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The Fitness Zone

To Shake or Not to Shake?
October 10, 2014 | by Angelo Peghini

Along with plenty of different trends and fads on the market within the fitness industry, one such trend is the use of protein powders to supplement your diet. Some people love their protein powders and supplements, but is there any research that says we need them, asks Angelo Peghini, Lead Coach Massage and Business,WA.

Let's examine the facts and fictions surrounding this emotive subject, as there is plenty of conflicting information online regarding this issue.

Fiction: You need to consume protein within 30 minutes post workout.

Fact: Barbara Lewin, RD, LD, a Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist who has worked with NFL, NBA, and NHL athletes and trained Ironman competitors says, “Before, during, and after a workout, carbs are what your body needs. They’re what your body uses for fuel, and what your muscles run on,” says Lewin. “Yes, protein is also important for recovery after a workout, but research shows that at that point, the body needs fuel with a 4-1 or 5-1 ratio of carbs to protein.”

The Australian Institute of Sport makes this further statement: ”Muscle and body protein metabolism is a constant balance between protein breakdown and protein rebuilding. During exercise the balance shifts towards protein breakdown, while during the recovery period after exercise the balance tips in the opposite direction.

“By consuming protein immediately after exercise it enhances muscle uptake and retention of amino acids, and promotes a more positive protein balance. This heightened state of protein metabolism seems to last for up to 24 hours and it is important for athletes to look at their protein spread throughout the rest of the day as well as immediately after exercise. The most important news is that the effect of post-exercise protein intake is best seen when the protein is combined with carbohydrates. Carbohydrate intake stimulates an increase in the hormone insulin, which in turn, stimulates the muscle to take up the amino acids.”

Fiction: You can consume as much protein as you want; it won’t hurt you.

Fact: Well this research actually has come up with the numbers, and the AIS has produced a handy guide for athletes. Are there harmful amounts? There is “no firm data regarding the occurrence of side effects that were presented, but reference was made to the potential effects of excessive protein intake, such as dehydration secondary to high urea excretion, gout, liver and kidney damage, calcium loss, bloating, and diarrhoea“ (Anderson SA, Raiten DJ, eds. Safety of amino acids used as dietary supplements. Bethesda, MD: Life Science Research Office, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 1991).

So the research is telling us that, yes we need extra protein if we are active athletes, but we should look after our protein intake in the course of good nutrition, something that all athletes should strive for.

So the big Question is, should you supplement with a protein powder?

Despite the fact that we can adequately take in enough protein through good diet control every day, people think that supplementing is being really healthy, because after all, the powder promised ripped abs, sleek muscles, more energy and better athletic performance.

Protein powders are highly processed and are often heated to the point that the protein is denatured, which makes it nearly impossible for the body to recognise and use.

Protein powders are often filled with preservatives, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), allergens like dairy (whey protein isolate) and soy, and other synthetic toxins like aspartame, saccharin, and artificial flavors.

Protein powders on the market contain dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals, specifically arsenic, cadmium and lead. It’s all in a report from Consumerreports.org.

This table has been constructed from the data available.

Product (powder unless otherwise indicated)

Amount in 3 servings

Protein (g/3 servings)

Test results

BSN Core Series Lean Dessert Protein Shake Chocolate Fudge Pudding

105 g

63

3.3

3.7

2.5

0.3*

BSN Core Series Syntha-6 Ultra Chocolate MilkShake

132 g

66

4.2

2.6

5.4

1.1

Designer Whey 100% Whey Protein Chocolate

78g

54

3.9

1.6

2.4

0.9

EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shake (liquid)

1,500 mL

126

16.9

5.1*

-

-

GNC Lean Shake Chocolate

144 g

27

7.0

3.9

4.9

-

GNC Pro Performance AMP Amplified Wheybolic Extreme 60 Chocolate

237 g

180

5.4

2.5

2.5

-

Jillian Michaels Natural Whey Protein Vanilla Cream Shake

81g

45

1.9

-

1.2

-

Muscle Milk Chocolate

210 g

96

12.2

5.6

13.5

0.7*

Muscle Milk Nutritional Shake Chocolate (liquid)

990 mL

66

14.3

-

6.8

-

Muscle Milk Vanilla Crème

210 g

96

11.2

2.0

12.2

-

MuscleTech Nitro-Tech Hardcore Pro-Series Vanilla MilkShake

96 g

75

1.2

-

0.4*

0.9

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey Extreme Milk Chocolate

96 g

72

2.5

1.7

1.0

0.2*

Optimum Nutrition Platinum Hydro whey Velocity Vanilla

117 g

90

1.5

-

-

-

Six Star Muscle Professional Strength Whey Protein French Vanilla Cream

117 g

78

2.3

-

-

-

Solgar Whey to Go Whey Protein Powder Natural Vanilla Bean

60 g

48

0.6*

-

-

-

Clarification: (-) Element was not measurable in all samples tested.

*In some samples of this product, this metal was below measurable levels and could be as low as zero. For those products, the average was calculated using zero as the value for samples in which metal could not be measured by the analytical method used.

The bad news is, there are many risks to protein powders which may supercede the health claims. The good news is, for the regular gym goer you don’t have to rely on supplements, because it is possible to get the protein you need from real food. The best way to get the right amount of protein for your daily activities is to eat a balanced diet with real foods. There are plenty of different alternatives on the market to help you get the right amount of protein your diet. Hemp seeds can provide as much as 14 grams of protein per three tablespoons. As well as protein, they’re also a great source of fibre and omega-3 fatty acids. Getting the right amount of protein in your diet is definitely possible without needing protein powders.

About Angelo Peghini

Angelo is the Lead Coach for Massage and Business at the Australian Institute of Fitness in WA.

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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