Protein Supplements for the Strength Athlete: Weighing the Evidence

Protein Supplements for the Strength Athlete: Weighing the Evidence

The use of protein supplements has been growing in popularity among the bodybuilding and power athlete community. I know we’ve all seen those individuals at the gym in the weight room carrying around their shaker cups, guzzling protein shakes before, during, and after their workouts, but how much protein is needed and are they really necessary?

Many sports dietitians agree that if a balanced diet is consumed, protein supplements are not necessary. It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine that physical activity, athletic performance, and recovery from exercise are enhanced by optimal nutrition. Because regulations related to ergogenic aids are poorly enforced, they should be used with caution after careful evaluation for safety. A qualified sports dietitian should provide individualized nutrition direction and advice following a nutrition assessment.

First off, what is protein’s major role in the strength athlete?

During strength/resistance training protein is majorly used for muscle repair, recovery, and growth. It is not used as a main source of fuel.

Next, what are the protein recommendations for the strength athlete?

Protein needs range from 1.2-1.7 g/kg/d (0.55-0.77g/lb/d). The maximum amount of protein that most adults can use per day is 0.9 grams per pound of body weight.

Food or supplements – which are better?

Current evidence indicates that protein supplements are no more/no less effective than food.  The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics promotes the use of whole foods over supplements. The ethical use of performance enhancers is a personal choice and remains a controversial topic.

Recent studies have shown that high-quality proteins such as whey, casein, and soy can effectively be used for the maintenance, repair, and production of skeletal muscle proteins in response to weight training. Protein consumed in close proximity to strength exercise may enhance net gains in skeletal muscle. Protein supplementation has not been shown to positively influence athletic performance and therefore recommendations regarding protein supplementation are conservative and directed primarily at optimizing the training response and recovery period following exercise.

Ok, so you or your client has decided to use a protein supplement. What now?

Skeletal muscle protein synthesis is optimized through the consideration of protein quality, quantity, and timing.

Whey and casein powders are considered to have ‘high quality’ protein because they contain favorable levels of the essential amino acids. Timing your protein intake around workouts is also important. Research has shown that consuming up to 20 grams of protein after strength training helps provide optimal muscle protein synthesis. Also, the combination of simple carbohydrates to post-workout protein is recommended in a ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 (CHO:PRO) within 30 minutes of exercise. This means that a serving of protein powder offering 20g protein should be paired with adequate carbohydrate in the amount of 60-80g.  Several studies have shown that 25-30 grams of high-quality protein consumed at each meal may also be favorable to maintain healthy muscles.

If you’ve determined to use a protein supplement, be sure to choose one from a reputable manufacturer and follow the directions on the label without exceeding recommendations. More is not always better. If you choose to go the whole foods route a glass of low-fat/fat-free chocolate milk, a banana with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, or 6oz of greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons of honey provide optimal carbohydrate to protein ratios for recovery.

There is still a clear need for long term studies designed to illuminate the course and magnitude of effects in muscle protein metabolism in response to protein supplementation in the power athlete. More research is needed in order to more accurately assess the impact of supplemental nutrition interventions on the rate of muscle recovery and growth.

 

References

Evans WJ. Protein Nutrition, Exercise and Aging. J Am Coll Nutr 2004:23(6):601S–609S.

Gropper S, Smith J, Groff J. Advanced nutrition and human metabolism, Belmont, California:

Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.

Hartman JW, Tang JE, Wilkinson SB,Tarnopolsky MA, Lawrence RL, Tipton KD, Rasmussen

BB, Miller SL, Wolf SE, Owens-Stovall SK, Petrini BE, Wolfe RR.

Timing of amino acid-carbohydrate ingestion alters anabolic response of muscle to

resistance exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2001;281:E197-206.

Ivy JL, Res PT, Sprague RC, Widzer MO. Effect of a carbohydrate-protein supplement

on endurance performance during exercise of varying intensity. Int J Sport Nutr

Exerc Metab. 2003;13:382-395.42. van Essen M, Gibala MJ. Failure of protein

to improve time trial performance when added to a sports drink. Med Sci Sports

Exerc. 2006;38:1476-1483.

Kerksick C, Harvey T, Stout J, Campbell B, Wilborn C, Kreider R, Kalman D, Ziegenfuss T,

Lopez H, Landis J, Ivy JL, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition position

stand: Nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2008;5:17.

Krieger JW, Sitren HS, Daniels MJ, Langkamp-Henken B: Effects of variation in protein and

carbohydrate intake on body mass and composition during energy restriction: a meta-

regression. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:260-274.

Layman D and Rodriquez N. Egg Protein as a source of power, strength and energy. Nutrition

Today. 2009;44: 43-7.

Moore DR, Robinson MJ, Fry JL, Tang JE, Glover EI, Wilkinson SB, Prior T, Tarnopolsky MA,

Phillips SM. Am J Clin Nutr 2009;89:161–8.

Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College

of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009;109:509-527.

Rasmussen BB, Tipton KD, Miller SL, Wolf SE, Wolfe RR: An oral essential amino acid-

carbohydrate supplement enhances muscle protein anabolism after resistance exercise. J

Appl Physiol 2000;88:386-392.

Skolnik H, Chernus A. “The Protein Profile.” Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance.

Champaign: Human Kinetics, 2010. 37-48.

Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Cree MG, Aarsland AA, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR. Stimulation of

net muscle protein synthesis by whey protein ingestion before and after exercise.

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2007;292:E71-76.

CAND Instagram

Recent Posts

Meet the Author

Kasia Ciaston

kciaston

Bringing you the best nutrition information...

Our Academy Bloggers

CAND has several professional and student bloggers.  They write about a range of topics for the public.

Comment on this post

3 Comments

  1. gilmoreran on November 2, 2012 at 7:56 am

    I think a continuous research and studies should be done to assess the effectivity, accuracy and impact of protein supplementation for strength athletes.



  2. progenexs on December 28, 2013 at 8:06 am

    The online supplements of Progenex are really helped me to get massive stamina. I am truly satisfied with their products



  3. deadweight loss on September 2, 2014 at 12:00 am

    It’s actually a great and useful piece of information. I am satisfied that
    you simply shared this useful info with us.
    Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.