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Can we gain muscle without getting ripped off?

Just a few years ago Protein shakes became a very useful resource for athletes who wanted to increase their muscle mass. Until then, the only strategy, besides the strength exercise, were diets with a good dose of protein rich foods. It was a breakthrough, no doubt, but has it gotten out of hand?

We have gone from shakes to having yogurts, milk, jellies and all kinds of fortified products In the supermarkets. In addition, there is powder to make pancakes, cookies, cakes and other similar desserts. It is the paradise of sportsmen of good food. However, we must not forget that we live in a time of fashions such as the superfoods or the movement Real Food. Both have their positive side, but also a darker side if consumed without the nutrition knowledge relevant.

With the Protein shakes and other nutritional supplements are the same. They are useful, yes, but we must know some data so that their consumption does not get out of hand.

What are protein shakes for?

Photo by LYFE Fuel on Unsplash

Before talking about protein shakes, it is important to understand why a good protein intake is so necessary for gain muscle. But also why we should do our part with exercise.

For protein shakes to help us gain muscle we must do strength exercise

Muscles are primarily made up of protein myosin. In turn, both this protein and the rest are made up of amino acids. These could be thought of as the little blocks that are grouped together to form them.

When we consume proteins, either through food in our diet or from supplements, these will be broken down into these little bricks, which can be used to make new proteins. This is useful for the muscle, where they can repair damage or, directly, create new muscle fibers based on myosin.

But the muscle does not appear by spontaneous generation. We already have the raw material, but the demand is lacking and, for this, it is necessary to exercise. For this reason, it is often said that it is useless to drink protein shakes if we do not do sports. And, of course, milk, yogurts, jellies, or any other enriched food are of no use either. So far, so good, but what happens if we go overboard with protein supplementation?

In principle it is not dangerous

An excess of protein is not dangerous. Although we must take this statement with certain nuances. To begin with, if instead of dietary supplements we opt for protein rich foodsWe must also look at the rest of the nutrients that they provide us.

For example, red meats are very rich in protein, yes, but we should not abuse them because of the amount of fat they provide us. In Hypertextual we have talked about it with Esteban Picón, a dietician-nutritionist specialized in nutrition for sports. “The red meat They are not harmful because of their protein content, but because of their high content of saturated fat, which is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease ”.

People with kidney disease do need to take special care

The problem, therefore, is not in the proteins. This may lead us to think that it is better to go directly to the desired nutrient, whether in protein shakes or any other supplement. However, Picón tells us that this is more of a individual decision of each person, but not a necessity. “An adequate protein intake can be perfectly achieved with a vegetarian diet”.

That adequate contribution, according to the WHO, is 0.8 grams / kilogram of body weight per day. However, the nutritionist tells us that this figure is obsolete, since “most dietitians-nutritionists plan diets with protein content between 1.2-1.8 grams of protein / kg body weight per day”.

Now, what happens if we exceed this amount, even avoiding red meat? In principle nothing. This excess protein is eliminated with the urine. However, people with renal problems. “Only in this type of patient is protein intake recommended with a specific range depending on the pathology,” says Picón. “For example, patients with chronic kidney failure (CRF) they should not exceed 0.75 -1 g protein / kg weight / day ”.

When health does not suffer but your pocket does

yogurt, close-up photo of white cream in clear shot glassPhoto by Sara Cervera on Unsplash

Protein shakes are useful food supplements. In fact, of all the employees for sports use, they are one of the few that enjoy the support of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for their utility based on scientific evidence.

However, they are not essential, since, as we have already seen, the protein intake can be achieved with the diet. If we still go for smoothies anyway, it’s important to keep two things in mind. Consume them without practicing exercise it is useless and consuming them in excess either. If we do, we will be throwing the money they cost us down the toilet. Literally.

“An enriched yogurt has more protein than a whole one, but the difference is minimal”

Esteban Picón, dietician-nutritionist specialized in sports nutrition

Also, you can make us fatten in a different way than we would like. “The most logical effect of following a diet with protein-enriched foods without practicing moderate physical activity on a regular basis is weight gain, especially in the form of fat mass,” Picón tells us. “In a simplified way, proteins are calories and if we do not oxidize (burn) them, they will be stored in the form of adipose tissue.”

And this applies to protein shakes as well as to all fortified products. In fact, it applies above all to these products, since they are especially expensive and, many of them, do not provide much more protein than the same unenriched product. In the case of yogurts, for example, the nutritionist consulted by this means argues that “it is true that enriched yogurt has more protein than whole yogurt, but the difference is small and, furthermore, these proteins will not serve to gain muscle mass if it is not accompanied by a healthy diet and a good training program ”.

Don’t be fooled

This recent craze for protein shakes and fortified foods isn’t just bad for your pocketbook. If we are not careful, too can make us eat worse, as unintuitive as it may seem.

Something similar happens to what happens with other claims such as superfoods or real food. A cake loaded with sugar it will not be healthier if we add açaí to it. This ingredient has interesting nutritional propertiesbut sugar is still sugar. And also honey. Even dates, if we abuse them. The latter have a better nutritional quality than other sweeteners, but are still harmful if abused. And this is something that can go unnoticed by followers of the Real Food movement, since it is still real food.

The same thing happens with protein-enriched foods. Protein pancake powder can be interesting. The problem is that we can add a good jet of honey or cocoa cream to those pancakes and then we will be doing more harm than good to our health and our diet.

I want to increase my muscle mass: what do I do?

strength, woman lifting barbelPhoto by Sven Mieke on Unsplash

The first thing we must do, as in the rest of life, is to stop believing in miracles. Taking protein shakes or foods rich in protein will not make us gain muscle instantly. We must sweat it, as little as we like it.

For this reason, if we are just starting out, Esteban Picón recommends that we “eat in a healthy way following a diet in which they are present all food groups and regular moderate physical activity, especially strength training, 3 or 4 times a week”. Of course, this should always be done with the advice of a professional. Not only on a nutritional level anymore. Also, if it is the first time we go to a gym, we should ask the monitors for help to use the machines without injuring ourselves.

Finally, this nutritionist remembers that the increase in muscle mass it is a progressive process, which develops over weeks, months, or even years. We must not be in a rush to achieve our goals. Say goodbye to the bikini operation. It does not exist and, above all, it is not healthy.

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