Here’s what you need to know about protein supplements - GulfToday

Here’s what you need to know about protein supplements

Amir fitness instructor

Amir Siddiqui with a client in his training studio, Symmetry Gym.

Manjula Ramakrishnan

After 15 years of empirical research, study and results-based training, New Yorker Amir Siddiqui developed his own training methodology called the "Fission Fusion Training System.’’

It is a comprehensive, integrated and holistic training system designed to push the limits of strength, speed and power by just the right amount, to ensure maximum permanent results. It is this training methodology that is followed in Symmetry Gym Dubai, an exclusive training studio in the UAE where members train hard for serious results.

“I brought his unique concept to Dubai in 2011 and since then this revolutionary methods have transformed the physiques of everyone from stay-at-home mums to CEOs of multinational corporations,’’ says Amir.

While speaking to Panorama Amir particularly discusses the issue of sports supplements, especially protein supplements.

Why do fitness enthusiasts take sports supplements?

Millions of people take sports supplements hoping for a range of health benefits, from weight loss to muscle building. Sports supplements have become increasingly popular among gym-goers. People interested in fitness and improving their physique may opt for supplements that can enhance their muscle growth when combined with exercise, such as weightlifting.

Do these supplements also work on weight reduction?

When they're trying to lose weight as part of a bodybuilding diet, they may look for ways to control their appetite. There is a growing industry in sports nutrition supplements that are available on the high street and online. Illegal supplements, including some claiming to be "fat burning" or "slimming" have been linked to coma or death.

How good are the hugely popular protein supplements?

Protein is simply derived from milk and is essentially harmless. Protein is an important part of our diet and key to building and maintaining all types of body tissue, including muscle. It contains amino acids, the building blocks used for muscle growth. Protein powders are the most popular supplements in the world. They are available as shakes, bars and capsules. They're legally available to buy over-the-counter as well as online. Users may choose to take them before, during and after training to enhance performance and improve recovery, add them to meals to boost their protein, or drink them between meals as a high-protein snack.

Are protein supplements a must to achieve fitness goals?

Absolutely not! No one needs protein powder. There is literally no reason anyone should need it. You can more easily get all your basic protein requirements from food alone. Anyone telling you otherwise is surely ignorant. Are they safe? Yes. To date there is no known case or cause for concern regarding pure protein ingestion in supplement form. Protein supplements are marketed as helping to promote your body's muscle growth, aid metabolism (helping with weight loss), help you reach peak physical performance, boost energy and fight the ageing process. There's a tendency to think that there's a magic powder or supplement that will give you the physique of your dreams, but there's no substitute for hard work and commitment. Building strength takes years, not weeks or months. It's an act of discipline and must be earned through commitment to hard training and a good diet.

What are the hidden dangers behind these protein supplements?

Some supplements are being sold illegally and can be very harmful and this is something that gym goers must be wary of. There's also evidence that, in the long term, consuming too much protein can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis and can also worsen existing kidney problems.

So what would be your best advice for fitness enthusiasts?

A simple change in foods – such as Greek yoghurt in the morning with muesli and fruit, rather than plain breakfast cereal and milk – will help enhance the protein content of a meal. After you have taken this step, fill in the gaps with a reputable brand of protein supplement. Always read the label carefully, take the recommended serving size, and don't be tempted to take far more than is necessary, as this is not supported by the current evidence. If you're unsure, ask your GP to refer you to a registered dietician for advice.

What are the benefits of a healthy protein-rich diet?

Gym goers can get the same benefits promised by protein supplements from introducing high-protein foods to their diet as snacks or adding them to their normal meals to enhance the protein content. Although protein shakes are convenient, not all of them are suitable to be used as a meal replacement, because they don't have all the vitamins and nutrients that a balanced meal would contain.