Nancy, which brand of amino acids should I buy? On amazon.com, there are 16 brands, ranging in price from $18 to $40. Help…!”
Answer: What makes you think you even need to buy essential amino acids? You can easily get them in protein-rich foods like eggs, yogurt, milk, chicken—any animal-based protein has all the essential amino acids your body needs.
The protein supplement industry has done an excellent job of making consumers believe they need to buy essential amino acids. Wrong! If you fuel-up your workouts with a protein+carb combination, such as a yogurt and banana, and then recover afterwards with another protein+carb combination such as lowfat chocolate milk followed by real foods at the next meal, you’ll be doing a fine job of getting all of these building blocks of protein. Rest assured, you could more wisely spend your money on protein-rich foods, not amino acid supplements, and get the results you want from your workouts.
Just to define the “lingo”: Proteins are made from many amino acids, just like words are made from many letters. Some of these amino acids— the essential amino acids—need to come from food, because the body cannot make them.
Here are a few ways to get two of the essential amino acids, isoleucine and leucine. Because pure amino acids taste nasty, I’ll get mine from yummy chocolate milk and real foods at meals any day!
For certain! At a recent meeting sponsored by P.I.N.E.S. (an international group of sports dietitians who met at the American College of Sports Medicine’s Annual Convention, June 1, 2012 in San Francisco), Dr. Stuart Phillips, PhD of McMaster University in Canada reminded us that rapidly-growing infants require 1.3 grams protein per kilogram, whereas the RDA for fully-grown adults is 0.8 grams protein per kilogram body weight. Adults need less protein because they simply are not growing as fast as infants and young children.
The same goes for novice athletes who are building muscle; they have higher protein needs than a sedentary person. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), according to Phillips, is really a minimal dietary allowance for athletes. Just as children have higher protein needs during growth periods, athletes also have higher requirements to 1) build muscles and 2) maintain a flow of amino acids for processes that may function at a higher rates in athletes than non-athletes (such as the synthesis of protein, neurotransmitters, and immune proteins).
Phillips supported the ACSM Position Stand on Nutrition for Athletes, citing their recommended daily protein intake of 1.2 g/kg body weight (0.5 g/lb) for endurance athletes and 1.7 g/kg body weight (0.75 g/lb) for strength athletes.
Most elite athletes eat 1.6 grams protein/kg/day, spread over 4 to 5 meals and snacks, so they already meet this higher protein recommendation without the use of supplements. Hence, the real answer to the question “do some people need more protein than others?” is yes, but they likely get that extra amount in their standard diet; they just have less excess. Them ore you exercise, the hungrier you get and the more protein you are likely to eat.
Do runners and body builders need the same amount of protein?
Yes—when you calculate protein needs based on body weight. A more-than-adequate intake for both types of athletes is about 0.75 grams protein per pound body weight (1.5 grams protein per kilogram). While this need will be slightly higher if the athlete is restricting calories or in a growth spurt, 1 gram protein per pound (2.0 g pro/kg) is the maximum needed per day.
Let’s do some math:
140 pound runner = 106 g protein per day
240 pound body builder – 180 grams protein per day
Either of these amounts of protein is easily obtained by enjoying a protein-rich food with each meal. Here are three easy ways to meet your protein needs:
Cottage cheese, 1 cup 30 g
Tuna, 6-ounce can 35-40 g protein
Chicken breast, 6 ounces 50 g
Because a 240-pound body builder can easily devour a 16-ounce (two cup) tub of cottage cheese, a few cans of tuna (for a mere snack), and two chicken breasts, he’ll match his protein requirements without needing supplements.