you want, Gibbons reminded. He added, “It's an act of discipline and must be earned through commitment to hard training and a good diet."
Protein supplements may not even be necessary as people can get their source of protein from food. However, if supplements help meet a person’s protein needs, it is recommended that they consult their physician and follow the recommended intake.