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Real Life Nutrition Questions Answered

Real Life Fitness Questions Answered

Emma Brown

Janet Aylott

Kelly Marshall
Fitness Consultant


Protein Supplements

Good Morning, I'm writing to ask about Protein Supplements (i.e. those strange shakes and bars). I've never given them much thought, they are reserved for the realm of those scary Schwarzenegger looking men in the corner of the gym, but I have noticed them mentioned quite a bit in the forum by non-Schwarzenegger-esque lovely lean ladies and am curious - at what point in training do you reach a stage where supplements are useful / necessary. I usually average about 6 gym classes a week (each usually 45 minutes long: 2 x bodypump, 3 x xbike, 1 x bodycombat, running on treadmill before classes if I'm early and a few extra classes if I make it there on a Saturday morning but that is RARE) and I've never felt the need for supplements - or rather, simply never gave them any real thought. However, at the moment, and for the foreseable few months (a quiet summer planned and using gym to alleviate boredom) I'm doing gym twice a day am and pm before and after work. On a good week (like this week for example) I'll be doing 11 classes (each usually 45 mins long: 4 x bodypump, 4 x xbike, 3 x zumba, 1 x bodycombat and running on treadmill before classes if I'm early and very deservedly taking the weekends off to do some DIY in the sunshine). Especially with the extra pump classes, I'm wondering if I should consider extra protein? At what point does extra training require extra protein in your diet? And is there an obvious symptom from over training that I can look out for that indicates I need extra protein?... I'm finding it hard to phrase the question, but I hope I'm getting the point across :D Anyway, any help you could give (even if there is no definitive answer) would be greatly appreciated :) Thanks!


Our expert says...


The reason protein supplementation gets a lot of press is because of the importance of protein in maximising muscle recovery, building lean muscle tissue and reducing body fat. The use of a protein supplement immediately after your workouts can be extremely useful as immediately after we finish working out the body enters what we call a 'catabolic' state and this is where the body begins internally breaking down proteins (i.e. those that make up muscle tissue) to aid repair and recovery. This process can lead to lean muscle tissue loss and subsequent declines in training improvements which is why post-training nutrition is so important and has received so much attention.

By taking in a good protein source the body doesn't break down its existing muscle tissue and instead uses the source you have supplied. How does this impact fat loss? Well, the key thing to remember is that lean muscle tissue is energy-consuming tissue, i.e. you burn more calories 24/7 by having more lean muscle tissue on your skeleton. So, long-term the protein support will enhance your muscle repair and recovery, subsequently allowing better tone/growth and long-term weight control.

The key thing to be aware of is that research shows that even the most elite athletes with severe training regimes do not necessarily need protein supplements if they have adequate nutrition. When someone consumes food/drink around training is more important then what form it comes in. Protein supplements can be an alternative to meals for convenience but I personally would not recommend them, even with extreme exercisers as the body cant store excess protein and will just wee it out – making protein supplements expensive pee!!!

I often see people using protein supplements when they are already getting adequate protein sources from their good nutrition and the body doesn't store spare protein (amino acids in their simple form). So, unless you are training very hard and/or feel you are not achieving the required amounts of protein from your diet you may not actually need the additional protein. If protein is consumed in excess then it is 'wee-ed' out and lead to dehydration and ammonia poisoning. So look out for strong smelling wee and headaches because these could be signals of excess protein intake.

Hope this helps!


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