Often, we see bodybuilding enthusiasts taking huge amounts of protein powders and getting buff. Are they safe or not? Read this article to understand more about protein powders.
Protein supplements are something that is very common and popular among health-conscious people. They are also taken by athletes to improve their nutrient intake, performance enhancement, and muscle growth. Adequate intake of protein is required not just for athletes but also for maintaining a healthy immune system and for organs like the heart, brain, and skin to function effectively. But how much protein is required typically varies according to the exercise routine, age, and overall health? And whether to take in protein with protein supplements or through food products is a commonly aroused question.
You already know that it is a nutrient. And, like all nutrients, proteins are vital for maintaining your health throughout life. Proteins are the building blocks of every visible structure in your body. Even the hair requires protein (a good proportional combination of melanin and keratin). That means - if you starve, you will lose hair.
According to WHO (World Health Organization), 24 % of your diet should contain protein. In simple terms, you require your weight x 1 gram of protein per day. So, for example, if you are 50 kg, you require 50 g of protein a day. Do you take that much?
Protein is an essential nutritional component with innumerable benefits like:
It supports growth in infancy.
Supports muscle mass and bone metabolism.
It improves the maintenance and development of the nervous system.
It also helps in physical performance, particularly in older ages.
In athletes, the protein requirements are usually high for energy production and for sufficient immune function in conditions of intensive or prolonged exercise routines.
Many of the components in our diet are full of carbohydrates and oils. Nobody looks into proteins as much as they look at carbohydrates. A grain of polished rice contains negligible protein content. Any cereal without an aleurone layer (that brown coat) lacks protein. So, our sources of protein are limited to pulses, fish, meat, milk, and eggs. Bad news yet? Remember the last time you had any of them in your daily diet?
Nothing to worry about. Try soya beans. Soya beans are so good for the body that the ancient meat industries wanted them to shut down by spreading myths like it is feminizing. Your soya bean does not have estrogen in it. A plant never makes estrogen.
Proteins are made of 21 amino acids. And only eight of them are made by the body. All others are obtained through the diet. Just keep that fact in mind. If you unanimously eat a single food for a month, you will experience a certain illness. Not all amino acids are present in all proteins. Some just contain a polymer of two to 10 amino acids. So, if an essential amino acid does not get into the chain of a body protein, it will not be synthesized, resulting in malnutrition. A special type. You will look fat. But will be malnourished.
Whey protein is animal protein. So, higher essential amino acids are present. It is preferred by bodybuilders as it helps in their gains.
Pulse proteins are either soy or pea protein. It is prescribed for malnourished or geriatric patients. Obviously, they do not need muscle gains. They need healthy tissues, bones, and skin.
Are you more than 100 kg? Even if you are, more than 100 g of proteins cannot be absorbed from the gut. All of the proteolytic enzymes get saturated, and the villi are pretty slow in absorbing higher concentrations of protein. So why try? However, there is no known safe limit for protein supplements. But studies suggest that healthy people can tolerate up to 3.3 grams of protein per kg or 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight from both food and supplements. And if you want to take protein supplements, then sticking to 1 to 2 servings per day is provided you get the rest from pulses or through other foods.
With millions of people including protein supplements in their diets, here are a few dangers or risks associated with excessive intake of protein supplements:
1) Not Knowing What You Are Consuming:
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate protein supplements, leaving it up to the producers to evaluate the safety and labeling of the products so there are chances for what is there on the label to not be there inside the bottle meaning the supplements can be contaminated with ingredients not shown on the label.
2) High Risk of Taking Excessive Amount of Protein:
There are chances for people to land up taking excessive amounts of protein more than required, and there is not enough information to support the possible side effects of high protein intake. It can cause digestive distress, and people with allergies to dairy products or those having trouble digesting lactose may experience gastrointestinal discomfort when they use milk-protein supplements.
3) Weight Gain:
Certain protein supplements are high in sugar and calorie content which can result in unwanted weight gain. High protein intake can result in weight gain as the excessive protein in the body is stored as fat as it has nowhere else to go.
4) Kidneys Can Be Burdened:
Consuming excessive amounts of protein can cause your kidneys to struggle with processing the high amounts, and also taking too much protein can also lead to dehydration as the kidneys function to flush out the excess protein. Excessive intake of protein also increases the risk of developing kidney stones.
5) Too Much Protein Can Affect Your Bone Health:
Increased intake of protein leads to the development of kidney stones causing decreased calcium retention and resulting in an increased likelihood of development of bone fractures.
6) There Are Chances for You to Offset the Intake of Other Nutrients:
There are a number of nutrient supplements that displace other essential nutrients in the diet like fiber, healthy fats, and other nutrients and only focus on protein content. It is never a good idea to just take one nutrient and neglect other nutrients.
So, yes or no to supplements?
It is a no if you choose the untested, unreviewed, and unprescribed protein supplements. It is a yes if you are just supplementing your otherwise healthy diet with a trusted body-friendly protein powder. Protein supplements help people who struggle with a loss of appetite or for those who are recovering from surgery. These supplements should not be considered as magic bullets for nutrition. The biggest danger is that people think that taking more nutrition is better, so they end up taking excessive nutritional supplements.
Choose wisely after a detailed consultation with an expert. Do not go after the colorful wrappers.
Last reviewed at:
25 Mar 2022 - 4 min read
Query: Hello doctor, I am 18 years old, weight is 55 kg, height is 5'11". I have a problem in gaining weight. The checkup shows that all things are normal. I am eating regularly. Kindly explain the problem in detail and tell whether taking protein powder has any side effect or not. Read Full »
Query: Hi doctor, I am 29 years old male, who is 5.9 feet tall and weighs 55 kg. I take vegetables, egg, fish but not meat. I am lactose intolerant for the past three years. If I take any milk products, it causes gastritis instantly, and I have to take an antacid. I cannot take whey protein because of thi... Read Full »
Article Overview: Did you know that the indiscriminate use of protein supplements can do more harm than good? This article aims to increase awareness about various types of protein supplements and who will benefit by taking them. Read Article
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 high... Read Article
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