Protein is an essential nutrient needed on a daily basis by the human body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe that most Americans consume more protein than they need to meet their daily requirements. There are occasions, such as pregnancy and in conjunction with certain medical conditions, that additional stress on the body causes higher protein demands. While obtaining extra protein from food sources is ideal, occasional use of protein supplements may be necessary.
Functions of Protein
Protein has a major role in the body, such as building and repairing muscles and bones after times of stress or injury. These times include vigorous activity when muscles are damaged during extreme exercise, and in relation to medical conditions such as surgery and dialysis. Georgetown University educates its students on the importance of protein for immune function to keep the body healthy to resist illness. Protein provides the body with energy in the form of calories. Protein is also made up of nitrogen, essential to all living beings.
Who Benefits from Protein Supplements?
While supplement makers aim their products at the fitness community, protein supplements may aid other populations even more. The National Cancer Institute recommends high-protein supplements to cancer patients who can not consume adequate amounts of protein following surgeries or as a result of a poor appetite. The Merck Manual of Geriatrics places the elderly at risk for protein deficiencies. Older persons could benefit from a high-calorie, high-protein supplement to prevent weight loss and muscle wasting, which could lead to increased mortality. Another group in need of sufficient protein is those individuals who have had gastric bypass surgery. Duke Medicine recommends protein supplements with at least 13 grams of protein and consumption of high protein beverages in the weeks immediately following surgery.
Health Benefits of Protein Supplements
If you cannot consume adequate amounts of protein, a supplement like protein powder can be a convenient source of nourishment. Protein deficiency is dangerous to your overall health and can lead to loss of muscle mass, hair loss, and a weakening of the immune system. The American Association of Kidney Patients acknowledges that many dialysis patients cannot meet their high protein needs from foods alone, particularly because of problems with taste related to their kidney disease. They recommend the use of protein supplements under the general direction of a Registered Dietitian to replace the protein lost during dialysis and meet their daily needs.
Fitness and Nutrition Benefits of Protein Supplements
Grocery stores stock their shelves with high-protein products to target low-carb diet followers. The advantage of the extra protein is the feeling of satiety you receive as your body works to digest them, a great benefit for someone looking to lose weight. Protein supplements can also provide an easy, nourishing meal replacement for dieters.
Open any fitness magazine in your local bookstore and you will see the popularity of protein shakes and other protein supplements. When used correctly and in conjunction with a healthy diet, body builders and athletes can benefit from protein bars in between meals to repair tissue damage caused by workouts. Science Daily reports that many athletes do not understand the role of protein and ultimately overconsume, stating that greater than 80 percent have consumed adequate protein from meals. Athletes should consult with a sports nutrition professional to determine how much protein they need.
Registered dietitian Molly Kimball reports to ABC News that protein powders can be a good choice when needed because they are easily digested and “easily absorbed.” She indicates that consuming high-protein supplements should be done at specific times during the day, such as at bedtime, for best effect. On the other hand, the American Council on Exercise notes consuming extra protein does not lead directly to extra muscle but can cause weight gain in the form of fat. Protein does contain calories and those calories can add up quickly, considering the high amounts of protein found in supplements. Taking in extra calories can cause added inches in places not flattering to body builders. Protein supplements do have a place in the diet of a person with protein deficiency and can be invaluable when the need is there.