With today’s commercial marketing and constant celebrity endorsements of the latest protein supplements, it has recently become one of the most frequently asked questions with regards to nutrition:
“How much protein should I have per day?!?”
Despite common misconception, protein will not make the average gym-goer turn into Mr Olympia overnight. Although it can certainly help you on your way, it is more likely to result in excessive weight gain and potentially liver and kidney failure if used incorrectly.
Protein, like fats and carbohydrates, is a macronutrient which the body requires from external sources to function correctly. Although all three of these macronutrients can be used to supply energy, the main role of protein is to aid in muscular growth and repair. When muscles are subject to exercise, muscular breakdown occurs which is when protein intake is vital. As the protein requirement is dependent on the exercise intensity and duration as well as the weight and muscle mass of each individual, a standardised intake of protein per day for the whole population is not possible. As a general rule of thumb for an average person who exercises 2-4 times per week, 1 gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (70kg bodyweight = 70g protein) per day, is usually sufficient. Protein intake can however, be significantly higher depending on the type of exercise and individual training goals with some elite athletes and bodybuilders consuming double the average intake. A more detailed chart (shown below) provides a more specific measurement of protein intake, depending on activity level and type of exercise.
Recreationally active adult:
Endurance training athlete:
Resistance training athlete (maintenance):
Resistance training athlete (progression):
Elite level athletes:
1.0-1.4g of protein per KG of bodyweight
1.2-1.4g of protein per KG of bodyweight
1.4-1.6g of protein per KG of bodyweight
1.4-1.8g of protein per KG of bodyweight
1.4-2.0g of protein per KG of bodyweight
Do I Need Protein Supplements?
Another recurring question which is surrounded by commercial fallacies is “do I need supplements for the best results?” Again the answer to this question lies with each individual’s lifestyle, diet, training goals, etc. In theory, providing that a strict diet is followed which meets the nutritional demands of chosen selected training regime, supplementation is not a necessity to any diet. However in practice, setting a lifetime goal of planning and structuring your entire food intake around your training is not realistically achievable for most people. For this reason, nutritional supplementation is a multi-billion pound industry, providing an easy and effective way of meeting your dietary requirements without carrying a cooked chicken everywhere you go!
Which Protein Supplement is Best?
With hundreds of brands and varieties of protein on the market all claiming that they are the “Holy Grail” of the nutritional supplement world, it can often be difficult for beginners to choose the correct one for themselves. More worryingly, it has recently been found by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) that certain supplements available on the UK market have been found to contain illegal substances such as steroids and HGH (human growth hormone), resulting in many professional athletes unknowingly “doping” before an event. For this reason it is recommended to select an established and FDA approved brand (Maximuscle, PhD, MyProtein, etc.) when choosing supplements. Once you have chosen a brand you trust, it can still be unclear as to which type of protein is best for you. The selection of the most popular types of protein on the market to date along with a brief description of each is shown below. As a final point, when choosing a protein supplement, always check the nutrition index on the packaging for its sugar content. Many recovery shakes on the market offer an “all in one” containing a high carbohydrate content which may not be suitable for everyone (especially if you’re looking to drop the lbs). This is also the case when opting for protein bars instead of powders; although a potentially healthy snack alternative, many bars are packed with sugars!
- Whey Protein – This is the most common type of protein available, Derived from a dairy source, it offers a complete and cost effective protein.
- Casein Protein – Also derived from diary sources, casein contains the same features as Whey but with a much slower digestion time.
- Plant Protein – Plant based proteins can be derived from a variety of sources including peas, soya and even hemp is fat free, cholesterol free, gluten free, and dairy free! It is also popular among vegetarians and vegans as they contain no animal derivatives.
- Egg Protein – This supplement is usually made from pure egg whites and do not contain yolk, making them fat and cholesterol free. They are also dairy free making them a popular choice for lactose intolerant consumers.