Proteins and workout

Proteins and workout

A healthy individual needs 1 gram of protein per kg body weight per day

Representative image. Credit: iStock photo

Is it beneficial to take protein supplements or powders on a day when I don’t workout? Or should protein powder only be consumed on training days? Can I have it if I don’t workout at all? There are many such questions that people have when it comes to protein intake, and you’ll find there are a lot of different opinions on this subject. Also, many wonder if protein intake every day is healthy or not. Medical researchers advise against protein supplements for the average person. The amount of protein every person requires varies based on various factors such as age, sex, health and activity level. Ideally, your daily food should provide you with the required protein. But many sports trainers continue to push them on amateur athletes simply because they don’t know any better.

So the question arises, do you need protein when you exercise, particularly when you try to build muscle through weightlifting or other forms of resistance training? The answer is yes. The process of building muscle involves causing damage to muscle filaments and then rebuilding them, and this requires more protein.

Protein is an essential macronutrient made up of Amino Acids. These chain-like compounds can be broken apart and put back together in a nearly endless variety of patterns that are used to create different kinds of cells. Your body can make some of these Amino Acids on its own, but not all of them. The complete proteins found in animal products are your best source of the essential Amino Acids that your body cannot produce on its own. So, besides needing protein to build and rebuild muscles, it is required to create new cells.

That doesn’t mean that you should be consuming unnecessary and extra protein. Dairy products are also high in protein, as are certain green leafy vegetables and legumes. Too much protein can put a strain on your Kidneys, so if you’re using protein supplements to lose or maintain weight without working out, you need to balance your diet with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats & between 1-2 litre of water per day. Tofu, Soya milk, lentils, Chickpeas, Pinto beans, Almond milk, nuts and oilseeds like Sunflower, Pumpkin seeds, Sesame (Til) seeds etc., are rich sources of protein for vegetarians & vegans.

The right way

A healthy individual needs 1 gram of protein per kg body weight per day. However, when training, you need about a half gram of protein per pound of body weight. Now comes the questions of ‘how much protein?’, ‘what kind of protein?’, or ‘whether protein supplements should be consumed on non-workout days’.

If you want to slim down or need more protein in your diet, feel free to have a protein shake on your off-training days. For example, if you skip breakfast or have a business meeting to rush to in the morning, drinking a protein shake can replace a meal and provide you with the energy needed to function optimally. However, these cannot replace meals; their role is to supplement your diet and not replace it.

But there is a catch. The risk factor here is that all food and beverages provide calories. Protein supplements in the form of shakes and bars are no exception. These supplements work best when used as part of a training program since they fuel your muscles into growth and increase fat burning.

Incorporating protein supplements in your diet with no workout at all is not recommended. If you go overboard, you may end up gaining weight — especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle. You might also develop hyperaminoacidemia (excess of amino acid in the bloodstream) with nausea and diarrhoea symptoms; other health concerns may include kidney problems. It is the organ’s function to metabolise the protein, but extra intake will slow down the kidney’s metabolism.

Thus, if you need to consume more protein and don’t exercise, it is best to have natural sources of the macronutrient, as mentioned above, coupled with minimum exercising. Remember to keep the nutrition factor high, and the calorie counts low if you aren’t exercising-- to burn off extra calories.

(Dr Shah is a general physician and Mahadik a clinical nutritionist at hospitals based in Mumbai)

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox