Many athletes at all levels of performance from club through to elite are striving to achieve optimum performance through nutrition as well as their training programmes. One way that you commonly see this nutritional strategy being employed is through the use of protein supplements. This may be in the form of protein shakes, bars or powders. All these products make many claims from improved performance, greater recovery or quicker muscle growth. But how well substantiated are these claims and is there peer reviewed scientific evidence to support these claims. A very highly respected researcher in the field of sports nutrition once made a statement that perhaps clarifies this situation; he said “most athletes would do well to pay attention to their everyday nutrition before worrying about whether they should use supplements”. In my experience working with athletes who want to achieve optimum performance through nutrition this statement holds true. Generally by paying attention to sound sports nutrition principals there is very little need to supplement with protein; and contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates are not the bad guy. However when you read many articles you would come away firmly believing that carbohydrates are fattening and that protein is the key to success. The truth of the matter is that success comes in the form of an accurately balanced nutritional programme.
Most of the research that has been undertaken across many different sports finds there is no benefit in having protein intakes much above 1.8grams per kg of bodyweight (BW), and often a lot less than this. When I have analysed some athletes diets I have found levels of protein intake as high as 6g/kg BW. If this athlete happens to be in positive energy balance (more calories (energy) in, than calories (energy) used) then they will put on weight. In other words all these expensive protein supplements are effectively making them fat. Although there seems to be some commonly held notion that protein won’t make you fat, this is completely untrue and has no scientific basis.
A recently published study from the University of Texas found that only about the first 30g of dietary protein consumed in a meal produces muscle. The timing of protein intake both before and after will affect muscle repair/growth to some degree but the key message here is that massive intakes of protein are just not beneficial. If you looking to achieve optimal performance through nutrition then you need to get the balance correct. An important point to highlight here is that carbohydrates are not the bad guy in this story. Many sites vilify carbohydrate but this is an athlete’s major fuel source. This is true regardless of the sport concerned and if you want to train hard to achieve optimal performance then getting this fuelling strategy correct is critical. Carbohydrates are king but this will be discussed in other articles. If you would like to no more about optimal performance through nutrition then go to my website or contact me via the website.
Remember all that quality training is only effective if you have got your nutritional strategy correct. Make sure that the nutritional advice you get is evidence based and that the purveyor of the message has no vested interest in the products they are asking you to use. Optimum performance through nutrition is only achieved when you apply sound scientific theories that are evidence based. This will only come about through consultation with an appropriately qualified sports nutritionist.
Now is the time to get that advice!
Article by Dr. Gary Medoza