It’s a well documented fact that we need a balanced diet of carbohydrate, protein, fats and vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. Each has a specific role to play in the health of our bodies and is essential for our day to day maintenance.
Muscle tissue consists mainly of protein and to ensure growth and development, protein must be consumed. During exercise, particularly challenging exercise, muscle tissues can be damaged and protein is essential for repair. Athletes ingest good quality protein, often in the form of a supplement, to ensure muscle development, strength and repair. Protein is also excellent at satisfying appetite and as such, is used by slimmers to help control weight.
Bodybuilding supplements are an easy and effective way to ensure the body conscious person receives the correct levels of high quality protein, but before embarking on any form of supplementation it is important to consider any likely side-effects.
Because protein is a necessary element in a balanced diet, side effects are rare, unless you are unlucky enough to have a congenital syndrome that gives you a protein allergy. However, problems can occur if you overdose on protein. Taking protein supplements as the name implies, as a supplement, is a safe option. Using protein powder in excess of safe limits won’t lead to increased muscle power but it may have potentially serious side effects.
If excess protein is consumed, it is not stored as carbohydrate as fats are. Instead it is broken down ready for elimination. A by-product of this process is urea, which has to be processed further before excretion. This can place extra strain on kidney function, leading to potential problems in the renal system.
A second side-effect is the possibility of acidic blood. The body will try to correct this by pulling calcium from bones to neutralise the blood. The long term effect is weakened bones and the likelihood of developing osteoporosis.
However, it must be stressed that these side-effects are caused by excessive use. Bodybuilding supplements used moderately have a much more positive effect. When consumed as part of a balanced diet, bodybuilding supplements provide a positive nitrogen balance within the body. When in a negative nitrogen balance muscle loss is common. Combined with exercise, protein powder will provide amino acids in the right amount, allowing the muscle to grow.
Aerobic exercise will create a negative nitrogen balance as the body will turn to protein sources as fuel if muscle glycogen is depleted. Protein is also lost in respiration and breathing as exercise increases, so protein powders can be beneficial to long distance runners as well as body builders.
Vegetarians tend to have a low protein diet so a supplement of protein powder, perhaps taken as a breakfast shake, is an ideal way to achieve higher levels of essential amino acids. Even meat eaters can struggle to consume quality protein, as cooking and the effects of production can vastly alter the quality of animal proteins.
Excessive use of protein supplements brings with it the risk of side-effects. But when used properly, these side effects have a positive effect, particularly when used alongside an exercise regime.