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Protein Supplements and Why You Should Always Put Things in Context

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article by A1 Coaching’s Barry Murray

The majority of people know that nutrition is not a simple case of black and white. What works for one person may not work for another… “One man’s food is another man’s poison” etc,etc. But it’s very true; there are huge variations between us in terms of our body’s physiology and biochemistry.

Despite this, most of us want simple “one size fits all” recommendations. How many calories should I eat every day? How much Vit C do I need per day ? How much fruit should I eat per day? One of themes common questions I get from people holding a tub of Protein Powder in their hand would be “How many scoops of this do I take per day?”.

Some point to the back of the tub and look at the “recommended dosage” i.e. “Take one serving with breakfast, one after exercise and and also between meals when required”. Let me just sum that recommendation up in one word – PROFITS!

To determine how many “scoops” of protein you need to take, here is the context which you need to take into account:

1. Individual Protein Requirements

You first need to find out what you actually need. This is based on a few things – Weight/Lean Body Mass, training frequency and type of sport. For athletes in general, the recommendation is 1.5g2g/Kg. So if you weigh 80Kg this would work out at 120g-160g or protein per day.

2. Your Current Daily Protein Intake

You then need to determine the amount of protein you are currently intaking on an average day. This requires a quick diet analysis. So let’s say you add up all your protein foods and it calculates out to be 140g on an average day. Well you’ve just confirmed that you have hit your protein requirements and guess what, the amount of protein scoops you need = ZERO! There may be a caveat to this which I will explain below. On the flip side, let’s say you worked out your protein intake to be 80g. So you’re under your protein requirements. Does this mean you need to get 40-80g of additional protein from your protein shake ? No, it usually means you need to eat more protein foods. The protein shakes can be used for convenience of course.

3. The type of Training

Protein is required post training to help with recovery and to facilitate adaptations. The type of protein that needs to be ingested needs to be easy to digest and convenient. While a steak is an excellent source of protein, having it in the changing room in the gym or after a long run in the park is simply not practical. Therefore, a liquid based protein source is more ideal in these situations. This is where the protein shakes come in to play. So having protein in the form of a powder is beneficial. As a side note, there are good arguments to say that we don’t need any sort of protein shakes/drinks post training as long as our amino acid pool is well stocked. In other words, if you’re daily food protein intake is adequate and you’ve eaten a protein meal before training and eat another soon after training, then you have all the amino acids you need. After all, did the Spartan warrior soldiers have protein shakes back then ?

4. Individual Food Habits

If you like eggs your for breakfast and usually eat meat/fish with all main meals, then additional Protein shakes are probably not really needed (unless for convenience post training). In contrast, let’s say you are a person that has little time for breakfast and spend most of the day away from home. In this case, the protein powder could be used to make a smoothie in the morning and maybe another later in the afternoon if lunch protein was small. Or maybe you are a vegetarian and find it very difficult to meet your daily protein requirements, then protein powders can be used in things like smoothies, yoghurts and pancakes to increase overall protein intake. Hence, deciding on how many scoops of protein you need to have every day depends on a few things. The first thing you do is ignore the product recommendations. Then you work out your general protein intake and compare it to your requirements.. For the average person, protein requirements can be met with real food – a few eggs, some poultry, red meat and fish. For others, protein powder can be used as a convenient substitute. Bottom line is this, determining what you need in terms of nutritional individual requirements needs to be taken in context. There are always several things to consider. One size does not fit all.

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Barry Murray is a Performance Nutritionist with a BSc in Chemistry from University College Dublin and an MSc in Sports & Exercise Nutrition from Loughborough University. Barry specializes in endurance sports and has been consultant to professional cyclists for several years. He was worked with the BMC Pro Cycling Team and Orica-BikeExchange team as well as working as private consultant to many individual professional riders, triathletes and runners. Barry has been columnist for the Irish Independent newspaper, has featured on several national radio broadcasts and has presented seminars to various sports teams and corporate businesses. Barry’s uses a modern approach to nutrition for optimizing both health and performance. He has developed his own system over several years of his own research and practice that improves endurance, power/weight, recovery while also improving the individual’s overall health. This works for any level of athlete from beginner to professional. In fact, he finds those who are just looking to get fitter and improve their health make the most gains. Barry is also a competitive endurance athlete himself and races in ultramarathon events. He races competitively in ultra mountain marathon events and represented his country at the 2011 World Ultra Trail Championships. He has won several ultra trail marathons as well as many top placings in some of the toughest ultra marathons in Europe.

Education

  • BSc Chemistry, University College Dublin.
  • MSc Sports & Exercise Nutrition, Loughborough University.
  • 6 Sigma Black Belt, Applied Six Sigma Technology Ltd.
  • Achievements/Results
  • 1st Kerry Way Ultra 200km, 2015
  • 1st Wicklow Way Ultra 127km, 2015
  • 1st The Abbots Way UltraMarathon, 127km, 2013.
  • 1st Giant’s Causeway UltraMarathon, 70km, 2012.
  • 2nd The Lakeland100 UltraMarathon , 170km, 2012.
  • 33rd CCC Ultra, Chamonix, 100Km, 2012.
  • 1st MCN UltraMarathon, 50Km, 2011.

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