Benefits of Protein Supplements and the Case Against Soy
Aug 29th, 2012
Whether it’s concealed inside a pantry or proudly displayed on top of your refrigerator, if you’re concerned with your fitness, chances are that you have a protein supplement in your home.
There have been entire articles devoted to convincingly arguing that protein supplements are a must-have in the muscle building arsenal of every 21st century bodybuilder or weight lifter. Though most such articles are written by supplement companies (or someone who’s sponsored by one).
Nevertheless, protein supplements are essential for most people today. But it’s not for the reasons typically preached.
The human body requires a certain amount of protein for optimal health. This is not a static requirement and can vary by individual with gender, activity level, weight training intensity, body mass and personal fitness goals all playing a factor.
People who live mostly sedentary lifestyles can easily meet their protein requirements through their diet alone, without the use of a protein supplement.
Those of us who rightly understand the importance of physical activity and regularly spend time training will have greater nutritional needs, specifically as it pertains to protein.
And, if your goal is to build additional muscle mass, your protein needs will be heightened even further.
Protein Supplements – The Convenience Factor
As a general rule, if your goal is to build muscle mass, you should be eating one gram of complete protein for every pound of body weight that you have. This should be used as a starting point. If you don’t achieve any gains at this amount you’ll obviously need to increase from there.
So a 200lb man would need to be eating around 200g of complete protein every day when trying to add muscle.
Two hundred grams of protein equates to more than two pounds of meat, fish or poultry being cooked and consumed on a daily basis, which can be time consuming, expensive (depending on your tastes), and taxing on your digestive system!
You’ll also want to spread out your protein consumption fairly evenly throughout the day. In other words, you don’t want to eat half of your daily protein requirements in a single sitting.
To get the most out of your protein you should eat it in regular intervals after your first meal of the day and eat no more than 50g at a time.
This will keep your muscles consistently supplied with the protein they need for growth and recovery throughout the day and ensure that a high percentage is absorbed and used by the body, instead of being excreted in the form of waste.
Frequently consuming high volumes of complete protein can be a task. This is where protein supplements are most beneficial.
Protein supplements aren’t going to do anything more for your ability to build muscle than the complete proteins in the foods you eat.
The argument can certainly be made for drinking a whey protein shake immediately before or after training because of its fast digestion/absorption characteristics, but in my experience the difference in your results will be negligible.
The real benefit of any protein supplement is convenience.
Protein supplements provide you with a quick, easy and convenient way to meet your protein requirements. That’s mostly it.
If you’re considering whether you need a protein supplement, the main thing you need to consider is if it will help you meet your nutritional requirements by giving you the ability to quickly consume a high volume of protein.
If you already get enough protein in the foods you eat, and don’t mind spending the time preparing your meals, then a protein supplement may not be of much benefit to you.
Never spend the time worrying that you’re sabotaging your muscle gains because you aren’t using a protein supplement. If you’re getting adequate amounts of complete proteins from the foods you’re eating every day, you have nothing to worry about.
Choosing a Protein Supplement
In my opinion, the only protein supplements you should consider are of the whey and casein variety. Whey is a faster digesting protein that most people like to drink before and/or after they train.
Casein takes much longer to digest, which makes it a preferred protein source for times not surrounding physical activity or before bed.
I have never used casein, except for an isolated short stint over a year ago and would advise most to simply invest in a quality whey protein supplement and use it any time they need a convenient way of quickly preparing/ingesting complete protein.
Drinking a whey protein shake (instead of a casein one) before bed will make little or no difference to your results in the long run, so don’t sweat it.
Also, make sure you aren’t wasting your money on the cheapest protein supplement you can find. I wrote an article a while back on choosing quality whey protein supplements that will point you in the right direction (click here to read it).
Stay Away from Soy!
Whey and casein protein supplements are produced from filtering out the desired protein derivatives from cow’s milk. A cow’s milk contains approximately 80% casein protein and 20% whey protein.
Because whey and casein come from cow’s milk they’re naturally complete proteins containing all of the essential amino acids required for muscle growth.
Soy, on the other hand, is produced from the soy plant.
Soy is a popular protein because, even though it’s produced from soy plants and doesn’t come from animal sources (like most complete proteins), it’s still a complete protein. This is why it’s the protein supplement of choice for most vegetarians.
But the fact that soy is a complete protein can be extremely deceiving to those using it for building and maintaining muscle (or those concerned with reducing body fat).
Soy is highly estrogenic. This should worry us guys for a number of reasons; not the least of which being that estrogen is a leading cause of the condition, gynecomastia, also known as “man boobs” (yikes).
If you’re a woman, don’t tune out. The problems associated with excess estrogen aren’t just a problem for men, but have serious implications for women as well.
Estrogen promotes fat storage, prevents muscle gains, can lead to reduced energy levels and may even disrupt your sex life by killing your libido.
Plus, our estrogen levels are already sky high because of birth control pills and the preservatives and other chemicals in our foods. We don’t need to exacerbate the problem by eating soy!
And before you click away thinking the problems soy causes aren’t worth worrying about, consider this…
One hundred grams of soy protein contains as much estrogen as a birth control pill!
And, as Sue Heintze pointed out in my recent interview with her on how to get rid of cellulite, soy is a major contributor to the onset and accumulation of cellulite. Stay away from it!
Stick to whey and/or casein protein supplements – you don’t need any more estrogen than you already have! Women, this goes for you, too.
Protein Supplements Have Their Place
Protein supplements can be a helpful tool in helping you meet your nutritional needs, but you need to have the right perspective.
They’re not going to allow you to build muscle any faster than natural, complete proteins and provide very little additional benefit outside of the convenience they provide.
I have used a whey protein supplement for years, and will continue to do so.
As you may already be aware, I’m getting ready to start working on my new goal of getting big and jacked, so my protein needs are about to go through the roof.
You better believe I’ll be using a protein supplement to help me pound back 250-300g of protein on a daily basis.
Not because a whey protein supplement will allow me to build muscle faster, but because I probably couldn’t eat that much from meat, fish, chicken and dairy if I tried.
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