Shake it all About!



How To Add Protein To Your Diet

In a recent article we touched on the topic of protein, covered the basics of why it is important to our bodies and how it benefits us as athletes and individuals. However, with just one installment, we were only able to scratch the surface, especially in the area of Protein Supplementation.

Protein pills, powders and shakes are very popular among athletes. There is a huge demand and growing mass of products available on the market that promise the most effective solution to muscle recovery and making muscular gains. All too often these ads take a "Get BIG Fast!" type of sales angle, but leave too many questions unanswered.

Are these products really valuable or just a BIG waste of money?

Even more importantly, as a fighter or athlete, are they a necessary part of boxing training?

Can the same benefits be obtained from a healthy diet alone?

To answer these basic questions, the right brands are not a waste of money. Yes, they are a necessary part of a boxer's training that cannot be obtained from whole foods alone. In part they can, but a boxer's training routine is so intense that it is almost impossible to get the entire daily recommended intake of protein through food alone.

So now that we've established that, let's examine exactly how to best incorporate it into your training regimen as a fighter. We already know that protein is essential for growth and development, muscle recovery, and contains a host of other benefits, but there are various ways you can specifically incorporate protein shakes into your diet to obtain optimum health and peak athletic performance.

The first key is in knowing what to look for. Although there are many different varieties of protein to choose from, the most well known and effective form is Whey Protein. Whey Protein is made from milk, but contains almost no lactose or fat and provides an extremely high-quality protein that the body will digest readily. Whey protein replenishes your body with the raw materials, nutrients, and amino acids necessary to perform at consistently high levels, from an athletic perspective. Unlike other readily available sources of protein, like fish, chicken or other meats, which are slow to digest, the protein in whey-based shakes are "predigested," which means they allow your body to absorb and utilize the nutrients much faster. It's extremely important to choose a brand that is free of added sugars (especially sugar substitutes), fillers and extraneous additives that only result in unwanted calories.

In both boxing and the delivery of a punch, timing is crucial. That applies to consuming protein too. In order to get the most benefit from it, one of the best times to ingest a protein shake is immediately after or soon after your workout...within 30 minutes is the most commonly held belief. Since during training you tear apart and break down skeletal muscle tissue, when you consume a high quality protein drink afterwards, it provides your body with the necessary amino acids and nutrients to activate the recovery and regeneration process almost immediately. According to a 2006 study published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, protein drinks are better absorbed by the body and are more effective in helping your muscles recover from your workout than any other type of energy shake or drink. The amino acids contained in protein will assist in the building-up and repairing of muscles, bones, and other cells that have been damaged from the workout. Protein shakes are particularly effective at accomplishing this because your body can more readily utilize the "predigested" protein as opposed to whole food sources.

Another way that these supplements can help a fighter is in the area of weight management. Protein shakes can compliment a balanced nutrition plan and help you reduce your daily caloric intake. This can be a welcome tool for a fighter who is cutting weight for an upcoming bout. Although protein shakes are sometimes used to replace a meal, they can also be taken in between meals to curb hunger and reduce cravings. Another great method is to drink one just before eating. This way you will feel fuller faster and, as a result, consume fewer calories during the meal. Plus, you will feel less hungry because protein is more satisfying than carbohydrates and fat.

Fighters are conditioned to find weaknesses in themselves and fix them, discover their own strengths and maximize them, so adding protein to your diet can serve as one more building block in creating a more perfect fighting machine out of your body. Obtaining improved muscle recovery, faster weight loss and better health is one more way to gain a physical edge. When it all comes in the form of a fast, convenient protein shake you're left with little choice other than to dust off that blender, add a couple scoops and drink your way to another dominant performance.

Spencer Ward is a Nutritionist with the Acupuncture Center in Overland Park KS.