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April 27, 2011

The what’s what about protein supplements

Each week, a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a post on nutrition. This week, dietetic intern Kaitline Cottone weighs in on protein supplements.

The dietary supplement market has grown rapidly over the past 10 years, creating new products to help improve athletic performance and the boost the effectiveness of regular exercise. Some of the most popular dietary supplements are protein supplements. There are thousands of different protein supplements on the market today. But knowing why, how much, when and which protein supplement to use is often overlooked. Below are some frequently asked questions when it comes to supplementing protein.

How is protein used during exercise?

While carbohydrates are the main energy source for the body, protein plays an important role in exercise. Protein is used to create, sustain and repair muscle cells. The metabolism of protein during exercise is affected by many factors, including age, gender, type of exercise, intensity and duration.

So how much protein do I need?

According to the American Dietetic Association, the daily protein recommendation for a healthy adult is 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. So, for example, a 150-pound adult would need about 54 grams of protein a day, which can be met by eating 6 ounces of chicken. For endurance athletes, the daily protein recommendation increases to 0.55-0.64 grams/pound because of the increased protein turnover during exercise. The protein recommendation is also increased for strength-training athletes (0.55-0.77 grams/pound). This additional protein is needed, along with adequate energy intake from carbohydrates, to sustain muscle stores and support muscle growth. These protein recommendations can be met through diet alone by consuming foods high in protein, such as lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, soy, milk and dairy products like yogurt and cheese.

When should I consider using a protein supplement?

While adequate protein intake can be achieved from whole foods, there are some benefits to using protein supplements. Protein supplements are a convenient way to ensure that you meet your protein needs. These are especially useful when you don’t have time to go home and prepare a meal after a workout or if you have trouble eating before an early morning trip to the gym.

How do I know which protein supplement to choose?

As far as deciding between whey, soy or individual amino acid supplements, it is important to get protein from a variety of sources. Also, a person using a single amino acid supplement may lack other essential amino acids, which can increase the risk for deficiency. In addition, certain individual amino acids, such as serine and proline, can have adverse effects on your health. Keep in mind that health claims posted on labels are not tested for validity, and under the Food and Drug Administration’s guidelines, it is the manufacturer that’s responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement is safe before it is marketed.. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, protein supplements run the risk of being contaminated with substances that are banned by the association. A few of these substances include dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), human growth hormone (HGH), ephedrine and androstenedione. For a complete list of banned substances, visit

What’s the deal with creatine?

Creatine is one of the most commonly used athletic supplements. Manufacturers claim that creatine helps build muscle mass and improve athletic performance. While creatine has been shown to add mass, such growth reflects increased water weight, not increased muscle mass. Research shows that there is an increase in athletic performance in sports that consists of short bursts of activity. Examples of this include lifting weights, sprinting and basketball. However, creatine does not improve performance in activities that are longer in duration, including endurance sports and long-distance running. While the long-term side effects of creatine supplements are unknown, short-term side effects include dehydration, muscle cramping, nausea and diarrhea. People at risk for liver or kidney dysfunction should avoid the use of these products.

With such a large market and variety of protein supplements available, it can be difficult to know if you need it, how much you need and which kind to choose. Remember, to get an adequate amount of protein, try to eat whole foods first, fortified foods second and then supplements to meet your protein needs. If you are thinking about starting a protein supplement, consider the potential benefits and precautions. It is important to research the supplement before you start using it and to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian to determine what options are safest for you.
Posted by Kim Walker at 12:00 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Nutrition


Excellent and very comprehensive article.

As for the protein requirements, some studies have found that the 0.36 g/lb requirements are too low, especially in older adults. An increase of 25-50% higher than the RDA in this population can enhance muscle protein growth. An easier formula is dividing your body weight by 2. If you weigh 150 lbs, protein required would be 75 g.

There are thousands of different protein supplements on the market today. I also do not have enough of information regarding the protein supplements. But they also can also be very helpful for weight loss and good health.

Medical researchers have advised against protein supplements for years for the average person. But many sports trainers continue to push them on amateur athletes simply because they don't know any better.

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Andrea Siegel, a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, covers mostly crime and courts in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, as well as legal issues. She wishes she was more physically fit, and, as she's more fond of chocolate than exercise, fitness is a challenge. Her partner on a one-mile-plus daily walk is the family dog, a mixed breed named Moxie, and she exercises at the gym where the D.C. snipers once worked out.
Jerry Jackson has been a photo editor at The Baltimore Sun for 14 years and an avid cyclist for more than 30 years. Inspired by the movie "Breaking Away," he started racing as a teenager in Mississippi when leather "brain baskets" were still the norm. He regularly commutes to work by bike and still enters several mountain bike races a year for fun.
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