NxJ’ers ask: Protein Supps?

All the men here drink protein shakes and eat protein bars — why?  Should women?

Some NxJ men (and men, in general) are typically under the impression that the more protein they eat, the bigger their muscles will grow.  HYOOOOGE misconception 🙂   They will have a rude awakening when those excess protein calories turn into fat–and fat it will become.  Guys who down 10 eggs, a few cans of tuna, all in between high-protein shakes, bars and powders are probably putting more on their flabs than their biceps…

Protein is important for growth and repair of your muscles, enzymes, organs and cells.  But clearly too much isn’t a good thing and there is a healthy limit.  Good rule of thumb: calculate your baseline protein needs by multiplying .36 by your body weight in pounds (e.g., if you weigh 150 pounds, you need about 54 grams of protein per day).  The number you come up with may seem low, considering that a can of tuna is 26 grams, a slice of cheese seven grams, and (yup) a cup of chopped veggies takes you to another five grams.  The average American seems to be getting in at least 100 grams of protein per day – thus, it’s very easy to hit your own personal protein requirements without supplementing.

As mentioned in yesterday’s DHB, there is still some question about the type of protein in different shakes or supplements.  Bottom line: both men and women should consume adequate calories from protein and can get it via whole foods (meats, tofu, dairy, beans, nuts and seeds) and/or through protein shakes and bars (IsoPure, Detour, Kashi).

Are protein shakes good to consume after a workout even if you’re trying to get leaner, rather than bulk up?

Protein shakes can add as much as 100 extra grams of protein (up to 440 calories) per day.  That’s fine if you require those extra calories due to a rigorous exercise routine.  But of you’re trying to get lean and you’re eating enough calories throughout the day, your body will store those extra protein calories as fat.

When to add on more protein is if you are extremely active (endurance runner, training for the Tough Mudder, or beginning a new weight lifting program).  In these situations, you may need about 50 percent more than the RDA, or 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.  Nonetheless, for a 150-pound man that’s still only 82 grams per day.

A shake is one way to get in protein post-workout if you are on-the-go and have no time to eat.  Otherwise, you do not need any additional protein unless you are endurance training or body-building (in which case, getting it from real foods is the #1 healthiest way to go).

Do you have suggestions on what kind of strength training exercises women can do to increase our strength without becoming bulky?

First thing’s first: lifting heavy weights does not make you bulky.  Men will be the first ones to tell you that it is NOT easy to put on muscle and it takes some time to “get big.”  The way to get bulky is to lift heavy weights one to two times per week and eat more calories than normal.  So if you want to be strong and lean, lift heavy weights and eat less.

Any exercise stimulus encourages muscle breakdown.  When you rest or go to sleep, your muscles go into an anabolic (growth) state to get stronger than before.  The only way to keep that strength is to consume extra calories (calories– not just protein– provides the energy needed for the rebuilding process).  Being lean means doing the physical work, and finding YOUR OWN caloric balance to coincide with that work.

Specific high-calorie burning exercises:

  • Lower-body exercises such as squats and lunges
  • Circuit-training or intervals between resistance exercises
  • Intense weight workouts that create a small caloric “afterburn,” which means more calories are expended at rest even after the exercise is finished.

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