Protein supplements: Do you really need them?

Protein supplements. Photo: Pixabay

If you are an avid gym-goer, you may be inclined to have a protein shake after your workout to refuel and repair your muscles. Like you, fitness enthusiasts around the world have long turned to protein supplements to bolster their exercise regimen.

But are these protein supplements safe, especially in the long term? And, more importantly, do you really need them?

According to experts, a food-first policy is optimal for health, and you should try as far as possible to get the protein your body needs from a nutritious diet. Protein supplements should certainly not be used as meal replacements.

Protein is made up of amino acids which are called the building blocks of the body and are needed for everything from bones, muscles and blood, to skin and hormones.

In Singapore, the recommended dietary allowance for protein is:

  • Men: 68g
  • Women: 58g
  • Boys (5-18 years): 30-80g
  • Girls (5-18 years): 30-60g

While the average adult needs about 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight per day, competitive athletes need 1.2-1.4g.

What are the different types of protein supplements?

Protein comes in various powder forms, but the three most common ones are whey, soy, and casein. Whey, a complete protein made from milk, is the most popular. Casein is also a milk protein but is less water-soluble than whey. Soy is plant-based.

If you decide that you need protein supplements, ensure you buy them from a reputed source and carefully follow the usage instructions.

4 harmful effects of excess protein:

  • Weight gain
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Dehydration
  • Strain on the kidneys; may worsen kidney function in people with kidney disease

5 food sources of protein

  • 85g (3 ounces) portion of tuna/salmon: 21g protein
  • 85g (3 ounces) portion of chicken: 19g protein
  • 170g (6 ounces) serving of plain Greek yogurt: 17g protein
  • ¼ cup (1 ounce) of nuts (all types): 7g protein
  • 1 egg: 6g protein

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