Monday, 20 June 2016 02:31

Protein Supplementation

Protein supplementation - is it really necessary?

By Lauren Jones (APD/AN/Accredited Sports Dietitian)


Protein is definitely the most talked about nutrient when it comes to exercise and strength and resistance training but does more protein really result in increased strength and muscle mass and is protein supplementation actually beneficial to everyone? Protein is a macronutrient found in foods such as red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, nuts, tofu and legumes but is becoming increasingly popular in the form of formulated drinks, bars and powders. There is now an increased interest in protein supplementation and its role in muscle growth and repair especially among the athlete population however studies show that it certainly isn’t essential for everyone.


Who needs extra protein? Protein.jpg

Endurance athletes in heavy training, athletes attempting to gain muscle mass and strength and conditioning athletes in initial stages of training will have increased protein requirements higher than that of the general non-exercising population. The current recommendations are 0.24g/kg of body mass of high biological value protein per meal. Most athletes will easily achieve their daily protein targets through dietary intake alone without the need for protein supplementation. A well thought out meal plan with adequate quantities of protein and correct distribution throughout the day is sufficient to meet the needs of an athlete in training. Additional supplementation is however indicated for athletes following a vegetarian or vegan diet/those not consuming dairy foods.


Protein doses – is more really better?

Optimum protein requirements depend on the individuals’ body size and training program. Research suggests that every time 20-25g of high biological value protein is consumed there is a small spike in muscle synthesis (growth), however eating quantities in excess of this amount offers no further benefit. The timing and amount of protein consumed throughout the day is therefore most beneficial for gains in muscle mass as regular protein based meals and snacks will result in multiple spikes in protein synthesis over the duration of the day.  Resistance training sessions increase the sensitivity of muscles to the uptake of protein so eating protein in the hour following exercise can help to prolong the protein synthesis in response to exercise helping to promote gains and minimize muscle breakdown (losses).


The bottom line…

The decision to use a protein supplement should be based on several issues relevant to the individual, including their training load, goals, daily energy requirements, typical diet, appetite post-exercise, budget available and general dietary intake. Talking with an Accredited Sports Dietitian can help to establish if the use of a protein supplement is necessary. Make an appointment to come and speak to one of our sports dietitians today for advice on optimizing your training outcomes and performance through dietary modification.