Madeleine Cook and Heather Kim / NPR
Marketing is tempting: Build muscle and healthier bodies with minimal effort by adding protein powder to your morning shake or juice drink. Or grab a protein bar for lunch or a quick snack. Today you can find protein supplements everywhere – online, in the pharmacy, in the grocery store or in the health food store. They come in powder, pills and bars.
With revenues of more than $ 12 billion this year, the industry is booming and, according to research firm Grand View Research, is the way to sell up to $ 2,025 billion. But do we really need this extra protein? It depends on whether. There are pros and cons and some dizziness.
For starters, protein is crucial for every cell of our body. It helps to build nails, hair, bones and muscles. It can also help make you feel fuller longer than if you eat foods that lack protein. And unlike nutrients found in only a few foods, protein is almost omnipresent. "The typical American diet is far more protein rich than many of us think," says registered nutritionist Angela Pipitone from John Hopkins McKusick-Nathan's Institute for Genetic Medicine.
She says it's in foods that many of us expect, such as beef, chicken and other types of meat and dairy products. But it's also in foods that do not immediately come to mind, such as vegetables, fruits, beans, and grains.
The US government-recommended daily dose (RDA) for an average adult is 50 to 60 grams of protein per day. That sounds like a lot, but Pipitone says, "We get protein here and there, and that really adds up all day."
Take breakfast, for example. If you have eaten two eggs with some cheese and an orange next door, you already have 22 grams of protein. Each egg yields 7 grams, the cheese about 6 grams and the orange about 2 grams. Add a lunch of chicken, rice and broccoli and the recommended 50 grams are already exceeded. "You can get enough protein and hit the RDA before you even come to dinner," says Pipitone.
So, if it's so easy to get your protein into your diet, why should you add more in the form of powders, snack bars or other ingredients? Boost in your local juice bar? No reason, says Pipitone, because most of us already have enough protein in our diet.
"Whole foods are always the best option, instead of adding supplements," she says. The FDA does not strictly regulate supplements as food or drugs, so there could be less protein, more sugar and some additives you would not expect, like caffeine and even steroids.
If you're considering supplementing, read the ingredient list, she says, though it's not always foolproof. "I've seen very expensive protein supplements that are high quality but can not really be beneficial to an average healthy adult," she says. "It could just be a waste of money."
However, there are situations where additional protein is required. "Whenever you're in an anabolic state or building muscle," says Pipitone, as if you were an extreme endurance athlete, training for a marathon, or a bodybuilder.
If you exercise moderately 150 minutes a week, as recommended in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or less, you are probably not an extreme athlete.
Extreme athletes use a lot of energy to build and repair muscle. Protein can give them the advantage they need for this process.
Vegans can benefit from protein supplements because they do not eat animal protein sources such as meat, dairy or eggs. And for someone who is constantly on the move and has no time for a meal, a protein snack can be a great option for occasional meal replacement.
Also, persons recovering from surgery or injury may benefit from additional protein benefits. Older people can do that too. At the age of 60, "the muscles really start to break," says Kathryn Starr, an aging researcher at Duke University School of Medicine, "and for that reason in addition to the fact that our bodies may collapse with age." Protein is reduced, the protein requirement of an older adult actually increases. "
In fact, Starr and her colleague Connie Bales recently conducted a small study that found that supplemental protein feed was added to the diet of obese elderly people involved in obesity trying to lose weight The participants in the study were divided into two groups – one group was asked to eat 30 grams of protein per meal in the form of whole foods, which meant they consumed 90 grams of protein a day, and the other group – the Control group – received a typical low-calorie diet with about 50 to 60 grams of protein per day.
After six months The researchers found that the group had high levels Protein content had significantly improved their muscle function – almost twice as much as the control group.
They could run faster, have a better balance, and could get out of a chair faster than the control group, "says Starr.
] All 67 participants were over 60 years old and both groups lost approximately the same weight.
Starr is now investigating whether protein-rich diets also improve the quality of muscle even in seniors. She uses CT scans to measure muscle size and adipose tissue and compares seniors with a high-protein diet to those on a normal diet. She says her results should be available in a few months.
Meanwhile, 70-year-old Corliss Keith, who belonged to the high-protein group in Starr's latest study, says a big difference. "I feel great," she says, "I feel like I have a different body, I have more energy, I am stronger." She says she can attend Zumba training classes three times a week, train on the treadmill, and make long, brisk walks. Keith also lost more than 15 pounds. "I'm a fashionable person, and now I'm back in my three inch high heels," she says.
As people get older, researcher Starr says muscle strength is the key to helping them stay strong and continue to live alone in their own homes. "I feel very much alive now," says Keith, "I feel like I could stay until I'm 100 years old."
But can people exaggerate protein? Pipitone says you have to be careful. Too much protein can cause nausea, cramps, headaches, fatigue and flatulence.
Dehydration is also a risk if you eat too much protein. Pipitone says if you increase protein, you also need to increase your fluid intake. "I always tell people that they drink enough liquid," which for an average person means 60 to 70 ounces a day, which translates into eight 8-ounce glasses of water or liquid per day.
There has been some evidence that the kidneys are working harder through extra protein, which could be problematic for people with kidney disease in the past, and for them the supplements may increase the risk of kidney stones, she says. Conclusion: If you think you need more protein in your diet, consider the following questions: Are you an extreme athlete? Do you recover after an injury or surgery? or are you 60 or older?
If this is the case, adding high protein foods such as eggs and meat products may be beneficial.
If you are not sure, it is always a good idea Check with your GP.