What are Protein Supplements?
Protein supplements are concentrated forms of protein that are isolated from food sources. All protein-rich foods contain carbohydrates and fats along with protein. Hence whole foods do not provide lean protein.
Who should take Protein Supplements?
Those who have higher protein demand in their body such as bodybuilders. They have higher levels of muscle usage. Muscle fibers break during the high levels of muscle load during exercise or training due to the force of the activity. This could be strength exercises or cardio. Muscles need essential proteins (proteins that cannot be made by the body) to repair themselves.
For those who do not perform muscle-engaging activities, the muscle fibers do not break too much and hence they do not need supplementation. They should ideally fulfill their protein needs (around 0.8 g per kg body weight) with whole foods.
Those who do moderate muscle engaging activities need around 1 to 1.5 g per kg body weight and should have whole foods as their protein source for 80 % of the requirement and rest 20 % from supplements. People with higher muscular activation, like professional athletes and bodybuilders, may need about 1.5 to 2 g per kg body weight. They cannot consume an equivalent amount of food to meet their protein requirement. So, their 40 % need should be fulfilled by supplements and the remaining by high-protein foods.
Which type of Protein Supplement to take?
Proteins are made by the combination of 20 different amino acids. Out of this, 11 amino acids can be made by the body. The remaining nine amino acids must be obtained either from food or supplements. Therefore a protein supplement which has all nine essential amino acids is the best.
Which source has all the essential amino acids?
Animal source of protein is considered to be a complete source having all the essential amino acids. Out of the available ones, whey protein supplement (a type of milk protein) is considered the best. But whey proteins are also of different types. Whey protein isolate provides the highest protein contents (up to 95 %), as compared to concentrate (still contain some carbohydrates and fats) and hydrolysate (broken down for easier absorption) forms.
In plant sources, soy protein isolate is considered the best as it also has all the essential amino acids. But, soybean has phytoestrogen (a type of natural hormone) which is believed to increase the levels of estrogen (female hormone) in males. Therefore males are sometimes skeptical of taking soy products. But up to 50 g of soy protein is considered very safe.
Other types of Protein Supplements
Egg white powder, pea protein powder, BCAAs (branch chain amino acids), Creatine, hemp protein, rice protein, etc., are some other forms of protein supplements which can be used under the recommendation of a nutritionist.
Other uses of Protein Supplements
Some nutritionists recommend protein supplements for meal replacement, especially to those who are on weight-loss diets like low-carb diet or Ketogenic diet. In such cases, it is better to have protein from natural sources than from supplements. Taking a lot of isolated forms of protein without creating higher protein demand puts more load on the body organs, especially the kidneys, as excess protein taken is excreted by the kidneys without any substantial benefits.
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