Hello all! I recently came across an article that sets out to answer the question as to whether protein be included in carbohydrate (CHO) based sports supplements. There are two contrasting perspectives: the prevailing view, which does not believe protein should be included due to the lack of convincing scientific evidence supporting any “positive outcomes” and the challenging view, which suggests otherwise under certain conditions.
For today however, I’d like to give a quick summary of the former.
Name of Article
Should Protein Be Included in CHO-Based Sports Supplements? (Betts & Stevenson, 2011)
Criteria of a Supplement
The author of the prevailing view, Dr. James Betts, proposes that a “worthwhile” nutritional supplement must fulfill at least one of the following criteria :
a. true “supplementation” of the diet (i.e., either compensating for deficiencies or meeting increased requirements);
b. supplement formulation facilitates digestion, absorption, and/or metabolism to more effectively deliver active ingredients than possible via whole foods;
c. and/or optimal timing for supplement ingestion renders it impractical to acquire active ingredients via whole foods as a meal (e.g., effects are either short-lived or situation dependent).
In short, a supplement must compensate for a nutrient deficiency or increased requirement; be more effective in nutrient delivery than whole foods; and/or have the timing of supplement intake be more effective in nutrient delivery than via the consumption of a mixed meal.
Keep these criteria in mind as we look at the author’s take on the efficacy of combined CHO-protein ingestion under the following exercise conditions.
The ingestion of added protein to during exercise is not effective for two reasons:
Although some studies suggested that added protein can enhance performance, it was because in all of these studies, CHO-protein supplements were compared relative to control supplements (CHO alone) that were at a, “lower energy content and/or below the recommended intake for the exercise tests used” .
There is little empirical evidence supporting a physiological mechanism that would explain why eating protein during exercise would provide performance gains .
Betts acknowledges that although combined CHO and protein supplements lack efficacy during exercise, “it does not negate any possibility that added protein may be of practical value in other situations (e.g., b/w exercise bouts)” . The question we wish to address however is whether protein should be added to CHO-based sports supplements specifically; added protein is still not as effective for the following reasons:
In addressing the first criteria of a supplement it can be argued that athletes may have a slightly increased daily protein requirement, warranting additional protein supplementation. In a western society however, the majority of athletes often exceed their recommended protein intake without supplementation. This suggests that their dietary protein needs are almost always met with diet alone. Added protein therefore does not “supplement” the athlete’s diet because there is no true protein deficit; the first criteria is not met .
Dietary choices can be based on positive claims of the, “more effective constituent proteins” such as whey. Such foods can therefore be consumed as part of a meal within the first hour after exercise .
This simply means that instead of taking whey protein on its own, just have some freakin’ yogurt!
It remains that whole foods can just as effectively meet dietary protein requirements AND be more likely to provide a variety of other important nutrients as part of a more “holistic” approach. As Betts concludes:
…the scientific data currently available indicate that protein is not an effective addition to CHO-based sports supplements when ingested during exercise, whereas the potential advantages of added protein during recovery can be most comprehensively achieved via whole foods as part of a balanced diet .
And there you have it. In my own humble opinion, I personally follow the prevailing view. That enhanced performance in sport can come from proper nutrition via whole foods, adequate rest and most importantly…emotional and mental wellness.
Very soon I shall continue this topic by summarizing the challenging view.
1 – 7. Betts J.A., Stevenson E. Should Protein Be Included in CHO-Based Sports Supplements? Contrasting Perspectives. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2011 Jul; 43(7): 1244 – 1249