Performance Enhancing Supplements Series: Misconceptions and Truths – Protein Powder
Sports medicine professionals get a lot of questions from our former athletes and participants of Home Base Warrior Health and Fitness about supplements, primarily protein powders, creatine, and pre-workout, among others. Given the amount of questions and knowing that RDs (Registered Dietitians) are nutrition experts and are best resource for supplement guidance, we decided start a series to debunk a few myths while also providing some truths about these supplements that are supported by evidence based research. Home Base’s Athletic Trainer and Strength Coaches interviewed and collaborated with Home Base’s Emilie Burgess MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN for expert advice on how to best approach the most popular performance enhancing supplements.
We want to make it clear that we believe that performance enhancing supplements are exactly what they sound like: supplements. They are designed and manufactured to supplement, or support, your current exercise, nutrition, and sleep plans. They are not primarily made to substitute proper whole food nutrition and proper exercise and rehabilitation programming, or to make up for lack of adequate and quality sleep. With that being said, there is a place for these wildly popular and commercially available products to assist you in reaching your health and wellness goals.
Protein powder is one of the most popular and most supplements available. Protein powder has proven to be an effective supplement when used properly. In the most basic form, protein is a macronutrient that helps build and repair injured muscle. The only problem is there are so many choices of powders!
Misconceptions and Truths
- The Misconception: Protein is good so more protein is better!
- The Truth: More protein does not necessarily mean better results, in fact, it is likely to cause negative effects. For the average person, the recommended range is 20-30g protein every 3-4 hours. It should be noted that this is completely dependent on your goals and current lifestyle but this range is a great place to start. The research shows that there is no added benefit in consuming more than 40g of protein per serving.
- The Misconception: Whey protein is derived from animals and is therefore better!
- The Truth: There are two types of whey protein: Isolate and Concentrate. Concentrate means that the protein powder is comprised of 30-75% protein and the rest is comprised of lactose. Isolate means the protein has been processed further to increase the powder’s protein concentration up to 90%. Since there is less lactose, it may be a more suitable option for those who are lactose-intolerant. For those adhering to vegetarian and vegan diets, soy and pea protein are both good options. Additionally, research shows that pea protein has similar absorption rates as whey protein, therefore is a good option for those thinking about consuming more plant-forward diet.
- The Misconception: It’s okay to substitute protein shakes for all my meals!
- The Truth: If already consuming a well-balanced diet while achieving your macronutrient and micronutrient goals, it is likely you do not need protein supplementation. However, if you do not meet your macronutrient goals protein powder is a great option due to its convenience. In a pinch, a protein shake help you meet those goals if you forget your lunch at home or need a quick meal on the road! It provides you with those macronutrients of protein, carbohydrates, and fats while also providing some micronutrients to support the metabolization of those macronutrients. This should be done sparingly as your body responds better to a well-balanced, whole food based meal.
- The Misconception: I must consume my protein within a certain time following my training session!
- The Truth: Our Home Base Dietitian, Emilie Burgess wrote a great article that focuses on pre- and post- nutrition timing.
How to incorporate protein powders into your plan:
It is important to find a protein powder that you enjoy, that does not cause digestive distress, and that has about 15-25g of protein per serving. Once you find your favorite, the easiest way to incorporate protein supplementation is to just have your favorite protein handy! As stated before, protein powder is extremely convenient and having it readily available can help in those times of need.
Make sure you discuss with your doctor about your health and a registered dietitian before buying and taking any supplements. Do your research before buying and trying a new supplement, stick to reputable brands that use quality ingredients, and that have been vetted by certifying organizations. Create goals, understand them, and ask yourself if a supplement will help you towards your goals. Each supplement with affect you differently so find what works best for you with trial and error. If you have any questions about supplements or questions regarding enhancing performance, feel free to reach out to our Registered Dietitians and our Warrior Health and Fitness professionals
By Christopher Manzano MPS, ATC, CSCS, TSAC-F and Emilie Burgess MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN