Nutrition supplements are a great tool to use to be able to help with things like more energy, faster recovery, or better health in general. Supplements will not and cannot replace what can be gained by eating a nutritionally balanced diet, but with proper eating, supplements can give athletes an extra edge to help the body perform at its best. As a rule for protein consumption, you should be consuming 1.0 - 1.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day. This includes the total amount of protein you take in from all sources each day (not just in your protein shake). There’s so many supplements out on the market and hundreds of brands that it gets overwhelming. Many supplements are perfectly safe and have claims backed by numerous research studies, but it’s difficult to know what the best product is for specific goal and if it’s safe and legal to take as a high school athlete.
As a high school athlete, your body is naturally in a growth state. When our bodies grow, they need nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, and proteins to help with the building process from the calories we get from eating these. Protein, specifically, is the most important macronutrient for lean muscle growth and recovery.
In our American society, we often eat an abundance of carbs and fats. Protein, on the other hand, is not as simple to get and eat during the day as snacks. When’s the last time you saw someone eating a chicken breast as a snack? Protein powders are a great tool to use to supplement a normal diet.
You’re probably aware that after a workout our bodies need protein. During the workout, small microscopic tears are created in our muscles which need to be repaired afterwards. Ingesting protein immediately to within about an hour after the workout is an extremely important time to halt further muscle damage and start the recovery process to repair our muscles to make them grow bigger or stronger. Protein powders will not make athletes “big and bulky.” A diet high in calories will make that happen. It’s much more difficult for our bodies to convert protein to fat compared to when we eat an excess of carbs and fat, it gets stored as fat. Protein powders are a simple and convenient way to get protein in directly following a workout or as a snack during the day. Any low-fat whole food protein source is good to have post-workout, but it’s easiest to throw a scoop of protein in a bottle and mix it with water so the liquid is absorbed quickly. Powdered proteins are also absorbed and digested quicker than any other source, like chicken, or eggs, depending on the type of protein powder.
Whey protein is the most common type of protein powder used. It’s the cheapest to produce so it’s the cheapest and most abundant to buy. Whey protein is a milk based protein. It can be digested and absorbed faster than any other type of protein source, making it a great option for post workout.
There’s different types of whey:
Whey Protein Concentrate
Hydrolyzed Whey Protein Isolate
Casein protein is also a milk protein. This is digested much slower than whey protein and typically best before bedtime or during times when you won’t be able to have frequent snacks.
PLANT BASED PROTEINS
Plant based proteins are referred to as an incomplete protein. Animal and milk proteins are made up of all 20 amino acids. Plant proteins aren’t comprised of all 20 so they lack certain nutrients. For this reason, many plant based protein powders on the market are mixes of these various forms. There’s many more than 3 types of plant based proteins but we’re just going to cover the main 3.
Soy is a good choice for vegans or anyone that is lactose intolerant. Soy is highly processed and some studies have associated soy consumption in women with a history of estrogen positive cancer to an increased risk of breast cancer. Soy protein powder is either in concentrate form or isolate form. The main difference is just like whey, isolate is more filtered and broken down, and concentrate is less broken down but has more nutrients.
Even though rice contains primarily carbs, it also contains protein that can be separated then used in powders. Although it doesn’t have all 20 amino acids, it still contains the 9 essential amino acids. Brown rice protein is hypo-allergic and easily digested, making it a good option for individuals with dairy or soy allergies.
This plant-based protein is highly digestible, has a fluffy texture, and has a distinct pea taste. Pea protein is high in glutamic acid, which helps convert carbohydrates into energy so they won’t be as easily stored as fat.
Chocolate milk is a great option in place of protein powders. It is a dairy protein so it is part whey and part casein protein. The reason this is an excellent post-workout option is because you will get amino acids in the bloodstream quickly from the whey part, and then a slow release from the casein part. Also, with the carbs in it, this helps replenish the sugar that our body burned off for fuel that was in our bloodstream and stored in our muscles during the workout.
MEAL REPLACEMENTS & RTDS:
This is a very valuable tool to use as a high school athlete. During the school day, it can be difficult to fit in snacks every couple hours to make sure your body is always supplied with nutrients to provide energy and growth. Many of the easy, convenient snack options are highly processed and lack nutrients like protein, vitamins, or minerals. Meal replacement shakes (powders or RTDs (ready to drink)), or protein bars are good options that contain beneficial things. Be sure to look at nutrition facts to avoid products with high sugar or fat as these will hinder progress if too much is consumed. For protein bars, the best options are ones that contain high fiber. When this is used as a snack and accompanied with water, the fiber will expand in the stomach to create a full feeling, while improving the digestion process.
RTDs can get expensive so a cheaper option is to have a scoop of protein with a piece of fruit as a snack instead.
Mass gainers are great for athletes that have a high metabolism or looking to put on weight. These supplements are primarily composed of protein powder and a carbohydrate powder. Each serving will typically have 800-1000 calories but some can go up to 2000 calories per serving. The main difference in the variance of calories is how big the serving size is. Don’t be fooled in thinking that the 2000kcal is better than the 1000kcal. Most likely a serving size of the 2000kcal one is twice the size of the 1000kcal one. These powders can get very expensive also, a giant 5lb tub will sometimes only have 8-10 servings, so be aware.
A healthier and cheaper option would be to get a good protein powder and blend it with oatmeal, fruit, and a nut butter, or a combination of them. Using whole food sources instead of a carbohydrate powder will also give you more vitamins and minerals over pre-made options.
To be sure you’re taking a trusted brand that’s free of banned substances, check the label to see if it’s NSF (national sanitation foundation) certified. NSF has worked for over a decade with sports organizations, anti-doping agencies and supplement manufacturers to ensure supplement safety through testing and evaluating products to help ensure their quality and safety.
Protein supplements are some of the top supplements that can be taken by high school athletes. Again, supplements will not and cannot replace what can be gained by eating a nutritionally balanced diet, but with proper eating, supplements can give athletes an extra edge to help the body perform at its best. Look out for next month's Coach's Corner to see what other beneficial supplements you should take. If you have any questions regarding trusted brands to buy, stop in and ask our ESP Coaches!