The protein myth: why food-first is best and plant-based is healthier
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The protein myth: why food-first is best and plant-based is healthier

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While research demonstrates that diets heavy in animal Protein increase risk of disease, people who eat more plant protein gain protection
– James Wilks

Gym goers that guzzle back a protein shake post-workout to help build muscle mass and speed up recovery could be doing themselves more harm than good, according to a recent documentary.

The Game Changers documentary sought to dispel the myth that meat is the best type of protein to build muscle or power the body of an elite athlete. It presented a rather more complex picture of proteins, and how different types can help or hinder the body.

While animal proteins contain a number of harmful compounds, plant-based proteins contain a package of compounds that promote health.

“Rather than demonise or deify all dietary protein, it serves us to dig one layer deeper and question the source,” said elite athlete and producer of the movie James Wilks in Health Club Management’s 2019 Issue 2 . “While research demonstrates that diets heavy in animal protein increase risk of disease, people who eat more plant protein gain protection.”

His advice to health clubs was to offer plant-based protein shakes, and to be aware that use of them alongside milk-based products will impair the effect of the plant-based solution.

One thing that many gym goers will fail to factor into their routine is how much protein they are eating as part of their general diet. In the UK, on average, we eat almost double the protein that we need, according to Victoria Taylor, senior dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, and higher consumption of meat has been linked to increased risks of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.

Consuming additional protein through a supplement if you’re eating enough already will very likely be pointless, said Professor Philip J Atherton, chair of clinical, metabolic and molecular physiology at the University of Nottingham. “The body can only store a finite amount of protein and if the muscles are beyond the threshold of utilisation for a given meal, the excess protein will be diverted away, broken down and excreted.”

Professor Atherton advises people to “go back to the fundamentals and gain an awareness of how much protein they have in their diet”, before resorting to supplements.

In fact, adopting a “food-first” approach and tailoring intake to goals is the best way forward, especially for elite athletes that will be subjected to doping tests, according to Jason Fligg, who is a performance nutritionist and founder of Sport and Exercise Performance, as well as being a UK anti-doping advisor. .

“To see real gains, people need a consistent nutrient-rich dietary consumption, tailored to their goals,” he told HCM. “I focus on helping my clients make lifestyle changes, as well as educating them on supplement use and informing them of food-first approaches.”

While agreeing with the food-first approach for consuming proteins, Kiri Elliott, senior dietitian at the British Dietetic Association, understands that there may be times when a supplement works best for an individual.

“If people are busy and training multiple times a week, then it could be more convenient to have a protein supplement as opposed to real food, especially as there is a short window after exercise when it is optimum to take on protein to build muscle. The use of protein supplements when exercising to lose weight can also help to build lean tissue and to lose fat mass rather than muscle mass.”

To read the full article see Issue 2 2019 of Health Club Management here

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Gym goers that guzzle back a protein shake post-workout to help build muscle mass and speed up recovery could be doing themselves more harm than good, according to a recent documentary.
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