The consumption of this type of supplements has become popular. They are used to gain muscle mass and improve performance. But do you really need to take them?
With the end of the holidays come the good resolutions. And among them, back to the gym is a classic. However, we often want to see results quickly.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons that protein supplementation has become so widespread in recent years.
But do you really need extra protein If you’re just going to do some aerobic exercise and a little bit of machines? Are these supplements healthy? Can excessive consumption be harmful?
The doctor Raúl López-Grueso, scientific advisor to the General Council of Official Colleges of Dietitians-Nutritionists clarifies these and other doubts.
The protein supplement boom
The section dedicated to these complements nutritional supplements in sports equipment chains is becoming increasingly large. And also, stores specializing only in this type of product have proliferated in all cities.
To that extent is the consumption of protein supplements so prevalent? “Yes, it’s not just high-level athletes or bodybuilders who take these supplements, but also other people who go to the gym. Figures vary, but different studies provide data of between 50% and 99% of users who consume nutritional supplements, although not only protein,” he explains.
More than half of gym-goers take nutritional supplements
Dr. Lopez-Grueso, who is also a coordinator of the Specialization Group of Nutrition and Dietetics for Physical Activity and Sports (GE-NuDAFD). of the Spanish Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, tells us specifically about a study that was carried out in Spain among more than 400 people: “56% took some nutritional supplement, 28% of them were proteins.“.
There are different types
The expert tells us that you can find a multitude of supplements on the market, which “vary depending on the aminoacidogram, ie, the quantity and proportion of amino acids, of the protein/s that compose it“.
- Among the most frequent types of proteins are those of. whey, casein, ovalbumin, ovalbumin…, in addition to specific amino acids: essential, branched, leucine, etc.
What are they for?
The specialist says that protein supplements are often used primarily to gain muscle mass, but also to increase performance, “especially in athletes who are looking to improve their level by an adaptation and recovery from muscle damage caused by the training session or competition. Both effects are real and valid in the sporting context”.
However, he clarifies that the first thing to do before taking them is to assess whether they are necessary. It should be taken into account in each person:
- Its context.
- The biotype.
- The sport you play.
- Your daily energy expenditure and per activity.
“You also have to study the goals that the person intends to achieve with that supplementation. (which is not possible with food) and, above all, that it does not alter their state of health,” warns López-Grueso.
Before taking it, each person’s habits should be analyzed to assess whether they need it.
Hence it is important to consult with a dietitian-nutritionist before taking a protein supplement, or any other type, as he or she will best assess all of these factors.
Can they be detrimental to health?
The expert believes that supplements, in principle, are not a health risk in themselves, “provided that they do not possess polluting or harmful substances, nor can they be considered as doping substances”.
For this reason, specialists advise always buy approved products, which have passed quality controls, in specialized establishments. And if you buy them online, make sure that they are reliable websites of reputable brands.
If you are thinking of taking a supplement, get good advice on the quality of the product.
Apart from these aspects, it is important to take into account the person’s state of health and whether he or she suffers from any illnesses. “An excessive consumption of protein by persons suffering from any alteration can affect certain organic functions,” warns López-Grueso.
However, he notes, “Beliefs that high amounts of protein damage the liver or kidney are now being questioned when it comes to healthy and, especially, athletic populations with intakes of up to 3.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.”
How much protein is recommended to take?
Although it is advisable that a dietitian-nutritionist carries out an individualized study of the person before taking these supplements, Dr. López-Grueso explains what it is the recommended daily protein intake in each case:
- Non-athletes: it is recommended to ensure 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, “varying with age towards a slightly higher intake to ensure muscle maintenance. Until recently 0.8 g/kg was recommended”. In some people who do not achieve this amount through diet, supplementation may be indicated.
The recommended protein intake for athletes is 1.5 to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight
- Athletes: Between 1.5 and 2 g/kg, depending on the sport and type of training. “Or even more, being able to reach values higher than 3 g/kg in strength sports, without this being a risk”.
Until now it was believed that the effect of these supplements was greater if they were taken on a Time interval just after exercise, the so-called “anabolic window”. However, according to the specialist, today this idea is questioned.
the PROTEIN-RICH diet
Although protein supplements can be a good solution. in certain cases, it’s good to know that if you’re into going to the gym or practicing a sport more or less regularly, but not at a competitive level, it may be enough to take care of your diet and increase somewhat the consumption of certain foods.
“The results can be perfectly achieved by feeding, ensuring a protein intake according to the person’s body weight, the training they do, and their state of health,” says López-Grueso.
Among the most interesting foods when it comes to ensuring a good supply of protein, the expert highlights these:
- Of vegetable origin: “Legumes (soybeans are among the most widely used in various formats), nuts; even some that may seem to contain little quantity, such as rice or the protein that is marketed extracted from it, are an option”.
- Animal-based: Such as eggs, “With a high quality and bioavailability of its protein”, meat, fish, milk, and its derivatives. “if possible, unprocessed or minimally processed”.