Adding Protein to Your Diet
In an earlier
article (see The Power of Protein)
I addressed the role of protein in the diet and ways to get the most out of
protein in your diet. However, a significant number of you are choosing to
earlier take supplemental protein (in the form of protein powders in shakes),
drink high protein beverages, or eat high protein energy bars. What are the pros
and cons of eating these supplemental foods and how do they fit into your eating
point of protein supplements?
When you decide
to eat a “meal replacement product” – protein shakes, bars, etc., what is
your reason? Certainly the food supplement industry gives you a lot of reasons
to consume their products – claims of increased fat loss, higher energy
levels, or better protein availability are several of the more popular claims.
But is there is any real evidence to support the use of these products?
supplements have been very popular in the sport of body building for many years.
Now, these products are used by the everyday person, usually as an aid to lose
weight or lose fat tissue. There
is much heated debate about the value of specific sources of protein (whey v.s.
casein or mixes of proteins), and the value of consuming individual amino acids
or hydrolyzed proteins over whole proteins. However, despite the huge market for
these products, there is no real scientific evidence to support consuming
protein products over getting protein from real foods.
Let’s Take a
Look at Some Claims
protein is enough?
In a diet that
is well balanced, with high quality protein sources (lean animal foods, nonfat
dairy products, or soy) there is very little chance that protein will be
inadequate to meet the needs of most people for muscle growth, even for body
builders. For one thing, bodybuilders and athletes usually pack on the calories
to meet their energy needs, so their food intake is already quite high, and if a
well-balanced diet is eaten, there will be more than enough protein in whole
foods. For those who are in a more
strenuous program for strength training, to build muscle, it is important to:
complete proteins (from one high quality source or a mix of foods) at every
meals about six times a day to have available fuel for building muscle
minimum of .8 – 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight
This is a
higher intake of protein than what is needed for the every day person, however,
once again, these needs can usually be met by eating whole foods. One exception
is for those who have a vigorous strength training program and are cutting
calories at the same time. It’s especially important in this situation to
reduce calories quite moderately (lose weight slowly) so that food intake is
high enough to meet the needs of building muscle.
For the rest of
us who are adults, not pregnant and not battling a major catabolic condition,
protein needs can be met by getting about .8 grams protein per kilogram of body
weight (this is for every 2.2 pounds, not for every one pound of body
weight). This translates to an
average of about 50-60 grams of protein per day. For weight loss, protein need
may be slightly higher, at about 1-1.5 grams per kilogram of desirable body
weight. That is one reason your diet plan should not be much lower than 1400
Calories per day, so that adequate protein can be obtained with whole foods.
than what is needed for your specific needs for the growth and repair of body
tissues is simply expensive, extra calories. Extra calories that are not burned
for fuel will be stored as body fat, and this means weight gain. There is no
advantage for weight trainers or the regular guy to consume extra protein, and
it certainly doesn’t help to “burn fat”.
There is no
biological advantage in consuming individual amino acids, (the building blocks
of protein). Some people take them because the claim is that they are absorbed
more quickly and better. However, the body’s digestive system was designed to
consume and utilize whole proteins in whole foods, and it has plenty of enzymes
to break down proteins for the needs of the body. (One advantage of
“hydrolyzed” proteins may be in infant formulas, for babies who have a
sensitivity or allergy to proteins). Otherwise, the average adult doesn’t
advantage from consuming amino acids pills.
There is a lot
of debate about the optimum type of protein in these supplemental products. The
most recent copy of BodyBuilder features an article about whey v.s. casein.
Again, this is a huge industry, and that means that a lot of money is devoted to
selling the benefits of these products. The bottom line is, extra protein, over
what you need, is not going to do much for you for weight loss, or for building
against these foods
foods are supplemental to the diet (for those wishing to gain weight), high
energy protein bars and shakes can do a good job of adding body weight in the
form of easy to consume, highly dense calories. When you consume these products
as a substitute for a real meal (as in the case of weight loss), I think they
have much less value. Meal replacements are a poor, expensive substitute for
real foods, because they don’t contain the natural, beneficial substances
present in real food, and if you
eat the same meal replacement regularly, you are essentially relying on that
product to supply you with too much of your nutritional needs.
In this situation, you run the risk of poor nutritional intake,
especially if you are trying to lose weight and exercise at the same time. Plus,
did you notice how expensive these are?
Well, the best
argument is that they are a convenient source of energy, and in a jam, when you
are simply too busy to eat a real meal, they offer quick nutrition of fairly
high quality. The next argument is that if your choice is to eat a typical fast
food meal or a meal replacement shake (with high quality ingredients, vitamin
and mineral supplementation), you are probably better off choosing the meal
How do these
foods fit into your plan?
hundreds of these products, each with their own nutrition value. I have been
searching for products that have the actual eating exchanges available, and will
list those products in the member’s area. Meanwhile, if you have a favorite
meal replacement, e-mail me the product contents, brand name, and nutritional
info, and I’ll let you know how to count this into your eating plan.