Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Protein Supplements, eh?

Protein supplements, quite popular with the gym regulars and fitness enthusiasts and fitness freaks, are a hot topic of discussion, with many who advocate the practice, and many others who believe that our body does not need protein supplements, apart from those that can be included by modifying the diet! Originally, it was only used by professional body builders and athletes, thanks to their intense workout regimens and professional demands.
However, these days it has become quite a common practice even with regular gym goers!

Our traditional Indian diet which is mainly vegetarian, is not very rich in proteins, especially since most plant sources are poor sources of useful proteins. Animal sources like milk, egg, meat etc. are very rich in proteins. The only plant source, fairly rich in proteins is Soy, not without its advantages and disadvantages.
And since there is limited scope of increasing protein in the diet, without a proportional increase in carbohydrates and thanks to the fear of adding body weight, protein supplements provide an easy option for use!

Usually available as Whey (obtained in the process of cheese production), Casein (Milk Protein), Egg protein, Soy protein and some herbs and plants.

Whey Protein is considered to be the most useful kinds, thanks to its high absorption capacity, ease of use and high biological value with all essential amino acids and BCAAs in it and hence usually the most popular.
Casein or milk protein is also a good source of protein, again with a good absorption capacity, and rich in an amino acid – Glutamine which aids recovery mechanisms in the body. It is usually used in combination with Whey.
Soy protein, the only plant source of which is rich in proteins with the essential amino acids, and is very suitable for vegans or for those who are lactose intolerant or gluten intolerant. They have the maximum amount of protein as compared other plant sources, like legumes, pulses and nuts..

Continuing our discussion on protein supplements, ranging from discussing their need, to the side-effects if taken incorrectly, to the type of supplements available, no discussion will be complete without discussing the most naturally available and with the highest biological value (a measure of the quality of protein) – the humble Egg !
Eggs, referring primarily to those from chicken, are the nature’s relatively cheaper, storehouse of high quality proteins, with all essential amino acids and some useful vitamins and minerals like folic acid, Vitamin B6 and more. Commonly, the egg white is considered to the best source for protein, although the other nutrients like vitamins and minerals, including fat and cholesterol are contained in the egg yolk.
The egg white (also called albumin) on the other hand, has negligible fat, but is rich in proteins and hence a favourite amongst those looking for protein supplements in the natural form, and even as processed albumin.
Biological value (BV), common guideline while selecting which protein supplement to use, is defined as a measure of the proportion of protein that can be absorbed from a food and utilized effectively for protein synthesis in the body. Egg is one of the only foods with a BV very close to 100, while whey has BV of 96, thus making it the one of the best protein supplement option after egg. Cow milk has around 90, cheese has around 84 and Soy has around 75.
What this basically means is the ease with which the protein available within them is passed on to the body, effectively for utilization.

As with other proteins, egg consumption can be everyday (remember the Doordarshan ad – Sunday ho ya Monday, roz khao ande!), keeping in mind to not overdo, especially the yellow/yolk part of it, and maintaining a good intake of water. Eggs are quite popular, amongst people across all sects, including some vegetarians!!
Nature only gives us useful things, and which remain useful only when taken in moderation! So go ahead, toss yourself an omelette or two!

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