“What Supplements Do I need to take?
How much protein do I need? What is the best diet for a fitness athlete?”
Your diet composition essentially is broken into Macronutrients and Micronutrients.
Micronutrients are needed in trace amounts, like a few milligrams a day. Macros consist of the majority of your caloric intake. These include your Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats.
There is a very basic equation to help understand your breakdown of these macros. Of course, exact requirement depends on your fitness goals, training regime, level of physical activity, etc.… but I’ll assume if you’re reading this, you are at least moderately active.
Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the most basic form of Energy. Everything you eat is ultimately broken down to the base molecule of energy that is Glucose (C6H12O6). Simple carbohydrates are Sugars, and these break down rapidly, causing insulin spikes, and are low on the Glycemic index. People are generally advised to eat foods with high glycemic index, which essentially means, foods that take longer to break down. These would be complex carbohydrates such as Whole Wheat Pasta, Breads, Grains, Oats, etc. Low glycemic carbs, which are simple sugars are something nutritionists advise to stay away from. But if you’re an athlete, or require a fast burst of Energy, Simple Carbs are the best. Especially as a pre-work out… these could include Sugary Fruits such as Grapes, Bananas, Watermelon, or roots such as Sweet Potatoes, Yams, etc.
Ideally your intake of Carbohydrates should account for 60-70% of your daily caloric intake. Avoiding Carbohydrates and diets that ‘Cut down on Carbs’ are not a legitimate way to go, because it inadvertly affects performance. The best way to get lean is to Burn the Fat. There is no substitute for exercise and Carbohydrates GIVE you the Energy you need to exercise in order to Burn the Fat.
Fats: Fats are an essential macronutrient which is needed by your body. Avoiding Fats completely is NOT a good idea either, because your body requires fats for various purposes, although it is probably best to avoid Trans Fats. Most FDA laws mandate food products to reduce, minimize and if possible eliminate Trans Fats completely. Trans fats are mostly present in Oily or Fried foods. Healthy sources of Fats include: Nut Butters, Fish Oil, Meats, Eggs, Flax Seeds, Etc.
Your body needs Fat for functions that include:
- Lubricant, in joints, etc.
- Insulation (Keeps you warm, and retains body temperature)
- All your organs are covered with a layer of Lipids for protection
- High Density Lipids (Good cholesterol) are essential components that help eliminate Triglycerides and help maintain Heart Health and cholesterol levels.
Fat consumption should be at about 15-20% of your daily caloric intake.
Protein: Protein! The most sought after nutrient of the athlete! Proteins literally are the building blocks of muscle. When you work out, you tear your muscle fibres and they thin out, like a stretched rubber band. Protein gets absorbed into muscle and rebuilds tissue. This is why athletes and especially body builders are advised to consume high amounts of protein after a strenuous workout. Also, protein absorption is higher post work out, as the body’s metabolism and assimilation is higher after a workout. Also, athletes that are tearing more muscle fibres such as endurance athletes or bodybuilders looking to build more lean mass have a higher requirement of protein.
As a general indication 20-30% of your daily caloric intake should come from protein. A good calculation, for how much protein you need is:
For general sedentary individuals or people with moderate physical activity: 1.2 gms of protein daily, for per kilogram of bodyweight
Endurance Athletes and bodybuilders: 1.5 gms of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
Heavyweights and competitive bodybuilders: 2 gms of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
Good sources of protein are Meats, Fish, Eggs, Dairy, Pulses (Dals, sprouts, etc.), beans, chickpeas, etc. The gold standard for natural source of Proteins is Eggs. One whole egg contains about 6 gms of proteins, but protein from egg is the most bioavailable source of protein. Chicken and fish, and white meat in general are more leaner sources of protein. 100 gms of chicken breast contains 30 gms of protein. A glass of milk is about 6-8 gms.
So, if you can get your sufficient intake of proteins from a natural diet, that’s great. If not, there’s a huge variety of Protein supplementation, Whey protein being most popular and common. There’s also shakes made from Soy, Chick peas, Rice bran, etc for vegan options. Personally, I prefer Whey. It’s the easiest to digest, better absorption and bioavailability and definitely wayyy more superior on taste. Ever tried Double Chocolate?
I often get asked, which the best protein is or what the best brand is. Well, whatever’s easier and more affordable for you is best, also what’s most important is ease of digestibility. Some protein shakes are just easier to digest, some make you flatulent. You never wanna stand downwind from a Gym Bro, after his Post Workout shake. I can tell you that from experience. Others go right through (Like the old school Mass Gainers). When I started bodybuilding back in the nineties, Joe Weider Mega Mass 4000 was THE ultimate recommendation for young bucks starting off looking to stack mass. One serving contained 4000 calories. Came in chocolate and banana flavors. Lasted for an exact 60 seconds in my gut, until it burst out of the other end.
I am so glad that the world of protein supplementation and delivery systems have evolved tremendously since then. But here are some pointers for selecting the right kind of protein:
- Look at the amount of protein per serving. A good shake should give you 20-25 gms per scoop
- Amino Acid Profile – A lot of the cheaper protein shakes may not have an entire amino acid profile. Or not in sufficient amounts. High protein shakes sometimes add extra AAs for better complementation. There are 9 essential amino acids (that your body does not produce) that you need to consume. The most important ones of these are Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine, which are optimal for muscle repair
- Good protein shakes these days, add probiotics that help digestibility. This could be a game changer, because it is pointless for your to be slamming mug after mug of protein, if your body isn’t gonna absorb half of it
- Additional ingredients, like glutamine, creatine, etc. depending on what your fitness goals are. But also, these add-ons can be bought separately for real cheap and you can add them in yourself, instead of paying a king’s ransom for a two pound can of whey. You can buy a can of glutamine or creatine for as cheap as 300-400 Rs.
- Mass gainers are an absolute waste of money. Most mass gainers are high on calories, and low on protein. The do this by adding more maltodextrins and other simple carbohydrates. Which is an absolute waste of caloric intake to begin with. You are better off adding your own carbs to your shake, like bananas, oats, or even just throw in a cup of high fibre whole wheat cereal.
- Taste and flavour. Maybe not as important, but like I said earlier; Have you Had that double chocolate, or a creamy strawberry protein shake after a good hard work out?
- Most people add their scoop to milk, to add on those extra milk proteins. Personally, I have found adding your scoop to water is a lot lighter, easier to digest and less nauseating. If it’s that extra 8 gms of protein you’re after, you can just add more protein powder.
These include all the minerals, vitamins and trace compounds that help fuel your metabolic processes and also fulfil a host of other functions in the body, like brain activity, nerve function etc. The good news is that these are needed in very small amounts, most of which you can get from a wholesome balanced diet. Fresh vegetables, like salads are better for getting more of the nutrients.
When vegetables are cooked, especially like in Indian cuisine, most of the micronutrients are lost. So we think like we are getting all our vitamins and minerals, but most of these delicate compounds are either dissipated in steam, denatured with frying or replaced by oil and masalas. Best way to retain most micros are either eating your veggies raw, or boil them like in a soup, and consume the soup water as well.
Leafy Greens are a good source of minerals, iron, folic acid.
Colourful fruits and vegetables, like strawberries, blueberries, Yellow and Red bell peppers, etc are really high in antioxidants.
The important micronutrients you should be getting in are:
Vitamins: A, B6, B1, B3, B12, D, E and K
Minerals: Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Zinc, Iron, Selenium and Folate.
Other compounds that boost metabolic pathways and cellular energy are CoQ10, arginine, creatine, etc. that help improve performance and athletic ability.
A good idea to ensure you are getting all these micronutrients, is to take a good multivitamin supplement on the regular. You should however keep yourself aware of what levels and amounts of vitamins and minerals your body needs. Remember, if you are an athelete, the D.R.A.a suggested by the WHO are not applicable to you. Also, some of these OTC multivitamins that you get at pharmacies that have a whole list of like 20 compounds in them may not be as effective. The dosage levels of each element in these multivitamins are really low, and also certain elements support absorbition of others, but also, some minerals could block absorbtion of other compounds. Minerals need to be carefully formulated, and certain combinations are more effective. Maybe I’ll cover these in another article for Gobeyondsports.
Meanwhile, hope this was informational and helpful. Please do share your questions or doubts in the comments, or what other topics you’d like for us to cover.
And until then, Keep Training. Keep pushing. And Keep Going, Beyond!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam Aswani is inherently a Biologist, with a Specialization in Genetic Sciences. Adam has always been in the pursuit of understanding the Human Being fundamentally: The core Biology, Functionality and Evolutionary pattern.
His research interest during his Masters in Nutrition at California State University, was in Sports Nutrition; Developing Performance Enhancers for Athletes. He also worked in Agriculture and Food Production and Processing in the San Joaquin Valley in Central California.
Adam returned to India in 2012, and has since been working in the field of Natural Healing and Alternative Therapies. He also apprenticed with an Ayurvedic Doctor to study and understand the Principles of Ayurveda and how it explains the simple fundamentals of Human Existence and Health. Along the way, Adam discovered the magic of the molecules hidden in our Plant Kingdom. He moved to Anjuna, Goa where he set up a makeshift laboratory to develop formulations using concentrated botanical extracts.
Adam tries to integrate his understanding of Genetics and Human Nutrition to create a Matrix that could help Human beings optimize their ability and potential for functionality. The Synerveda range of Herbal concoctions and Natural Processes is his understanding of Human Biology, to help Man Synergize with nature and improve his potential for Growth, Progress and Evolution.