Last updated on August 11th, 2020 at 03:32 pm
Nowadays the whole of the internet is flooded with fitness articles, blogs, and videos. At present, there are various fitness models on social media with hundreds and thousands of followers inspiring an entire generation to be physically fit and healthy individuals. Fitness has emerged as an entire industry over the past few decades. Some people are too dedicated and train really hard to maintain a good & agile physique. Well, one of the major parts of their fitness regime is protein supplements. Isn’t it?
Protein supplements have become very popular in the bodybuilding and gyming community. It gives results faster and catalyzes one’s approach towards building a good physique. But too few of these supplements make the process of muscle gain slower, whereas, too many of them invites severe side effects. So, what’s the current amount? Why do we need protein for muscle gain? Let’s try to understand what’s the science behind it.
What are Proteins?
In order to understand the functioning of protein shakes, we must recall, what exactly proteins are? Proteins are long chains of amino acids that form the basis of all life. Most importantly, the human body is made of trillions of cells and each cell has thousands of different proteins. Proteins are like tiny machines inside the cells that get the job done.
So, protein plays an important role in the building and repairing muscle fibers of our body. Well, there are three types of muscles in a human body, namely – cardiac, skeletal, and smooth, we are talking about skeletal muscles. Natural sources of proteins are meat, eggs, fish, pulses, etc.
What led to the invention of Protein Shakes?
In the earlier time, when the action of proteins was well known, it was recommended as include at least 0.8g/kg of body weight of protein in a balanced diet. This means an average human weighing 60 kg will require an everyday dose of 48g of proteins which can be obtained from a single piece of chicken breast. Now, with the upcoming bodybuilding and various sports, athletes require an average of about 1.8g/kg of body weight of proteins to make up for their practice and training regime. This means an 80kg athlete will require a total of 144g of proteins per day. Well, that’s a lot of protein. This will be obtained roughly by the consumption of 24 eggs (which includes approx. 1872 calories) or 4 pieces of chicken breasts (which includes approx. 924 calories). This was were the major issue arise, in order to fulfill the protein requirement, they had to consume a lot of calories as well.
It was in the 1970s and 1980s protein supplements became popular which isolated proteins from various sources and were contained a smaller number of calories. For example, the requirement of 144g of protein can be easily met by an average of 6 scoops of protein powder (which contains approx. 660 calories). Since then, protein powders with various concentrations are available in the market.
Science of Muscle Building
Muscles are developed through a process of muscle damage, followed by repair and new growth of myonuclei, which controls muscle contraction (strength). The more myonuclei a muscle has, the bigger and stronger it is.
Due to the repeated bouts effect, it becomes harder to increase myonuclei and achieve growth. This is why people make faster progress when they first start resistance training programs, and progress slows down as they become more developed/experienced.
Resistance training builds muscle:
The best way to build muscle is through resistance training and progressive overload. However, different programs target different goals for hypertrophy (mass) versus strength. People new to resistance training should focus on building a decent base level of strength and muscle definition, as well as practicing good form, before trying to add specificity to their program.
There are hundreds of programs out there. Keeping it simple in the beginning is the best approach for most.
Compound exercises are the biggest bang for the buck:
Squats, presses, rows, and deadlifts are the best for utilizing the most muscle groups and joints, inducing the most stress, burning the most energy, and allowing a lifter to follow a progressive overload approach to training.
New trainees shouldn’t waste time with a ton of supportive or accessory exercises but just focus on getting strong and developing confidence and proficiency with essential movement patterns. As they start to identify individual strengths and weaknesses within the basics, they can add exercises to improve weak areas, muscle imbalances, range-of-motion, etc.
Muscle is made while you eat and sleep:
Nutrition and recovery are extremely important for people who lift weights. There are millions of philosophies on how to manage either. Many are crap. Be careful who you listen to and filter constantly.
Protein is the primary macronutrient that promotes muscle growth.
- The RDA recommendation for a person’s protein needs don’t account for what a weight lifter requires.
- Lifting heavy weights results in the breakdown of muscle tissue, which increases the need for protein in order for the muscle to continuously repair and rebuild.
- Trainees should strive for 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Most people agree with that range (more or less). Some lifters exceed that amount, but I haven’t seen evidence indicating it’s necessary or beneficial.
Carbohydrates are a matter of exhausting debate.
- People who say carbs aren’t necessary aren’t wrong.
- People who think more carbs are optimal aren’t wrong.
- People who understand it’s specific to the individual, their goals, and eight dozen other factors are absolutely correct.
Bottom line on carbs:
- Carbs are the preferred source of energy for high-intensity activities, including weight training.
- Optimal carb intake is really a matter of a person’s individual goals and personal preferences, as well as physiological factors like metabolism, overall health, genetics, etc.
- How a person train impacts the need for carbs:
- Trainees who follow low-carb diets in order to reduce body fat often need to carb-cycle to maximize performance in the gym.
- Lifters trying to gain muscle mass need more carbs to achieve caloric surplus and fulfill higher energy requirements in order to lift heavyweights.
Recovery is a huge area of confusion too. Muscles are built during recovery, so it’s extremely important to optimize sleep and recovery practices. However, the extent of how much recovery is needed is based on the individual, the intensity and frequency of training, abilities, individual adaptation to stress, and several hundred other things…
Conventional wisdom says don’t train the same muscle groups two days in a row or more than once, maybe twice a week. Or sometimes three….
Anecdotal evidence implies high-frequency training can be extremely effective in certain types of individuals, providing sleep, nutrition, stress, and overall health are otherwise maintained.
The bottom line here, too, is “it depends on the individual.” Eight to nine hours of quality snoozing every day is advisable. More if you can and it agrees with you, but people who argue that they survive perfectly well on five hours of sleep every night are kidding themselves if they’re hitting the gym hard, four to five days a week.
However, lack of sleep is negating your effort in the gym and will catch up with your body sooner or later. It opens up all kinds of risk for injury and sickness, as well as inhibits your ability to manage stress. Weight lifting is stress. Therefore, get some sleep. It’s good for you.
Supplements are an overblown element of training.
Risks accompanied by the Protein Supplements
It is quite obvious that these protein supplements are not naturally occurring rather they are isolated and processed from natural sources. As a result, they have their own side effects. Risks involve-
- Excess of unused proteins are metabolized by the body into glucose and stored as fats.
- Intolerance towards supplementary proteins may have an adverse effect on the digestive system and cause allergies
- It has been found in a study that a protein-rich diet is not good for kidney patients, so before taking any such supplements do get yourself properly diagnosed.
- May lead to nutritional deficiencies.
- Can cause heavy metal poisoning, digestive discomfort, fatigue, or headaches.
- If the intake of proteins crosses the limit of 2.2g/kg of body weight then severe side effects can be seen.
A human body is a highly complex biological machine that functions properly if all the necessary elements are balanced in proper proportions. Whether Supplements are Good or Bad? When you should use it or not? I will leave that on you to decide. Most importantly, it is always advisable before committing to a particular supplement have proper consultation about its dosage, frequency, time of intake, etc. from a professional doctor to avoid discomfort and side effects on your precious body.
My personal Opinion
As far as I am aware, very few numbers and types of supplements may be beneficial to a very small, disproportionate number of serious elite lifters. For that group, it’s a matter of true optimization at the highest level. The 0.5 – 1% advantage gained from a particular performance-enhancing supplement may be all the difference in competition.
For the average you-and-me going to the neighborhood gym, supplements are completely ineffective, inefficient and a total waste of money.
Good nutrition is derived from real food. Proper training, nutrition and recovery strategies are all that’s needed to get strong, develop muscle mass, reduce body fat and maintain or improve overall fitness and health
Do share your opinions in the comment section.
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Abhijeet is a 4th-year Undergraduate Student at IIT Kharagpur. His major inclination is towards exploring the science behind the things of our day-to-day life.
my dietician introduced me to ATKINS diet (high protein)and it’s doing pretty well on me. I already lost 10 pounds in just 3 weeks and I am happy with that. I don’t think I will ever need supplements
P.S. If you have a minute, would love your feedback on my new
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Keep up the good work!
Thanks for the appreciation. Let’s connect on LinkedIn. Send me a connection request with an identification message. Looking forward to having a conversation. You can find my Linkedin account on the homepage.