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Supplements: Protein

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Sep 7, 2016 10:00:00 AM


Supplements: Protein

Main benefits of proteins are that they help as enzymes in the body to catalyze chemical reactions. In the context of sports nutrition, this yields the promise of more muscles faster and quicker recovery from injury. While the popularity of protein supplements is on the rise, critics are not tired pointing out that same can be achieved by natural means and the risk for supposed negative effects on kidney and liver are too high. I am not a doctor or dietician so please consult your expert of choice if you want to supplement, but here is my write up of what I was able to gather and the experiences I had with protein powder. 

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What are proteins ?

Proteins are large biomolecules which consist of chains of aminoacids which are stuck together by peptides. They are involved in DNA replication, responding to stimuli, transporting molecules and catalysing metabolic reactions. Some of the catalyzing effects of proteins are quite staggering. In the case of orotate decarboxylase, a protein shortens the reaction time from 78 million years to 18 milliseconds. This is achieved by the proteins main chracteristic to bind molecules with their binding site. This is often a depression or "pocket" in the molecular surface. Proteins, therefore, come in many shapes and forms as they firrently in three dimensions to allow for these depressions to form. 

Proteins can exist fpr minutes or years with an average lifespan of 1 -2 days in mammalian cells. Once they have fulfilled their purpose they are degraded through the process of protein turnover. Bacteria cells contain about 2 million proteins per cell, yeast cells about 50 million and human cells in the range of 1 to 3 billion. The most common role of proteins is, as mentioned, the form of an enzyme to catalyse chemical reactions.

In terms of bodybuilding and strength development actin and myosin play a special role in the mechanical function of the body and muscle growth as they are one of the building blocks for skeletal muscle.

Protein as a dietary supplement

Protein has a great popularity among athletes and sports enthusiasts of all walk of lives to support their performance. While it started as a bodybuilding supplement and it now getting more and more into the mainstream and more commonly available. This can be seen that sports stores like Elvery's have know protein powder stocked or milk producers like Avonmore are actively marketing protein milk to sporty target groups. 

The forms in which protein as a supplement comes are many. You can get as powder, in a bar, pre-packaged milkshakes, and other formats. The protein is usually derived from 

  • Whey
  • Soy
  • Casein
  • Egg
  • Hemp
  • Rice
  • Peas

Whey protein is considered a complete protein containing all of the essential nine amino acids (tryptophan, threonine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, Methionine+Cystine, Phenylalanine+Tyrosine, ValineHistidine). It is a byproduct of the process of turning milk into cheese. Two of the biggest producers of whey are Glanbia in Ireland and Hilmar in California. Based on which product you are looking at whey concentrate has 29% to 89% protein by weight whereas whey isolate is usually in the 90%+ area. Usually, the higher the quality of the product the higher the concentration, given that the manufacturer did not mislabel. Whey is quicker digested than the other forms of protein and within the forms of whey, the hydrolysate whey is the one that is digested the quickest. This helps bodybuilders and strength athletes in muscle recovery. Casein is another form of protein which usually takes longer to digest and is therefore taken before going to bed. If you want to check the quality of your protein without sending it to a lab divide the grams of protein per scoop by the size of the serving. The higher the percentage rate the better.

Soy proteinRice proteinPea protein & Hemp protein are options for vegetarians who want to supplement protein in their diet. While soy protein can have the risk of an allergic reaction, if you are allergic, combinations of pea and rice protein can be used as an alternative. Hemp protein is derived from hemp seed and has the benefit of also providing essential fatty acids (which bodybuilders usually get from fish oil). These forms of protein have most likely to be bought online in a specialist online shop and are rare to be found in wholesale. 

IN the UK one of the leading brands is MYPROTEIN. There top ten sellers listed below:

This top ten list is taken from and focuses especially on protein powders only:

  • Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey Protein
  • JYM Pro
  • Cellulor Cor Performance Whey
  • BSN Syntha
  • Dymatize ISO 100
  • Musclepharm Combat 100% Whey
  • Muscletech Nitro Tech
  • Universal Nutritional Animal Whey
  • Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Casein
  • Evolution Nutrition Stacked Protein

At Muscle and fitness you will find one of the longer pieces on protein on protein which provides you with list of recommended merchandise:

  • Nytro Whey Ultra Elite
  • GNC Pro Performance AMP Amplified Wheybolic Extreme
  • Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey
  • BPI Sports ISO HD
  • Allmax Isoflex
  • Muscletech Performance Series Nitro-Tech
  • BSN Clean 100% Whey
  • MHP Maximum Whey
  • Zero Carb Isopure
  • Animal Whey

What are the benefits of protein ?

According to webmd protein supplementation can be beneficial in the following scenarios:

  • Wehn you are growing as a teenager
  • For beginners in strength training
  • When you are increasing the intensity of your training
  • When you get injured
  • Wehn you go vegan

The claim is that the extra protein while helping you with growth, recovery from injury, getting into a program and balancing out the greater toll that the increase of intensity takes on your body.

If you want to build one pound of muscle you need about 10 to 14 grams of protein a day extra per day compared to the 80g a serving some of these supplements give you. A way to calculate your intake which I found is

  • Recreational athletes need 0.5-0.75 grams of protein daily for every per pound of body weight
  • Competitive athletes need 0.6-0.9 grams per pound
  • Teenage athletes need 0.8-0.9 grams per pound
  • Athletes building muscle mass need 0.7-0.9 grams per pound

That might sound like a lot but here are som numbers to compare on how you can obtain this amount through normal food:

  • one 4-ounce hamburger contains 30 grams of protein
  • 6 ounces of tuna has 40 grams of your desired ingredient
  • and a single ounce of cheddar cheese has 7 grams.

What are the risks of protein ?

Excessive intake of protein has been linked in some cases to kidney and liver diseases. It has to be said thought that the people in question are often bodybuilders who are under suspicion to take a dangerous cocktail of several supplements and that the cross effect and the illegal / prescriptive parts of this combination create this effect. Protein intake has also been shown in some cases to speed up the growth of cancer cells in the body. 

The recommended daily intake by the department of health is 55.5g for men and 45g for women. So if you use protein powder two times a day you are very likely to be above that. Anything which is more than twice this amount is advised against by the department.

The main point being made against protein powders are that it is excessive, not well studied and that the products are being mislabeled. A higher protein diet can be achieved by natural means by consuming 

  • red meat, such as beef, lamb, and pork
  • poultry, such as chicken, duck, and turkey
  • eggs
  • dairy, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese
  • beans
  • tofu
  • greek yogurt

A very poignant and negative article about protein and its effects can be found on this blog. The main points are being reproduced here:

  • Two of my favorite professional bodybuilders, Nasser El Sonbaty and Mike Matarazzo, recently died in their forties, likely from diet-related health issues. In all probability, their deaths were a result of too much protein consumption, coupled with the use of performance enhancing substances day after day until their organs failed.
  • Many companies (and entire industries) have gone to great lengths to convince the public that they need to seek out high protein foods and consume as much protein as possible, without any consideration of the health consequences that accompany excess consumption.
  • The amount of protein required by the human body (5-10% of total calories per day) is relatively low in comparison to the other macronutrients. It is, therefore, impossible to be protein deficient when sufficient calories are consumed. This is how nature works. In reality, most people in developed countries, including those following a plant-based diet, eat too much protein, not the other way around.

Personal experience with protein

I have been using protein first in my teenage years when I was a teenager. I stopped while I was at college as I got out of shape and did not that much care of myself. Once I went back into lifting in 2014 I started to introduce the powders back in my diet. So far there are no apparent drawbacks from it, but neither did I explode like Arnold taking them. As I stay away from anything that I would have to inject (like testosterone boosters) I would consider it fairly safe to take protein as a supplement. Still, there is not evidence to disprove the claims about the liver and kidneys effects. Out of the supplements I had a closer look at I think protein is one of the easiest to obtain through a healthy diet. Maybe I should reconsider.


Protein is getting more popular and widespread as a dietary supplement. Opinions are split and the risks for liver and kidneys are often cited as a con to protein supplementation. Based on how the body works it can also be taken for granted that with increased activity you will need more proteins to maintain and enhance athletic performance. The big question as an individual is whether you want to obtain these via natural sources, vegan powder options or the most popular ones where you are getting sold the byproduct of the manufacturing of cheese. The decision is yours to make.


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Topics: Supplements, Diet