Supplements-Do we need them or not?

by Kaizzad Capadia | May 10, 2016 Views :

Nutritional Supplements actually fall under the domain of “Sports Nutrition". This obviously gives the impression that they should be consumed ONLY by competitive athletes. Actually Nutritional Supplements can be taken to better the nutrient profile of one’s diet by anyone who wants to perform better physically in any walk of life & stay away from any pathologies arising from deficiencies in one’s diet. Apart from competitive athletes, exercising individuals also should consider supplementation to be extremely important.

Let’s first & foremost classify Supplements into 2 broad categories:

  • Macro-Nutrient Supplements- A Macro-Nutrient is defined as a nutrient that is ingested in quantities above 10 grams & apart from water there are three that classify as such - Carbohydrates, Protein & Fats.
  • Micro-Nutrient Supplements- A Micro-Nutrient is usually ingested in milligram or microgram dosages & the two main categories of Micros are Vitamins & Minerals & Trace minerals.

One question that is often asked is "Can't we meet all our nutritional requirements for any sporting endeavour or fitness goal only from whole food sources & without supplements?" The answer is YES... But what should actually be asked is -“Is it practically & logistically possible to provide the body with optimal nutrients in every meal, every day?" Well here the answer for 99% of the people including competitive athletes will be a resounding NO.

Important fact to keep in mind is that when you start working out to improve your fitness levels, the workout by itself does not cause the improvement, but rather it merely puts a physical stress on the body that the body is not used to. This leads to micro-trauma at the cellular level & the body then wants to adapt to this new level of physical stress (Exercise) by not only repairing itself to its former self but also super compensating by increasing skeletal muscle size & improving cardiovascular efficiency.

When you start working out to improve your fitness levels, the workout by itself does not cause the improvement, but rather it merely puts a physical stress on the body that the body is not used to.

But this enhancement which the body now wants to do in the face of controlled physical stress (Exercise) translates into reality only IF the correct raw material is provided through food. Many people believe that only sedentary people need to watch what they eat & individuals who work out earn the right to be careless about their diets. Nothing could be, more untrue. The fact is that the more you work out & subject the body to higher & higher levels of intensity; the more the need for an optimal diet designed on the tenets of Sports Nutrition.

Thus the results from the blood sweat & tears you expended in the gym SOLELY depend on Optimal Nutrition.

When it comes to Macro Nutrient intake, OPTIMAL would mean that every meal be a combination of:

  • A modicum of Carbohydrates coming solely from Fiber rich green leafy vegetables
  • Protein to the tune of 1.5 to 2 grams per Kg bodyweight minimum, all coming from First Class Animal Protein sources such as Eggs, Milk Products (Paneer/Cottage Cheese), Chicken, Fish, Mutton & Beef as only these have the ideal Essential Amino Acid Profile to cause immediate protein synthesis in the body
  • Fats from Mono-Unsaturated cooking mediums such as Olive Oil, Omega 3 Fatty Acids from Fish Oils, Egg Yolks & generous amount of saturated fat coming from Animal meats, Milk to create a healthy balance between the abundant omega-6 & the relatively sparse Omega-3.

Now to do this in every meal, every day is a tall order even for the most driven & focused. More often than not what does happen is that the intensities in the gym keep rising and reasons for not being able to comply with the above dietary requirements increase day by day.
THIS, MORE THAN ANYTHING CAUSES YOUR WORKOUTS TO NOT YEILD RESULTS OR WORSE YET LEAD TO A DECLINE IN PERFORMANCE DUE TO INCREASE IN DEFICIENCIES & THIS LATER ON LEADS TO DECREASED IMMUNITY & ILL HEALTH.

Out of the above 3 macro-nutrients –

Carbohydrates are always in abundance & more often than not in excess, plus everyone has access to fibrous vegetables.…
Once you get rid of the stupid dietary fat phobia, Fat intake is also as easy & practical as choosing the right cooking medium and not going for the lean cuts or the fat free dairy, but instead choosing fatty meats, full fat dairy & cooking in Ghee & MUFA’s such as Olive Oil and simply supplementing with Omega-3 Fatty Acids from good Fish Oil Supplements.
But getting the optimal quantum of First Class Proteins in every meal, every day is extremely tough.

Thus almost 90% of the supplement industry focuses on making convenient, high biological value Protein powder Supplements as that is the missing link in diets of almost all individuals that compete in Power sports & Ultra Endurance Sports or non-competitive individuals who engage in intense workouts to gain muscle & lose fat to get stronger & more athletic.

The Supplement Industry derives & extracts this high protein concentrates & Isolates mainly from Milk & Eggs. (Casein, Whey & Albumin).
There are powdered extracts of Soy protein as well but Soy by itself is a Second Class vegetarian source lacking the Essential Amino Acid, Methionine and thus does not deserve consideration in this list.
Egg was always the God Standard when it came to Bio-Availability before Whey was discovered & thus enjoyed the BV score of 100. It is a relatively fast absorbed protein, being slightly slow than Whey, which is the fastest metabolised protein source known to man with a BV score of 104.
Casein on the other hand is also quite high when it comes to BV at 88 & its special place in Sports nutrition as an Anti-Catabolic Protein is due to the fact that it curdles in the stomach & releases Amino Acids into the blood stream at a slow trickle, thus keeping the body in a positive nitrogen balance for a longer time.

One more reason that I would say, “Optimal Sports nutrition is NOT possible without supplements, is the extremely important “Pre & Post Workout Meals”.
In the immediate Pre-workout, the body requires a good protein to load the body with Aminos, but if given whole food sources such as meats, Cottage Cheese (Paneer) or even the relatively fast absorbed Eggs, the bodies Digestive system would draw blood to itself thus leaving the Musculoskeletal system with a less than optimal supply of blood thus causing workout performance to suffer.
In the immediate Post-Workout period the depleted body needs glycogen replenishment to halt the body from wasting muscle protein for energy & also needs an immediate supply of Essential Aminos from First class protein sources. Now again if given whole food at this time would not be such a good idea as the blood supply has mostly been shunted to the Musculoskeletal system thus short changing the Digestive system & rendering it inefficient at digesting & metabolising whole food.
THIS IS WHERE PROTEIN POWDERS WILL ACTUALLY SCORE OVER WHOLE FOOD.

Now before I go any further, crucial questions which really need to be answered with the complete clarity & unambiguity of a YES OR a NO are –

  • Are we doing ourselves any kind of harm in any way in exchange for the convenience & efficacy of a Protein Supplement???
  • Is there a trade-off between getting the right nutrients at the right time in the right quantities in the most convenient manner & side effects???
  • Are we compromising health in the long run just to get better performance in the short term???

The answer to all of the above questions is a resounding, loud & clear NO

Macro-Nutrient food supplements such as Protein powders derived from Milk & Egg HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO SIDE-EFFECTS (Unless of course you consider boosting anabolism & boosting immunity to be Side-effects)
It is downright HEALTHY to take Whey Protein Supplements…
Whey Protein Supplements (Not an Apple) can keep the Doctor away…
It is Downright Unhealthy to workout intensely & NOT consume the right quantum & quality of Protein.

Almost everyone who plays a competitive sport requiring power & strength or engaging in highly catabolic Ultra endurance sports or workout enthusiasts engaging in 3-6 workouts per week & does not supplement his or her diet with Protein powders IS DEFICIENT IN PROTEIN… I will justify this claim of mine in the next paragraph with some average examples. Let’s take an average 70kg male, with a body fat percentage of 20%. He is training at an intermediate level of intensity in a bid to improve his body composition by building some decent muscle. His recommended minimum per day intake of protein would be about 2 grams per Kg of body weight 70 X 2 = 140 grams of protein. To make my point I will bring his daily protein requirement to 100 grams of Protein per day.

Now another issue with protein is that unlike Carbs & fats, it cannot be stored & hence must be equally distributed all through the day. So even if we take a basic sports nutrition protocol of 5 meals a day (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Pre & Post Workout meals), he will need at least 20 grams of first class protein in each of his 5 meals….
This means that his breakfast will need to have 3 whole eggs, Lunch & Dinner will need to have at least 100 grams of either Chicken or Fish or Beef or Paneer EVERY SINGLE DAY & his pre-workout meal would have to be 3 Eggs about 2 hours prior to the workout & his post workout would require about 6 Egg Whites. Now I am sure many of you have already decided in your head that this is not possible every single day & yet this is what is required for this average 70kg male to get some results from his efforts in the gym… The truth is most individuals requiring almost twice as much protein are not even having half of the above mentioned intake…

Especially in India, exercising vegetarians are not even getting half of the protein they should be getting at a sedentary level of activity… The Non-Vegetarians in India are also primarily vegetarian most of the time & may have Non-Vegetarian food in one or two meals two to three times a week… In such a scenario, every workout will simply contribute to losses of metabolically active lean tissue & actually accelerate the aging process by speeding up age related degeneration… This scenario is even worse for Competitive Athletes… for them the above simply results in an extremely short career span…
This may sound like BLASPHEMY… but it is a fact
NOT WORKING OUT is healthier than WORKING OUT in a Protein Deficient state.

Now what exactly constitutes a Whey Protein Powder?

Milk comprises of approximately 5% protein. So 100ml cow’s milk has about 5 grams of protein out of which 80% is casein & 20% is Whey. This can actually be seen in the process of making Paneer or Cottage cheese at home. The solid component, the cottage cheese itself is Casein & the Water that gets left behind is Whey.
The biological value of Casein is a respectable 88 & the Biological value of Whey due to its wonderfully abundant & comprehensive essential amino acid profile is an astounding 104 which is higher than the earlier gold standard of Protein – The Whole Egg which ruled as the best protein known to man at a BV of 100. So 100ml of milk will yield about 1 gram of Whey & helluva lot of Lactose which is bound to give even the most lactose insensitive person an upset stomach… So you can forget about getting the benefits of whey by simply consuming the Whey water that is left behind after the Cottage Cheese making process… 

Thus what you need is a technologically advanced extraction process that could remove the Whey almost intact with a minimum of Lactose. This is exactly what reputed manufacturers of sports supplements do.

They use advanced clean technologies such as Cross Flow Micro filtration to extracted un-denatured Whey protein concentrates that yield about an 80% protein powder or even a Whey protein isolate yielding close to 90% protein.

If you exercise to build muscle, lose fat, get stronger, have more endurance or are a competitive athlete… remember that you will not be able to achieve your goals being deficient in Protein

When it comes to Macro Nutrient intake, OPTIMAL would mean that every meal be a combination of:

  • A modicum of Carbohydrates coming solely from Fiber rich green leafy vegetables
  • Protein to the tune of 1.5 to 2 grams per Kg bodyweight minimum, all coming from First Class Animal Protein sources such as Eggs, Milk Products (Paneer/Cottage Cheese), Chicken, Fish, Mutton & Beef as only these have the ideal Essential Amino Acid Profile to cause immediate protein synthesis in the body
  • Fats from Mono-Unsaturated cooking mediums such as Olive Oil, Omega 3 Fatty Acids from Fish Oils, Egg Yolks & generous amount of saturated fat coming from Animal meats, Milk to create a healthy balance between the abundant omega-6 & the relatively sparse Omega-3.

Now how what I have described above can in any way be considered as harmful by the common man, athletes, coaches, so called experts in Nutrition & Dietetics & medical Doctors is something that completely beats me….

Something that boosts anabolism & immunity is viewed as suspect & a possible health risk is illogical, irrational & borders on fear psychosis of the unknown…. It is the sheer lack of education in this sphere that has caused something so natural to be viewed as artificial and synthetic…

It is nothing but the best of milk extracted while keeping the worst of milk at bay… Something only we humans of superior faculties can do…  Just as only humans could come up with the use of heat to cook food… We are the ones to come up with processes to extract & we keep making these processes better to come up with as Un-denatured a product as possible… in essence we are using technology to get closer to nature, get the best from nature without disturbing the natural quality of the substance we are extracting…

Another confounding phenomenon in this sphere is the sheer abundance of useless literature written on the topic of “Excess Protein” when the real need of the hour is to educate the protein deficient athletes & exercising individuals about the need for Optimal Levels Of Protein…
This irrational fear of the excess is even more ridiculous when you realize how incredibly difficult it is to comply to a diet that consistently provides you with adequate levels of protein… When you understand that by actually practicing Sports Nutrition, you realize how STUPID it is to warn people about Excessive protein intake…

If you exercise to build muscle, lose fat, get stronger, have more endurance or are a competitive athlete… remember that you will not be able to achieve your goals being deficient in Protein… make use of the prevalent technology & provide your body with the best form of protein made so convenient that it removes all excuses for not being able to get adequate protein…

When it comes to Micro-Nutrient Supplementation it is even more paramount to supplement for all kinds of people including the aging sedentary population. But I will reserve this for another blog as that topic is even vaster & deserves a separate space.

Now stop being scared of supplements & start getting scared of putting your body through the rigors of sport & exercise while being riddled with nutrient deficiencies… Remember the people spreading this misinformation & fear about supplementation are NOT qualified to talk on this subject… (More on who is qualified & what constitutes a qualified person when it comes to the topic of sports nutrition in a separate blog.)

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