Are Protein Supplements Good for Building Muscle?

Are Protein Supplements Good for Building Muscle?

There are a lot of products in the nutrition market that make me irascible -- mainly the ones that make bold-faced claims that have no absolutely no science to back them up. One of the most regular questions we get asked is whether protein supplements help build stronger muscle and provide good workout energy.

You might imagine from the plethora of proteins powders, shakes, pills, and numerous other formats available, that these supplements must be doing a good job, right? I mean if so many people are using it, it must do something?


Protein Supplements do not improve muscle development or supply energy.

One of the reasons we do not make a protein supplement is that there is absolutely no evidence to suggest it helps with muscle growth at all, nor does it supply quick energy for workouts. In fact, as far back as the mid 19th century, physiologists were already showing that protein was not an immediate source of muscular energy (Voit, Pettenkofen) and over the last 150 years, studies have repeatedly confirmed this.

A report from the Federal Trade Commission categorically stated: "The scientific community is unequivocal and undivided in its rejection of the claim that proteins provided quick energy."

I think the assumption that because muscle is comprised of protein, then extra protein must help muscles grow extra big, is at the heart of the misconception. The reality is that unless you are protein deficient (which is hugely unlikely in the west), adding more protein to your regimen will not lead to additional muscle mass gains. The average male needs about a third of a gram of protein per pound (.33g per lb) of body weight per day, and an athlete may need half a gram per pound. Research suggests that anything more than three quarters of a gram (.75g per lb) per pound is excessive and will lead to fat accumulation and other problems.

Unlike carbohydrates and fat, protein cannot be stored in the body. It must be utilized immediately or it is broken down by the liver and excreted. Over-consuming protein does little more than put excessive strain on your liver and kidneys. The process of breaking down protein is hard work, and believe it or not, it can cause as much fatigue as exercise itself, so do not make the mistake of eating protein or taking a supplement before an event or activity. It also increases urination, causes dehydration, and may increase the risk of gout, kidney stones, and osteoporosis, as well as some forms of cancer. Plus, how fast you utilize protein varies by person, so there are many factors to consider.

Most people get more than enough protein from their normal diet, athletes included.

A study in the early 20th century showed that athletes on a low protein diet could out-perform competitors, and many subsequent studies have confirmed that a protein-rich diet does not improve performance, provide energy, or provide any muscular advantage. A Finnish study that analyzed the diet and performance of major athletes using protein supplements found that the additional protein intake represented just 3% of their total intake, and that there were no significant advantages gained from the supplementation. Protein requirements do not increase with exercise! Rigorous workouts deplete muscles of glycogen (muscle sugar), not protein.

The message is very clear: even ardent athletes do not need to supplement protein, so all those whey powders and protein shakes are not just a waste of money, they can be harmful too.

If you must eat protein the day of an activity, make sure it is at least 4 hours before your exercise. Most athletes know well enough that carbs are the food of choice for quick energy, along with plenty of water. Avoid simple sugars, fats, proteins, and most importantly, eat food that is easily digestible. It really irks me to read on so many supplement company sites selling these products that athletes should drink a protein shake an hour before activity. That is just patently wrong! Evidence insists it is. Furthermore, for the purposes of recovery from workouts, just eat your normal protein rich foods and you will be fine. Studies done on Olympic gymnasts supplementing protein found that the benefits to damaged muscle recovery was actually from the minerals in their diet, not the protein.

The simple fact is that you can easily get more than enough protein from food alone to help your body build strong muscles. Fifty to seventy grams of protein a day is actually a low number for most westerners who get more than they need on average. Even if your workout regimen is intense, protein supplements will do nothing for you unless you are protein deficient. Stacking protein is not only pointless but can create more issues to deal with. Save your money and if you really feel the need for more protein, stick to natural sources like egg whites, tofu, beans, fish, and lean meats.  If you are really interested in muscle gains, the only safe, natural way to help the process is with an quality IGF supplement, so check that out.

Related Posts: 
Are Nutritional Supplements Worth Taking?
Some Facts About Synthetic vs Whole-Food Vitamins
The Unavoidable Need for Nutritional Supplements

The opinions expressed in this article are of the author. Content and other information presented on the site are not meant to be medical advice or any substitute for professional advice, counseling, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard professional medical or mental health advice from your physician or other qualified health provider.


    • Avatar
      amit kumar
      Sep 24, 2016

      Only supplements are not enough to build you body nutrient or muscles you have to do exercises with it side by side with taking that supplements to boost your muscles and energy .

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