Saturday, July 29, 2017

Things to know about protein supplements

A little of my history so you'll know where I'm coming from. I've been involved in personal fitness training for about 26 years. When I started the protein powders were soy, egg or casein (a milk product). Proteins were rated on absorption, a 1 was the highest and each type was graded down. Eggs and casein had a 1, chicken breasts, beef, and soy had .8 or .9, beans and rice were around .6 .  It was based on how much of the actual protein a body could absorb. Whey came on the market in the early 90's when someone found a way to economically filter the whey byproduct from cheese manufacturing.  Whey has an absorption rate equal to or slightly higher than eggs so that's why today you see almost exclusively whey proteins. Protein powders are nutritional supplements and therefore are not closely controlled by the FDA. Meaning that I can make a general claim on a protein label and unless you can prove it false it's not against the law. Drugs are different, they must prove all claims before they can put it on a label.  As an example, I could put a label on a bottle of water claiming that it is "super hydrating" whatever that might mean. Unless someone can prove that it's not then I can keep the label as is. There are no specific grades of protein, meaning that pharmaceutical or medical protein has no real meaning because there is no standard. Again, unless someone can prove that it's not, then I can keep the label. Protein supplements typically have two markets, bodybuilders and weight loss patients. The label that says medical or pharmaceutical is aimed at the weight loss patient. Magazines target bodybuilders, and if you do some research you'll find that some of the magazines are owned in part by the supplement manufacturers. If you read the magazines and follow their guidelines then one should consume a protein supplement both before and after exercise, kind of like the shampoo bottle that says to wash, rinse and repeat. Why? The typical hype is that your body is hungry post workout and you need to add protein right now. The problem with that is the fact that the body rebuilds at rest, typically when sleeping. There were some studies done in the 80's and 90's which show this supposed window of nutritional opportunity that lasts for about an hour post exercise. The reality though is that if you're eating balanced nutrition you'll probably eat within an hour anyway. More studies show that delaying any calorie consumption for the first hour will burn off more calories. So depending on the goal, if you want to lose weight, don't eat for an hour after workout.  Look at protein like gas in your car. You can fill the tank up with say 10 gallons and if you get 20 miles to a gallon you can drive 200 miles before refueling. If the tank only holds 10 gallons and you try to put in more it will just run out on the ground. So if you drive at 65 and stop about every 3 hours and you won't run out, and it's highly unlikely that you'll drive 200 miles an hour. Most people need about 1/2 gram of protein per pound of body weight a day, weight loss patients and performance athletes a little more, maybe .6-.8 gm/pound. Space that over the whole day and you'll always have some gas in the tank. Another item is the amount the body can process in any given time. It will vary by person but on average if you consume more than 30 grams in one sitting the odds are that some of that will simply be flushed out. Since whey is the primary supplement today I'll just look at that. There are two types of whey, concentrates and isolates. Back in the late 90's and early 2000's the concentrates weren't as good as the isolates. Today that's changed a lot, they're both very close on content and quality of protein. Some prefer the taste of one over the other. I think the isolates dissolve a little better but I don't like the after taste. When buying a supplement read the whole label, not just the nutrition but the ingredients too. The first two or three items should be proteins, if there are more than five items or if they list amino acids then they're cooking the books on protein content. Also is the claim the actual amount of protein or are they claiming an equivalent? There are companies who claim their protein is better absorbed and they compare it to a higher dose, one company says that you get 30 grams from a 15 gram serving, physics says that's not possible. Again since this is a supplement, and as long as they add that asterisk disclaimer, until someone proves otherwise they keep the label. The bottom line is this, read the whole label. Be sure that what you're getting is actually what you want. Don't give in to advertising hype and folklore. 

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