Should I take protein supplements if I want to build muscle mass?
BY: John Hanc
It’s true that protein can spark muscle growth. “This is what makes protein unique,” says Douglas Kalman, Ph.D., a registered dietitian and sports nutrition researcher at Miami Research Associates, in Florida. “It is the only nutrient that can stimulate the creation of new muscle.” But that doesn’t mean you have to gulp down protein shakes morning, noon and night.
First, you need to exercise correctly and consistently. With no training, you’ll gain no muscle -- no matter how much protein you eat. Second, most people can get sufficient protein from their diet, provided it contains 12 to 15 percent protein. Finally, when you take in your protein has been shown to be just as important as how much you take in. Ideally, for maximum muscle growth benefit, you should have some protein an hour before or after your workout. So while you could drink a glass of fat-free milk or open a can of tuna, many people prefer to reach for a protein bar or a shake on their way to or from the gym, notes Kalman. In other words, “Protein supplements are not necessary for gaining muscle,” he says. “However, they are often more convenient.”
John Hanc is a New York-based fitness writer who writes for Live Right Live Well, Runner’s World, The New York Times, Family Circle, AARP Bulletin, Newsday and others. He is the author of eight books, including The Coolest Race on Earth: Mud, Madmen, Glaciers and Grannies at the Antarctica Marathon (Chicago Review Press 2009).