products are one of the mainstays of health food stores. Many amateur and
professional athletes take protein supplements based on advice from coaches,
other athletes, family, and friends. And one survey found that protein
supplements were used by nearly half of the men who regularly worked out at a
gymnasium. But is this necessary?
How much protein do
In fact, almost all
Americans, athletes included, get ample proteins from following a well balanced
diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend a
daily intake of 0.36 grams of protein per pound or 12 to 15 percent of total
calories. So, the 72 grams of protein required daily by a 200-pound man
are readily obtained from the average diet. To put this into context, a
quarter-pounder hamburger has about 24 grams of protein, or a little more than
half of the daily needs for a man at this weight.
The American College
of Sports Medicine, the American Dietetic Association, and the Dieticians of
Canada jointly stated, “Data are not presently available to suggest that
athletes need a diet substantially different from that recommended in the above
dietary guidelines.” In addition there is no evidence that protein
supplements are more effective than the consumption of high-quality protein
from regular dietary sources.
Body builders and some
athletes may be the exception
While there are no
official protein requirements for athletes, it is generally recognized that
body builders and those engaged in strength training or high intensity exercise
may need as much as two times the amount of protein recommended in the Dietary
Guidelines. These individuals will probably need to add protein supplements to
their diet. One Internet website stated that the optimal protein intake for
body builders is 200 to 320 grams per day, which even for extreme athletes is
likely way too much. As always, let the buyer beware. Another website
advertised a supplement containing 2 pounds of protein for $17. So, taking
200 grams of this supplement daily would use up the $17 product in less than 5
The bottom line: Few
Americans should take protein supplements. They are unnecessary and costly.
More importantly, these supplements can raise the risk of
osteoporosis. This is because the increased acid load from excessive
amounts of protein intake can lead to loss of calcium in the urine.