Protein powder. Should we take it or not?

Larger image

Valérie Gauthier, Health Promotion Specialist

Whey protein powder, commonly called whey, is very appealing for military members, whether athletic or not, who are in search of the perfect body. However, does the famous shake do miracles? My goal is not to tell you to use it, but rather to inform you so that you take it for the right reasons.

What is whey?

Whey is the most popular supplement with athletes. It is used to increase muscle mass, improve physical performance or control appetite and weight. Made of lacto-serum (whey), it is a by-product of the cheese industry. From the nutritional standpoint, whey protein is noteworthy because of its high ratio of essential amino acids.

What is a protein and what does it do?

Proteins are critical for the functioning of the human body. They play a number of roles within living cells and tissues. For example, they are used by the body to renew hair, nails and skin on a daily basis. They also act as enzymes, antibodies and hormones. For athletes, they help repair muscle fibres damaged by intense and repetitive training.

Do we really lack protein?

Many experts believe that athletes (even top athletes) can meet their protein needs without supplements. All it takes is a little knowledge and planning. Analyze what you eat and you will see that it is possible and even easy to meet your needs.

Proteins are found in animal products, such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. Legumes, nuts, seeds and grain products also contain them.

Be careful. If you consume too much protein, whether by taking supplements or food, the excess will be eliminated in your urine, overworking your kidneys. Some studies also suggest that the excess will be stored as fat. Depending on the nature of the supplements taken, nutritional imbalances could occur: lack of vitamins, antioxidants or fibre.

How much protein do you need each day?

Proteins are a nutrient that must be consumed daily and spread throughout the day.

Recommendations differ according to age, sex and weight. Some people have greater needs, such as teenagers, pregnant women and athletes whose muscular activity generates significant needs (resistance versus endurance).

Should we take supplements or not?

The marketing strategies of supplement companies are aimed at attracting athletes and convincing them that their products are essential to achieving their performance goals. Also, with the Internet, it is increasingly easy to purchase them. We must therefore be cautious about all the attractive advertising claims.

Ideally, before using these products, you should talk to your doctor or nutritionist. It is also important to remember that it is training that develops muscle mass. Without it, even the best protein will not help you reach your goals!

Daily Protein Requirements According to Activity Level

No sports (sedentary) : 0.8 g per kg of body weight per day.

Training for most sports (maintenance of muscle mass): 1.2 to 1.6 g per kg of body weight per day.

Endurance sports (bike, running, swimming, long hikes, etc.): 1.2 to 1.6 g per kg of body weight per day.

Esthetic sports (gymnastics, dance, etc.) : 1.2 to 1.7 g per kg of body weight per day.

Power sports (weightlifting, boxing, sprinting, etc.) : 1.6 to 1.8 g per kg of body weight per day.

Training for building muscle mass : 1.6 to 1.8 g per kg of body weight per day

Reference: Marielle Ledoux, Natalie Lacombe, Geneviève St-Martin (2006). Nutrition sport et performance. Géo Plein Air


What should I eat?

Let’s take the example of a runner who weighs 81 kg. The requirements for this type of sport are from 1.2 to 1.6 g of protein per kg of body weight. Here is how to calculate the minimum and maximum quantities of proteins needed:

81 kg x 1.2 = 97.2 g
81 kg x 1.6 = 129.6 g

The athlete must therefore consume between 97.2 and 129.6 g of protein each day.

You did the math for yourself and would like to know what it corresponds to? I encourage you to consult the Health Promotion Specialists from the Saint-Jean and Montreal Garrisons for meal and snack ideas to meet your protein needs.



<< Back to home page