Protein supplements have been used by the body building community for quite a while. Recently, protein supplements have gained popularity among the general public for weight loss. There are many claims associated with protein supplements – increased energy, higher protein absorption, faster fat loss – but are these based on scientific evidence? Should you add protein supplements to your diet?
How Much Protein Is Enough?
The truth is that a well balanced diet incorporating high quality, lean protein should be the goal. With this diet, you will most likely have sufficient protein to support muscle growth, and even most body builders will too. Some people may be in a more strenuous program and require a higher protein intake. Athletes and body builders in extreme strength training programs would require at least 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound. For the average, non-pregnant adult, protein consumption should be 0.8 grams per 2.2 pounds. Protein may be increased a bit during weight loss, perhaps 1-1.5 grams per 2.2 pounds.
So how do you figure out your daily protein requirements? Here is how the math would work for a 150-pound individual:
150 lbs. / 2.2 lbs. = 68.2
68.2 x .8 (grams per pound) = 54.5 grams of protein
68.2 x 1.5 (grams per pound) = 102.3 grams of protein
So for the average 150 pound individual, daily protein consumption should be 54.5 grams of protein, or 102.3 grams if increased for weight loss purposes. It would be quite easy to achieve these daily requirements without protein supplements. For example:
Breakfast: 3 scrambled egg whites (18 g/protein)
Lunch: 2 oz. chicken (18 g/protein)
Dinner: 3 oz. salmon (22 g/protein)
If it’s so easy to get the required protein through natural foods, why should you use protein supplements?
Pros & Cons of Protein Supplements
There are several benefits to using protein supplements. They are extremely convenient. When cooking isn’t an option, a protein shake can be a great meal replacement, especially when the other option is fast food. Protein supplements are also very helpful if you don’t like eating lean proteins such as egg whites, lean chicken breasts, or tuna fish. Many also claim that the protein present in protein supplements is more easily absorbed and utilized by the body.
On the other hand, many claim that the human body is made to process natural protein and there is no need to ingest it from supplements. Others claim that there is actually a loss in nutrition when protein supplements are consumed as meal replacements, though this may be fixed by taking multivitamins.
There is also the issue of calorie content. If you want to gain weight or muscle you can greatly benefit from the easily consumed calories in protein shakes or bars. On the other hand, if you are looking for a weight loss solution you need to be careful when choosing protein shakes and bars. Many have added fats and sugars.
There are many arguments for and against protein supplements, so it is important to consult your doctor before making any major changes to your diet.