What's with all the Protein?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Protein is a very important part of the diet. Think about this: DNA is the 'code' that makes us who/what we are, right? Well, DNA makes protein molecules, and these protein molecules are involved in just about everything. If you don't consume enough protein, your muscles start wasting away, you lose energy, you are more likely to get an infection, and your body just doesn't work properly.

No wonder athletes are concerned about how much protein they are eating.

Question is: Do athletes really need to take protein supplements?

Let me voice my bias here: I wholeheartedly believe in doing everything you can do get your nutrients through food. The body is designed to digest food and get the necessary nutrients from food. There are cases when I would consider a supplement, but I would not make a general recommendation that all athletes should take Product X.

As far as protein goes, the typical North American diet contains more than enough protein. If you consume animal products (meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs) on a regular basis, and you get a number of servings each day, it is very likely that you don't need a protein supplement.

If you are a vegetarian, then you may have to pay more attention to the protein that you are eating to make sure that you are getting enough. Vegetarians also have to worry about pairing up different protein sources in order to get the right balance of protein in their diets. We can do another post on vegetarianism at a later date, if anyone is interested.

My suggestion to anyone out there in blog-land who is concerned about protein would be to get Heather or I (or any sports nutritionist) to calculate how much protein you need, and to translate this into actual food. You might be surprised how little food you need to meet your protein requirements.

Problems with a diet that is very high in protein:

- Protein is not stored in the body to be used later. The body uses what it needs, and then it breaks down the rest and gets rid of it through the urine.

- A diet high in protein may mean that there is less carbohydrates. Carbohydrates give you energy. Protein does have calories, but it is not really used for energy. The only time it is used for energy is when there is not enough carbs and fat to fuel the body, and this leads to a loss of function.

- Eating large amounts of animal protein (like meat) may increase the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet, which can lead to heart disease (and yes, even athletes can get heart disease).

- If you are using a protein supplement, you are probably spending a lot of money. Protein powders made from whey are among the most popular on the market, but do you really know what you're paying for? Whey powder is the protein that is left over from the cheese-making process, but without the calcium. Getting protein from milk would give you the benefit of the calcium, and it would also give you carbohydrates. It just may be cheaper, too.

- Some protein supplements, especially powders, may have other ingredients added. Always look at the ingredient list to make sure that no banned ingredients have been added. When in doubt, don't let a salesperson talk you into buying a product.

Any questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below. P.S. You don't need to have a blogger account to be able to do this!

Welcome to MSVU Sports Nutrition!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hi! We thought we'd tell you a little about ourselves. We are both students in the BSc. Applied Human Nutrition program at the Mount, are active members of Student Nutrition Services (SNS), and have an interest in sports nutrition. We also completed Bachelor's degrees before coming to the Mount, so we have backgrounds in everything from biopsychology (Ash) to kinesiology (Heather). We hope to continue on with what Candace Weaver was doing last year with the Mount sports teams with this blog.

The main purpose of this blog is to get information out there to athletes (as well as to people interested in fitness), and we are also looking for tons of input from you guys so that you get what you want. We are hoping to provide sport-specific nutrition information to those who want it, and we are not limited to this medium - we can also do presentations, one-on-one consultations, group consultations, etc. Whatever works for you!

Here's what you can do....

1- Let us know your sport(s) so that we can tailor the information for you

2- How do you want to get your info? The above suggestions are only that - suggestions. Feel free to come up with something else.

3- At the bottom of each post is a 'comments' link. You can click on it and add your comment to communicate with us and with everyone else.

Please feel free to ask us plenty of questions. If we don't know the answer, we'll find it for you.

Have a good one!

-Ashley and Heather-