The TRUTH About Protein Supplements
Get the most out of yours!
Should I take a protein supplement? When is the best time to take it? How much protein do I need?
What is the TRUTH about Protein Supplements?
So you recently decided to spend your hard earned money on a protein supplement, and now you are not really sure how to use it to achieve the greatest benefit. However, you were told that you “NEED” it to get bigger, stronger, or leaner. The person telling you this, said that protein is the key to getting bigger and the more you eat the bigger, leaner, stronger you get…right? I mean, they must be an expert for you to let them direct how you spend your money, or maybe they are just really JACKED. So if it works for them, it must work for me, right? Either way, you bought some protein, or are convinced that you “NEED” it, and want to know the best way to use it. So let’s get into it…
“The idea of eating more meat/protein to build more muscle is
the same as trying to eat eyeballs to improve your eyesight.”
First, let’s clear this up right away…the idea of eating more meat/protein to build more muscle is the same as trying to eat eyeballs to improve your eyesight. It just doesn’t work that way. Yes, protein is a key part to building muscle tissue, but it is not as big of a deal as you might have been made to believe. There are many components to building muscle tissue, and overall calories is a big part of that. If you do not consume enough calories above maintenance level (the amount needed to meet your daily energy needs), then your body will only use the extra calories, whether they are from protein or not, as energy to survive. The only thing our body wants to do is survive, and if you don’t give it the fuel to do that, it is not going to grow. In fact, it will think you are starving yourself and start feeding on your muscle mass in order to survive, because it is hard for your body to maintain muscle when depleted. Now before you get worried that you are going to be catabolic (muscle consuming) every second of the day you are not eating protein, don’t stress yourself. As long as you eat regularly you will not be catabolic. Consume enough daily calories, which is not that hard, and you will be fine. Make sure to eat a variety of foods with a balance of protein, carbs and fats. It is ok to be hungry. Hungry doesn’t equal catabolic.
Hungry does NOT = Catabolic
Now, how much protein you should consume is different for everyone, because we all are different. Everyone’s energy needs are different and our training loads vary. Many people would think that big bodybuilder type individuals need the most protein to maintain their muscle mass, but this is not the case. In fact, those with a large muscle mass need much higher carbohydrate amounts to maintain their muscle mass rather than high protein levels, as muscle is vascular and takes a lot of energy to maintain. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our bodies, so their carb intake will be very high with a relatively normal amount of protein. Your body can only build so much muscle mass at a time, therefore protein intake is relatively normal for larger individuals. You may be surprised to learn that the individuals that need the most protein relative to their bodyweight are endurance athletes. Yes, I do mean those little scronny people, with not much muscle mass, that do marathons and Ironman Challenges going for hundreds of miles at a time. Their protein intake is much higher because their overall calorie needs are much higher than any other form of athlete and they need the protein to replace all the muscle tissue they break down regularly. Each of their workouts last hours at a time and break down extremely high amounts of muscle tissue compared to even a high level bodybuilding athlete doing an extremely intense bodybuilding session for 2 hours.
“Do not take more than 2g of protein per pound of bodyweight
unless you truly need it.”
So how much protein do I need?
Most individuals need between 0.7-1g per pound of bodyweight when doing strength training or sport related exercise. Those that do endurance training can consume up to 2-2.5g per pound of bodyweight, while large bodybuilders and high l even athletes should have between 1.2-1.5g per pound of bodyweight. This may seem lower than you would expect, but again we can only build so much muscle at a time and it is all relative to your body size. The biggest factor in determining how much protein any individual takes is their overall caloric needs. Those that need more calories, such as endurance athletes need more overall calories and therefore intake more protein as a result. You can determine which category you are in, but be sure that you do not take more than 2g of protein per pound of bodyweight unless you truly need it, because this places a lot of unnecessary stress on your body (mainly kidneys) and can lead to major health problems later on. Even if you are looking to get bigger, stick to 1g per pound of bodyweight and just increase your overall calories 200-500 calories every 2 weeks.
“You likely do not need any supplements to reach your goals.
In fact, they may be holding you back.”
Do I really need a protein supplement?
Now you may find that consuming 1g per pound of bodyweight is not that hard to do when you are eating regularly. That is why a protein supplement is not necessary for most of the population. Real food is always better and going to help you much more than a supplement. Supplements do not give you gains, they are just like fast food. It is an easier version of real food that sells fast. So you likely do not need any supplements to reach your goals. In fact, they may be holding you back.
“It is more important to have carbohydrates (sugar) rather than protein, in order to replace your lost glycogen (energy) immediately post workout.”
What about the 30 Minute Anabolic Window?
When reading the label of a protein supplement, it will likely tell you to take 1+ scoops immediately post workout. It may even say to take it before the workout, or when you wake up in the morning. They do this to make you think that, “because you workout, you need this supplement to obtain gains”. They want you to feel that you cannot move towards your goals without it so you keep going back to buy. This is a great way to sell protein, but it is not the best time to take it. You may have heard of the “Anabolic Window” being within 30 minutes post workout (this still makes me laugh). Turns out this doesn’t make sense, because it takes more than 30 minutes to digest and absorb the protein you just ingested, no matter how micro filtered and pre-broken down it is. If anything, you should take the protein before the workout so it breaks down as you lift and ready for your muscle afterwards, but this is still not best. Yes, your training does trigger a lot of growth signals, but these are just signals to be acted upon later, while you sleep. You might as well just eat regularly throughout the day and save the protein supplement for later on. Overall, it is more important to have carbohydrates (sugar) rather than protein, in order to replace your lost glycogen (energy) immediately post workout. So after your workout, just go eat some food and don’t buy into the gimmick.
“Your body does the greatest amount of growth and recovery within the first few hours of sleep and Whey protein out performs all other proteins.”
The best time to take a protein supplement is…
If you have a protein supplement and want to use it to the best of its ability, then you should take it immediately before bed! This is because you do most of your growing at night! Your workout triggers this growth, but most of the calories you consume during the day while awake will be used for energy, and if you take a protein supplement immediately post workout you may have used it all up for energy before it is used for growth at night. So save the protein supplement for before bed and only use Whey protein. Casein breaks down slower and lasts longer, but you don’t need it to last. Your body does the greatest amount of growth and recovery within the first few hours of sleep and Whey protein out performs all other proteins. Just make sure it is whole proteins (protein isolate is best) and not extremely broken down as this may supply only partial proteins that are useless for growth.
How much protein should I take at one time (in supplement form)?
You only need 20-25g of protein before bed if you are under 200lbs and only 25-30g if you are 200-300lbs. Again, we can only grow so much at one time so do not waste your protein on your energy needs. Get only what you need, if you take it at all.
So there you have it! The story behind optimal protein intake and timing for those of you that still think you “NEED” a protein supplement to get those gains! If you have been convinced otherwise then just make sure you get enough total calories in, a standard amount of protein, then vary your carbs and fats as needed.
Keep getting stronger my friends!
Strength to you,
Your STRENGTH Journey Leader
Ryan J. Mathias
Owner and Creator
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