If you are planning to pump up your body at the gym, buying protein supplements may not be a bad idea. Mixed with water or milk, they go hand in hand with body building and are the best way to repair worn out tissues after exercise, say experts.
Proteins are building blocks of the body. After a workout session, a body's requirement for protein shoots up to repair damaged tissues; therefore, the intake of the supplement drinks within 30 minutes, also called the "crucial or golden period", is a must, say nutritionists while advising that it should be done under expert guidance.
"Protein is a vital nutrient for muscle repair. When consumed through natural sources like egg or milk, it is digested and absorbed into blood, which utilises it wherever needed. The entire process may take anywhere between 45 and 90 minutes or could go up to two hours, depending upon the protein consumed," Prajakta Sarmalkar, nutritionist and lecturer at Gold's gym in Mumbai, told IANS.
A natural source of protein takes longer to get absorbed in the blood and this is where protein shakes come in handy.
"Protein supplements are partially digested, allowing the body to absorb them more easily. Post-workout, there is a golden period or crucial period of 20 minutes where the body needs high protein," said Sarmalkar.
Elaborating on how these supplements give quick results to the body compared to the natural source of protein, fitness guru Sheru Aangrish said: "When we eat raw food, proteins are broken down into BCCA (branched chain amino acids) and food digestion takes place. With supplements we can consume a direct form of BCCA."
Also, vegetarians cannot eat natural sources of protein like meat, eggs and fish; therefore, Aangrish feels protein shakes are a good substitute for such people.
"I am a vegetarian and protein supplements become very vital in a vegetarian's case. We have to depend on milk and soya to get the adequate amount of protein," he added.
But there are many who abstain from protein shakes. For 24-year-old Chetan Manhas, a fitness freak, these supplements are a complete no-no.
"I have heard stories of how these shakes pump up your body for a brief time and once you stop having them, your body loses all the pump. So, in a way, they give you illusionary shine that doesn't last for long. So, I stay away from them," said Manhas.
But personal fitness trainer Aashu counters that if "you are into heavy weight lifting and suddenly you decide not to take supplements, the body will suffer because the muscles won't be repaired in time and automatically the body will lose the pump".
Sarmalkar feels discipline and knowledge are required for the proper usage of these supplements and adds: "If a supplement is taken under someone's guidance, it can be advantageous but if it is consumed in excess, it could be disadvantageous. An excess amount of protein is converted into fat."
Every product has its pros and cons and it is important for consumers to gain proper knowledge before he or she starts consuming it.
"People should be educated on this topic. They should learn how to read labels and not go by what others have to say. Taking a supplement isn't a bad choice, it can be a part of your healthy lifestyle," said Aatikaay Narula, CEO of Evolution Sports Nutrition Pvt Ltd, a range of wellness and endurance supplements.