In Germany, there are more sports enthusiasts than ever before. Many more people exercise regularly, the number of sports disciplines is also increasing from year to year. But by no means every person who is physically active and keeps fit is immediately interested in participating in any competitions. Therefore, the vast majority of athletes in Germany are so-called amateur athletes.
It is not surprising that people who want to do something good for themselves and their health also think about their diet. Is a balanced mixed diet sufficient for amateur athletes? Or is it necessary to help with particular, scientifically developed protein powders? Protein powder as a dietary supplement can be bought, for example, from Amazon or on specialized websites for accessories, which often provide a good comparison of joint nutritional supplements for those interested.
Protein powder as a dietary supplement
Protein powders are products developed by the industry as dietary supplements intended to help performance-oriented strength athletes build muscle mass remarkably quickly and effectively. Above all, people who generally have a problem with building up body mass can effectively support their training work in this way. In addition, such protein powders contain valuable amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and several forms of sugar. And not too short of it.
A meal is prepared from such powders by adding water, milk, grain milk, yoghurt or quark—different flavours depending on the strain to prevent boredom. Most manufacturers come up with strawberry, vanilla, cocoa and coffee flavours.
Above all, such high-calorie meals are quick and easy to digest, making them suitable for bringing enough nutrition into the body during an intensive competition preparation phase. Because that’s the only way, the athlete still has reserves so that the longed-for mass build-up of the bodybuilder works. Because a hard-working, strength athlete can have a significantly higher energy turnover than a recreational athlete. Up to 6000 calories are more the rule than the exception and are often clearly exceeded, especially by heavyweight athletes. On the other hand, only between 2000 and 3000 calories are required for energy by a recreational athlete.
With such an increased energy turnover, athletes find it difficult to eat enough and often enough for their extensive training program. Therefore, it is essential for such people to quickly and effectively supply the nutrients they need through a balanced finished product. For them, in contrast to recreational athletes, the consumption of protein powders, ideally combined with carbohydrates, really makes sense.
The function of proteins in the body
If you look at the functions of dietary proteins in the human body, there are essentially two factors. On the one hand, they provide essential amino acids for building body cells and, on the other hand, the body can use them to generate energy.
Both anabolic and catabolic processes are constantly taking place in the body. Anabolic processes form new body mass, and catabolic processes break down old or damaged body material. These processes frequently occur in our body but can be intensified by certain internal and external stimuli. Such a stimulus is, for example, a sporting activity. Above all, if we specifically improve our training performance, as happens in bodybuilding training, more muscle mass is built up.
Of course, our body needs high-quality essential substances for this, as we can supply them with high-quality proteins. Then, if we mainly do long-lasting endurance sports such as marathon running, or if we overeat protein, our body uses dietary protein to provide energy.
How much protein do we need?
Just as each person’s lifestyle is very individual, so is their actual consumption of nutrients. This applies to fats and carbohydrates as well as to proteins. In addition, these values also fluctuate in the course of life due to different events. In the period of growth, consumption peaks can occur, while in old age, the requirement is significantly lower than average. Diseases, accidents, surgeries and other events can also cause an organism to need more building materials than at different times.
For this reason, consumption recommendations, such as those published by the German Society for Nutrition, can only ever be guidelines. With a recommended daily intake of 0.8g of protein per pound of body weight, the average person still has a unique safety bonus. Even if the individual requirement can deviate significantly from this 0.8 gram, experiments have shown that this value is sufficient for most people to provide their amino acid requirements.
As strength athletes and bodybuilders usually do, even people with large muscle mass can easily cover their needs with this 0.8 g. Nevertheless, the average German consumption of proteins far exceeds this consumption recommendation.
At 1.2 g/kg, most Germans consume around 50% more protein than needed. This means that even a momentarily significantly increased need for protein is easily covered by the standard diet in Germany today.
However, the media has recently unsettled people who do sports, particularly the “low carb wave” coming from the USA, because they spread the belief that we would only be able to build muscle mass quickly with a lot of protein.
Proteins in popular sports
In addition to the health aspect, amateur athletes usually also focus on improving fitness, coordination and a better and more youthful appearance. These include improving posture, reducing fat mass while building muscle mass and tightening the connective tissue.
Of course, a good training plan is just as part of achieving this goal as a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet. Because the body must have enough energy for such a workout. In addition, as already mentioned, the intensive training stimulus stimulates the body to break down old body cells and build new ones. So it needs fast and long-lasting energy and constructing material to make new body cells, primarily muscle cells.
High-quality carbohydrates and unsaturated fatty acids provide energy. The body gets its building material primarily from the amino acids provided by the dietary protein.
Through studies, scientists have found out that the increased need for proteins, such as that caused by physical training, is shallow. If we change our lifestyle to shape our body through more exercise, we can gain about 2 kg of muscle mass per year. However, since muscle is 80% water, that 2kg muscle requires only 400g of protein to be processed. If you convert this 400 g to 365 days of a year, this corresponds to approx. Additional daily consumption. 1.1 g. And this 1.1 g refers to the total body weight. This means that only about 0.03 g more protein is consumed per kilogram of body weight, less than 5% of the recommended amount.
However, since the average German consumes around 100 g of protein with their mixed diet every day, this regular diet quickly covers even the need for extreme muscle building training.
How the body deals with too much protein
Our body processes all the food components that we put into it, first in the digestive system and then its components again at the cell level. While the digestive system does the rough work, the cell decides what ultimately happens to the nutrients.
With the proteins and amino acids, the body has the opportunity to use them to form new body cells. However, if we supply our body with too many amino acids, it is forced to convert the excess into energy.
However, this metabolic process is relatively complex and expensive. In addition, this process produces water and carbon dioxide as a metabolic waste product and urea.
However, the area produced when proteins are metabolized must be excreted in the urine. Above all, those who supply their body with too much protein over a long period must reckon with damaging their kidneys in this way.
In contrast, generating energy from carbohydrates and fats is much less problematic for the body. On the one hand, the conversion of these two nutrients into energy is much easier and faster, and, on the other hand, the only waste products are water and carbon dioxide. While the body can use the water, the carbon dioxide is exhaled through the lungs.
Appropriate nutrition for amateur athletes
Recreational athletes do not have to eat particular foods, i.e. no protein powder, to keep themselves healthy and fit. With a balanced, wholesome diet, you can cover the complete nutritional needs of the body by doing sports. In general, it is even the case that our usual diet provides more high-quality proteins than our body needs for increased muscle growth.
Even vegetarians don’t have to worry. By eating a balanced diet and consuming enough vegetable proteins such as lupine flour, you offer your body everything it needs for everyday life and physical activity. On the contrary, an increased supply of vegetable proteins makes it possible to consume valuable bodybuilding blocks without the undesirable accompanying substances such as saturated fatty acids, purines and cholesterol.
It will surprise many people that it is even more critical for recreational athletes to make sure that they consume high-quality carbohydrates because carbohydrates are the most important source of energy for all physical and mental performance.
The body can use carbohydrates for energy, both aerobic and anaerobic. This means that endurance sports that don’t get us out of breath a little depend on eating enough carbohydrates. But our body also resorts to carbohydrates in sports, where we get into oxygen debt.
The energy yield from carbohydrates is even greater than that from fats. The higher the load during training, the more significant the proportion of carbohydrates that the body uses to generate energy.
However, a disadvantage of carbohydrates is that they can only be stored to a limited extent in the body. The storage form of carbohydrates in the body is called glycogen.
To optimally fill these glycogen stores, a diet with lots of high-quality carbohydrates and a low-fat content is suitable. Eat mainly vegetables and fruit and more grain products such as pasta, rice, flakes, and bread. But make sure that your dishes contain as little fat and oil as possible. Animal fats, in particular, should be used sparingly. In moderation, high-quality, unrefined edible oils such as sesame oil, olive oil, etc., are suppliers of valuable fatty acids and vitamins.
Fruit, low-fat wholemeal biscuits and high-carbohydrate bars based on dried fruit can serve as snacks, especially during long periods of physical activity. Juice spritzers and fruit juices quickly replenish depleted glycogen stores.
Meals with complex carbohydrates must be consumed, especially before long-term physical exertion. For example, a full meal consumed about 3-4 hours before exercise can provide enough glycogen for full performance. Especially whole grain products, potatoes, vegetables, and fruit can do this. A small portion of fruit may be added at least 60 minutes before the training session.