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Ask The Trainer: Protein

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Protein powder

Last year I posted about Weight Training and Body Image. In that post I asked Andy the Trainer, a few questions about weight lifting and it’s connection to body image. Now that I’m training even more I have (and some of you have asked) questions about protein. I hear different opinions on the subject and not being an expert I thought I’d invite Andy back for another round. Here goes…

Roni:
Welcome Back Andy! Last time you stopped by you were nice enough to answer some questions we had about Weight Training and Body Image. Now, since I am lifting on a regular basis, my curiosity has turned to protein. When or in what situation (if ever) do you recommend protein powders for your clients?
Andy:
For someone who may be vegetarian or who has eating restrictions which do not allow for a balanced diet, protein powders may be a good alternative to get your required protein. Additionally, if you are in the habit of making fruit smoothies, a small amount of protein powder added may be helpful. I would stay away from the usual two scoops and cut it to a half scoop. That is still about 12 grams of added protein. Aim for protein powders that have little to no added fat or carbohydrates, and mix with fresh fruit. You can add some uncooked oatmeal for some added whole grain carbohydrates if you would like.
Roni:
It’s funny you say that. The first protein powder I bought was Optimum Nutrition 100% Any Whey. It is flavorless (nothing added) and yesterday I mixed some in my oatmeal. I guess I’m on the right track! :) But seriously, is extra protein really necessary?
Andy:
For most people, no. The average American that eats an average balanced diet will get more than enough protein for their requirements. A woman that weighs 140 pounds will need roughly 51 grams of protein daily. A 5 ounce chicken breast with dinner has 45 grams of protein. So I would not recommend going out of your way to overload on protein. Even if your diet is not on the healthier side, the protein will still be there. Frying the chicken does not rob it of its basic nutrients.
Roni:
OK, well Is there an optimal time to eating a high protein meal or shake?
Andy:
Well, protein serves many functions in the body. From a strength training perspective, its primary function is to repair and build muscles during and after a workout. Therefore, I recommend eating protein within an hour (before or after) of a workout. If you eat protein before, mix it with a whole grain and some healthy fat. A good choice would be a whole grain English muffin with some peanut butter. The whole grain will give you sustained energy throughout the workout and slowly feed your muscles with the necessary protein. If you choose to eat afterwards, you want to eat a little protein, some fast acting sugar, and no fat at all. The fat will get in the way of the absorption process and is not necessary to recovery. The simple sugar will get into your blood fast, allowing the protein to start rebuilding your muscles right away. Here is your chance to eat some bad sugars! I recommend chocolate skim milk. It is the perfect balance of simple sugar to animal protein with no fat to get in the way. For the average exerciser, there is no real benefit to eating before or after the workout; it is simply a matter of preference. Bodybuilders would eat both, but then you get into a caloric intake problem.
Roni:
Ahhh I see, sometimes I worry about taking in too many calories with the added protein. Which reminds me, I’ve seen whey and soy option at the store. Are all protein powders created equally?
Andy:
There are really no conclusive studies that prove whey is more effective than soy. However, that has long been the belief of most bodybuilders. If you are a vegetarian there is nothing wrong with soy, and most studies shows that it does do the same basic work as animal (whey) protein. Soy can give many people stomach discomfort, so this should factor into your decision. Personally, I stick with whey protein. Neither are bad for you, so I stick with what I know in my shakes!
Roni:
Thanks so much Andy! Is there anything else we should know about protein and it’s role diet and exercise?
Andy
I cannot stress enough that your body derives zero energy from protein. Protein is not an efficient source of energy for any type of workout. Sugar and fat are the primary energy building blocks. Fat is vital to any cardio sessions. Therefore, high protein diets are not effective for exercisers. As added incentive, if you exercise often while avoiding sugars and/or fats, you will stink by the end of your workouts. The process your body resorts to for energy is highly inefficient, and will make your breath and sweat stink!
Roni:
Thanks so much Andy! It’s nice to get the trainers perspective.

Andy is the Owner of Optimum Results, a Wellness Management and Fitness Training company in New Jersey. If you have any questions for Andy leave them in the comments and we’ll invited him back. :)




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Discussion

There are 25 comments so far.

    Steph.

    April 20, 2009

    Wow. This facinates me because both trainers I have used are so big on protein and eating more of it. This is the first time I’ve read that it’s not that important! Definitely food for thought. Thanks!

    Janice

    April 20, 2009

    All of this info was very helpful. Thanks Roni and Andy!

    Mara @ What's For Dinner?

    April 20, 2009

    Thanks Roni and Andy! I just got into the whole protein powder thing, and am really liking how i feel after having it in my breakfast!

    Nina

    April 20, 2009

    Hi Roni,

    I really like the Designer Whey Protein Powder–strawberry flavor. Though I realize it obviously has additives, I really like it. I like mixing in blueberries, half of a banana, skim milk, and sometimes fiber-one cereal. I often have a shake for breakfast or like Andy suggested, after a workout.

    Thanks for the info.

    Heather

    April 20, 2009

    I usually drink the Myoplex Lite drinks after a hard workout. It is 170 calories, 2 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein. It sounds like perhaps I should just drink chocolate milk instead or is the Myoplex is a good choice?

    Andy

    April 20, 2009

    Myoplex Lite is a great post-workout drink. It is a very healthy shake from a great company. It is certainly not a bad choice. But the current line of thinking is the best ratio of post-workout nutrients is 3 or 4 simple carbs for every protein. So a drink with 45g of sugar and 15g of protein is ideal. The need for fiber and fat after a workout is negligible. Also, 270 calories may be a bit much for a post-workout snack. The other argument for chocolate skim milk is cost!
    Remember though, use what works for you and what gives you the edge in your daily workouts. There is no one perfect choice.

    debby

    April 20, 2009

    Wow, this was GREAT info, and just confirms exactly what my P.T. has just started telling me about how to eat, especially before and after a workout. Thanks for posting this, Roni!

    Brian

    April 20, 2009

    Great comments and suggestions on how important proteins are in making changes to a diet, in particular as part of a workout routine.

    Thanks!

    kristisummer

    April 20, 2009

    I used to use the protein powder until I discovered most, if not all of them, have artifical sweeteners in them. I now just try and eat balanced like Andy suggested.

    Lynn C

    April 20, 2009

    I like the bit about frying the chicken doesn’t take away any of its base nutrients… do you think that holds true with fried vegetables, too? ;-)

    roni

    April 20, 2009

    Lynn – LOL I think it does! You’re just adding a whole layer of fat and carbs too!

    Andy

    April 20, 2009

    Lynn,
    Be sure to note that I never said that fried foods are good for you, just that the protein doesn’t get removed. Macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats) will not change through the process of preparation, but micronutrients, especially in veggies, can.

    Heather

    April 20, 2009

    Thanks, Andy, for a sensible and responsible note on protein and recognizing that vegetarians can obtain enough protein. I’m sick of trainers who think “protein, protein, protein!” is the only way to go.

    s

    April 20, 2009

    interesting. i do find that i am more sluggish when i have less carbs/lotsa protein on days that i exercise. perhaps there is a healthy way to allow for a biweekly mocha. :)

    Daphne

    April 21, 2009

    I would like to point out that the recommended daily value (RDV) of protein reflects a minimum amount of recommended protein. There is a growing body of science that supports higher protein diets; and the FDA is reviewing this body of science with the good possibility of increasing the RDV in 2010!

    All I know is that it worked for me! I dropped a skirt size when incorporating whey!

    Here is an interesting article http://bit.ly/CXvoc

    Daphne
    twitter @proteingirl (yes, I’m a fan of the right proteins)!

    MizFit

    April 21, 2009

    (did you get my email? handheld is dropping mesages)

    and Im in agreement whilse simultaneously like Daphne.

    Andy

    April 21, 2009

    Daphne, It is important to note the difference between utilizing high protein diets as an appetite suppressant, and the utilization of protein surrounding workouts. They are two very different conversations. FOr some, high protein diets are very helpful in eliminating sugar cravings while simultaneously satieting the body for longer periods of time. My experience is that this may work for some, not for others. It is also a great way to eliminate some weight in the form of water being held in the body. Carbohydrates is one of the primary carriers of water in the body, and by lowering the stored carbohydrates, you lower your body’s water content.

    Berni

    April 21, 2009

    Great post and following conversation. I get a little crazed on the high protein diet and what Andy talks about makes so much sense. Thanks :)

    Eline

    April 21, 2009

    Thanks for the very clear message about protein. I was just wondering about your last comment: “I cannot stress enough that your body derives zero energy from protein. Protein is not an efficient source of energy for any type of workout. Sugar and fat are the primary energy building blocks. Fat is vital to any cardio sessions. Therefore, high protein diets are not effective for exercisers. As added incentive, if you exercise often while avoiding sugars and/or fats, you will stink by the end of your workouts. The process your body resorts to for energy is highly inefficient, and will make your breath and sweat stink!”
    I am trying to cut out all refined sugars out of my diet as much as possible. Do you think that’s a bad idea? Is the natural sugar from fruit enough to keep you going?

    Andy

    April 21, 2009

    There is nothing wrong with limiting your refined sugars. My answers to Roni’s questions were blanket responses meant to touch on the specifics of protein and exercise. Everyone’s goals and means to achieve them should and will be different. From the macronutrient perspective, your body will treat sugar in much the same way. Many of the side effects of refined sugars are not conducive to healthy living. If this is one of your goals, then you should avoid the post workout snack and stick to pre-sorkout eating. I do not believe in diets, only healthy eating. BUt whatever you call it, it needs to fit into whatever your primary goal is. If activity is a part of your goals, then you need to account for that in your diet lifestyle. If weight loss in any fashion is the true goal, then this post really shouldn’t change what you are doing.

    Danica

    April 21, 2009

    Thanks so much for posting this – I always wonder how much protein we really need and if we should use protein powders.

    Michelle in CA

    April 21, 2009

    Informative post. I am assuming his stance on protein is for the average person though because to build enough muscle to see some good definition, you do need much, much more protein then he states. I strive for one gram per pound of body weight and it’s working for me as far as seeing results in my body composition. (I lift as heavy as possible and do cardio on alternate days).

    Michelle in CA

    April 21, 2009

    PS – And by “average person”, I mean just someone wanting to be fit and healthy in general. Not someone who wants to look like Jillian Michaels, Kelly Ripa, etc.

    Becca

    April 23, 2009

    I make a protein shake for myself and my husband almost every morning…the Whey protein, with some skim milk and some ice. Is this OK? I mean, I’ve always heard you need to incorporate some protein in your breakfast, and we’re too busy (lazy) to do eggs or anything that involved cooking. I always just sort of assumed that our protein shakes helped get our metabolism up and running?

    Am I on the right track here? Or am I crazy?

    Andy

    April 24, 2009

    Becca,
    Balance in any meal is a good goal. Protein will help your recovery process, just not your energy levels. SO, yes, you are definitely on the right track!