Many athletes think that protein is necessary for bulking muscles and improving athletic performance. Body-building magazines often push excess protein consumption, protein shakes and amino acid supplements. Research does not support the need for this, but it's true that athletes need more protein than sedentary people.
Carbohydrates play a role
Only when the diet provides enough carbohydrates for energy can dietary protein be used to make body tissues and to perform other vital processes. Protein by itself cannot produce enough energy for optimal performance and body-building.
Athletes may use amino acid supplements, protein powders or pills hoping to gain muscle mass faster. However, research has not shown that taking particular amino acids will make your muscles bigger or stronger. The amount of protein or amino acids in expensive powders and pills is less than the amount you might easily get from food.
Training and proper diet actually show a greater gain in muscle mass and performance than does taking supplements. To gain one pound of muscle, you only need an extra 14 grams of protein per day.
The protein bottom line
Consuming too much protein can lead to problems such as:
- Dehydration/increased urination: Protein requires more water to break down and digest
- Diarrhea and upset stomach
- Calcium loss from bones
- Possible kidney damage with long-term use
Though the athlete needs more protein than the average person, special protein supplements are not necessary. A well-balanced diet and good training will help you meet your athletic goals.
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