In Part 1 of Protein Supplements, we discussed the role of protein in the body, the difference between complete and incomplete proteins and how different types of protein supplements can affect you and your workout routine. Here we'll go over when you should use supplements for gaining versus losing weight, ingredients of a protein shake and proper nutrition.
Protein Supplements: Gaining vs. Losing Weight
If you're trying to gain weight, increasing your calorie count is necessary. While most people consume enough protein each day, those that find it difficult to gain any weight (hard gainers) should drink more than one protein shake per day. Whey protein is good to use first thing after you wake up to give your body the nutrients it needs after a 6-8 hour fast. Casein protein is good to use at night to give your body a slow but steady supply of nutrients overnight while you fast. Eating a meal that's metabolized slowly will help keep your body out of a catabolic state overnight.
If you're trying to lose weight, protein supplements should be used sparingly. Protein still contributes to your overall calorie intake and if you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. It doesn't matter whether the extra calories come from fats, carbohydrates or even protein.
Ingredients of a Protein Shake
Drinking protein powder with water is not very appetizing and will not give you the best results. After an intense weight lifting session or other type of workout, you've burned a lot of your glucose and glycogen (sugar) stores. Your body's first priority is to replenish these energy stores. If it needs to, you body will take protein and convert it into sugar to restore energy stores to normal levels.
A very important function of carbohydrates is that they're protein sparing. They spare protein from being metabolized for energy. When you eat carbs with protein, the carbs can be used for energy while the protein can be used for rebuilding muscle tissue. It is therefore important that you mix simple carbs into your post workout shakes so that your body can quickly replenish its energy stores and use protein for what it was meant to be used for: repairing and rebuilding tissue.
In addition to protein powder, good ingredients of a protein shake include bananas, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, frozen or fresh fruit, low-fat ice cream, frozen yogurt, chocolate syrup, honey and low fat milk/chocolate milk. All of these will give your protein shake the simple carbs your body needs to replenish your energy stores.
Protein supplements can help you reach your goals but they aren't a replacement for good nutrition. Some nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants are essential for good health and aren't found in protein supplements. Protein supplements can only work if they're part of a balanced diet. A good balanced diet includes all of your macronutrients (fats, carbs and proteins) to help you get the recommended intake of all the nutrients.
The Bottom Line
Protein supplements are a great tool. They can help you gain muscle, look better and perform faster. But just like any other tool, it can be used the wrong way and hurt your goals. Remember to combine protein supplements with a solid exercise routine and balanced diet. Only then will you reap all the benefits.