It is a great pleasure to present to you a blog by an up and coming nutritionist and previous university co student of mine, Paul Fairbairn. Paul’s passion is unquestionably nutrition and is currently undertaking his masters degree with future plans on a PhD. This blog ties in brilliantly with today’s fascination with protein intake and supplements. Take it away Paul…
Protein supplements are probably the most widely used sports supplement there is. Whether we’re looking to gain muscle, lean out or just recover a little quicker from training using these supplements is generally the answer thrown in our direction. The purpose of this article is to cover what’s in protein supplements, important things to consider when choosing a protein supplement and if we even need them at all.
The Importance of Protein and Protein Requirements
When we think of protein the first thing the springs to mind is usually muscle mass, the two very much go hand in hand and for good reason. In order to gain muscle the three basic things we need is to be in a caloric surplus, a training stimulus and to have a positive protein turnover/balance (protein synthesis outweighs protein degradation). So we need protein for growth and repair of our muscles. Our requirements for protein isn’t limited to athletes and gym junkies, it also plays a role in the creation of enzymes, hormones, immune cells and transport mechanisms. (Geissler & Powers, 2005).
The dietary reference value for protein is 0.8g per kg of body weight per day, so for an average 70kg person that would be 56 grams of protein. It’s easy to see why it’s rare for someone to be below their protein recommendations, when 56 grams is the amount of protein in a large chicken breast. Several experts believe this recommendation may need updated as it appears to be adequate to prevent deficiency but not necessarily promote peak function/performance (Manore & Thompson, 2000). Nonetheless active individuals do require a higher protein intake. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends an intake of 1.2-1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight. Strength athletes or individuals with extremely heavy training schedules may require more, but generally this recommendation would be sufficient for most people (ACSM, 2015). There is also evidence that highly trained lean individuals may require even higher intakes, 2.3-3.1g/kg body weight, when attempting to simultaneously lose fat and preserve lean mass (Helms et al., 2014).
When considering our protein intake it’s important to think not only about grams but also the quality.
Protein is made up of amino acids all bound together by peptide bonds. When protein is digested its broken down into these individual amino acids which are then utilised by the body for the process I have already mentioned. There are 22 amino acids and each protein source we consume has varying amounts and diversities of these. To make this even more complicated there are nine essential amino acids. Some amino acids can be created by the body essential amino acids cannot their requirement can only be met through dietary means. The nine essential amino acids are phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, methionine, leucine, isoleucine, lysine, and histidine. Arginine, cysteine, glycine, glutamine, proline and tyrosine are sometimes referred to as conditionally essential meaning that under certain conditions they may be essential (Geissler & Powers, 2005). One amino acid I want to highlight in regards to muscle building is leucine, which is an essential and branch chained amino acid. Leucine has been referred to as the “switch” that stimulates protein synthesis, it has a much greater power in this process compared to all other amino acids (Norton et al., 2014; Koopman et al., 2006; Anthony et al., 2002).
So we know how important protein is let’s move on to the supplements. Protein supplements are mostly based on the following ingredients.
Whey – Whey is the absolute daddy of protein supplements it’s the basis of most of the big brands. Whey is a dairy product it’s actually a by-product of the cheese making process, and before its use in sports supplements it used to be seen as worthless, more or less a waste product. When we delve into the nutritional components of whey it’s easy to see why it comes out on top: it has a very high percentage of protein, usually around 80%, quickly digested, contains all nine essential amino acids and has a hefty serving to boot.
Casein – Casein is another diary derived protein. Nutritionally it is very similar to whey, however its digestion is much slower. For this reasons it’s rare for it to be used post workout as whey is superior in this regard. Casein is a very good source of calcium.
Soy – Soy protein is probably the most common alternative protein powder for vegetarians, vegans and those with lactose intolerance. This could be down to its high protein content which is some products is actually higher than whey. It has all the essential amino acids and a sufficient amount of leucine, albeit not as much as whey. Soy gets a bad reputation especially within the body building community as it contains phytoestrogens, these are chemically very similar to the hormone oestrogen. There is some evidence that consuming these in large quantities can lead to unwanted drops in testosterone, this has been batted back and forth within the scientific community quite a bit, but in studies whey tends to come out on top in terms of muscle building.
Pea – Pea protein is another great source in terms of percentage protein, again often outdoing whey gram for gram. Pea is not a complete protein so lacks all the essential amino acids, and its leucine content is fairly average. Furthermore I should point I have yet to taste a nice pea protein it usually requires blending with some fruit to make it palatable.
Rice – Rice protein is something I’ve never personally tried. It’s very high in protein, similar to whey. It contains all the essential amino acids but again a relatively moderate amount of leucine, very similar to pea protein (Kalman, 2014).
Hemp – Hemp has a moderate protein content per 100g less than the aforementioned sources. It contains all nine essential amino acids and a reasonable leucine content. It should point out hemp is also a great source of omega 3 and 6, however it is also high in fibre often leading to a gritty texture and slower digestion making it less optimal in terms of muscle growth.
I’m aware this image is probably raising all kinds’ red flags. Hemp is a relative of the marijuana plant, but it contains no THC (the psycho-active compound in marijuana)
Do we need Protein Supplements?
The short answer to this would be no we don’t. We can get more than adequate amounts of protein in terms of grams and individual amino acids including leucine from whole foods, chicken, beef and eggs are particularly rich in leucine (part of the reason body builders tend to opt for these protein sources. Just because we don’t NEED them doesn’t mean they can’t be useful. Protein powders can be popped in a shaker and taken with you to the gym, bang in some water and they are ready to go making them very convenient. Other advantages they have is their rapid absorption which can be favourable in terms of muscle growth and recovery, and often manufacturers will add other ingredients to tailor a specific blend to a particular goal which is quite nice.
Speaking of added in ingredients this can be great but at the same time it’s something to be wary off.
Exhibit A: Someone looking to pack on some size might opt for a weight gainer product, these are often very high sugar. This is to take advantage of the anabolic effect of insulin, but diabetics would need to stay clear. It should also be noted that whey protein does elicit and insulin response itself, however diabetes UK has deemed it safe for consumption and has published an article praising it as a way to control blood sugar levels. Any concerns should be taken up with a GP or medical professional what’s right from some may not be right for all.
Exhibit B: An individual looking to up their protein intake to preserve lean mass whilst losing fat goes for a “lean” variety of protein powder. These often contain caffeine, guarana, green tea extract or other stimulants so wouldn’t be suited for someone with high blood pressure or sensitive to stimulants. The moral of the story is if you are going to opt to use a protein supplement, do your research into what else is in the product and if that is suitable for you in terms of health and fitness goals.
A final point here with any supplement whether that be protein, fish oil, a multivitamin or whatever, we have to remember these are SUPPLEMENTS. They cannot replace a health balanced diet based on whole foods. They shouldn’t be used to make up for a poor diet, only to enhance a good one. The foods we eat are the foundations, walls, windows and doors, supplements are the pretty paintings and decorative pillows. How many times have you seen a homeless person with throw pillows?
Acsm.org, (2015). [online] Available at: https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/brochures/protein-intake-for-optimal-muscle-maintenance.pdf?sfvrsn=4 [Accessed 28 May 2015].
Anthony, J., Reiter, A., Anthony, T., Crozier, S., Lang, C., MacLean, D., Kimball, S. and Jefferson, L. (2002). Orally Administered Leucine Enhances Protein Synthesis in Skeletal Muscle of Diabetic Rats in the Absence of Increases in 4E-BP1 or S6K1 Phosphorylation. Diabetes, 51(4), pp.928-936.
Diabetes.co.uk, (2015). Whey protein controls after breakfast blood sugar levels. [online] Available at:http://www.diabetes.co.uk/News/2014/Aug/Whey-protein-controls-after-breakfast-blood-sugar-levels-92959228.html [Accessed 28 May 2015].
Geissler, C. and Powers, H. (2005). Human nutrition. Edinburgh: Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone.
Helms, E., Zinn, C., Rowlands, D. and Brown, S. (2014). A Systematic Review of Dietary Protein During Caloric Restriction in Resistance Trained Lean Athletes: A Case for Higher Intakes. IJSNEM, 24(2), pp.127-138.
Kalman, D. (2014). Amino Acid Composition of an Organic Brown Rice Protein Concentrate and Isolate Compared to Soy and Whey Concentrates and Isolates. Foods, 3(3), pp.394-402.
Koopman, R., Verdijk, L., Manders, R., Gijsen, A., Wagenmakers, A., van Loon, L. and Kuipers, H. (2006). Co-ingestion of Protein and Leucine Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis in Young and Elderly Men.Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 38(Supplement), p.S113.
Manore, M. and Thompson, J. (2000). Sport nutrition for health and performance. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Norton, L., Wilson, G., Layman, D., Moulton, C. and Garlick, P. (2012). Leucine content of dietary proteins is a determinant of postprandial skeletal muscle protein synthesis in adult rats. Nutr Metab (Lond), 9(1), p.67.
Now then, my previous post on gluteus activation got some great feedback and lead to a few requests for a similar post geared towards stretching them out, so here it is!
I've always found stretching to be a bit controversial. My views on stretching have changed drastically over the years especially coming from a traditional martial arts background. This topic really does need it own post but to keep it moving and you guys happy I'll give a brief over view.
Within my practice I use stretching a fair bit, these range from passive, active, static, dynamic, PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) and so on but that is not to say everyone benefits from it. As briefly listed you can see there are several different types of stretches you can do and each of them coming with several ways to stretch particular muscles. So for this post I will focus on static stretching only. Static stretching being a technique used while your body is at rest to gradually lengthen a muscle to an elongated position (point of discomfort) and holding for 30-120 seconds. The primary use of static stretching is to aid in restoring the "normal" range to of motion to a joint , if it is limited due to muscle length. I say "normal" because everybody's muscle lengths vary quite a lot from person to person. You can find therapists number crunching trying to force clients into ranges that a textbook says is normal but in practice are for them; potentially causing more bad than good.
While it is all well and good to simply show you stretches and say what muscles it will target I always feel better when you know why the muscle is stretching and how it effects us if shortened. For any effective stretch we have to know what movement a muscle creates when contracted. Considering the definition of a concentric contraction is understanding how to stretch a muscle:
Concentric contraction: "A concentric muscle contraction is a type of muscle activation that increases tension on a muscle as it shortens."
When a muscle is shortened in its concentric state it prevents effective lengthening. So to statically stretch our muscles we should increase tension on a muscle as it lengthens. Let's take our 3 gluteul muscles and consider what they do and how we can lengthen them to an elongated position.
Action: Extends the hip and rotates the thigh outward
Stretch: Flex the hip and rotate the thigh inward
Action: Stops the legs form closing by resisting (hip abduction). rotates the thigh inward and helps stabilise the lower limbs while on one leg
Stretch: Enable the legs to open (hip abduction), rotate the thigh outward
Action: Supports Gluteus Medius's function, nawww
Stretch: See Gluteus Medius
Highlighted in red we have Gluteus Maximus preventing effective hip flexion stopping the knee from driving up. This can change the tilt of your pelvis (posterior tilt) causing lower back pain and hip pain.
Highlighted in red is the direction of the lower leg slightly turned out due to Gluteus Maximus being too tight and shortened. This can sometimes be seen with a compensatory adjustment in the foot following the direction the knee is pointed in, ultimately contributing to knee and ankle pain.
Highlighter in red is the knee winging out and rotating the knee out and the ankle across the bodies center line due to tension in Gluteus Medius/Minimus. This is most common while running or single leg activity. This can greatly effect your running gait contributing to lower back, hip, knee and ankle pain.
Below here are some of the simplest and effect static stretches targeting "the glutes". From left to right is the progression from start to end positions. A static stretch should be held when you feel discomfort in the targeted muscle, do not stretch into pain. Maintain the hold for 20-120 seconds before slowly returning back to the start position, then laying at rest. In some cases simply going to the start position causes discomfort, provided there are no other pathologist this would be your point of static stretch.
Knee to Belly Stretch
Targets: Gluteus Maximus
Knee to Belly Stretch (with a twist)
Targets: Gluteus Maximus
Targets: Gluteus Medius/Minimus (partial Gluteus Maximus)
*Top row showing left glute stretch, bottom row showing right glute stretch
Seated Buttock Stretch/Advanced
Targets: Gluteus Medius/Minimus (Partial Gluteus Maximus)
Modified Pigeon Stretch
Targets: Gluteus Medius/Minimus
In summary, there are various ways to stretch and not every type is valid for everybody. Static stretching is most commonly used to aid in restoring normal joint range of motion when the relating muscles are in a shortened state. Returning your glutes to a normal length can help stabilise your lower back, hips, knees and ankles avoiding injury and improve sporting performance in some cases though the timing and application has to be specific.
Until next time, stay healthy guys and gals,
So this post will be a little different to the regular format but I feel it is just as relevant for pretty much everybody out there (hi everyone!). You will normally find me discussing anatomy, movement and rehabilitation exercises though this time round I couldn't stop myself from changing it up. If you follow the Petros Therapy Facebook page you would have heard about the great success one of our clients had in his first UWCB (Ultra White Collar Boxing) Charity Event.
I sat down for a chat with him a couple days after the dust had settled and with his permission he's let me share his road to his first boxing match. I have every bit of respect for those who set a goal and simply try! I always maintain that achieving what you think is a monumental goal transcends all levels of life, be it lifestyle, amateur or professional sport. Someone winning a gold in the Olympics is just as valued as someone putting down that cigarette or drink for the last time. I am fortunate in what I do I meet people who decide for positive change just as Suarez did and it does nothing but inspire me. He has kindly written his journey down for this post, I hope his words can reach a few of you out there so you too can take those steps in making a positive change. Enjoy and be inspired!
"I've read things like this before and it never motivated me. I read 'zero to hero' stories and it never made the connection to make me change for the better. Let me be 100% honest with you. 4 years ago was in a deep depression, I had lost my job, my home, worse of all I had lost myself. I slept on the streets trying whenever I could to sleep on friends sofas. It took me 3 years to find a job, a home and furnish it. I’m 33 years old now and having spent pretty much all of it [30’s] with a drink in my hand and smoking, I knew it had to change. I saw a leaflet for the Ultra White Collar Boxing Charity event and decided to sign up. I set up a just giving page for everyone to donate and made my friends and family aware of my intentions to take part.
Day 1, No turning back now
Training team photos weeks 1-3
Training team photos weeks 4-7
Fight day preparations
Making the walk
Months of hard work paying off, changing for the better
If you would like to contact John Suarez you can do so via my email or the comments section below. You will be put in contact with himself if relevant.
If you would like to donate to cancer research through his page the just giving page is still active, the link is just below.
Just giving: https://www.justgiving.com/John-Suarez
Thank you for reading.
Stay healthy guys and gals!
So quick show of hands who here focuses on their gluteals (glutes) before any lower body exercise?
Okay that was slightly more than I'd hoped for but for the sake of potentially giving some of you a couple buns of help I'll stick the course. In keeping to my recent work with a few basketball players, the importance of correct glute activation became key. When doing any kind of jumping, single leg balancing and running the glutes are constantly being challenged. Improper activation can lead to injury over time or a reduction in performance. Under active or underused glutes can be a common cause to lower back, hip, knee and ankle pain. I will expand on this further on in the text, but for now I need to break down what it is we are talking about first.
Often unfairly bundled together under one flag term 'the glutes', their are actually three key portions. It's important to know the functions of each portion so you can recreate the movements to properly activate them and potentially kick the butts of those pesky injuries.
To put this in perspective I've gone ahead and put a few examples of what could happen during an exercise if your 'glutes' didn't function properly, or were not activated enough to counter act other muscles of your lower limbs.
On the left you will see weak glutes or under-activated glutes and how it can alter posture leading to injury, and on the right proper posture putting your body in the best position for the movement required. These are example presentations I have seen through practice.
Gluteus Maximus: This is very common among jumpers where weak glutes cause one (or both) knee to drop in and begin to rotate inward. This is often followed by the foot arch to drop in the same leg. This adds pressure to outside (lateral) part of the knees and ankles as well as stretching the inside (medial) side of the joints. This affects how force is delivered up through the lower limbs into the hips and lower back.
Gluteus Maximus: Seen here is the foot turning inward in an attempt to combat the collapsed of the foot arch leading to further injury and postural problems. Much like previous we have the same complications though this time there is an altered direction of force, with the knee wanting to follow the foot and drive across the body instead of upward to jump.
Gluteas Medius/Minimus: Most common in runners, weak glutes in the standing leg can lead to the opposite limb to drop down below the mid line (transverse plane), this can cause the trunk and knee to over compensate to keep the foot from touching the ground while walking and running. This is often called a Trendelenburg sign, common injuries are not limited to lower back pain, standing leg ankle pain (medial/lateral) and hip flexor strain of the lowered hip.
Gluteus Maximum/Medius/Minimus: Also common among runners, weak glutes can cause an unsteady rhythm while running. In this case we see the right leg is not able to extend as far out as the left leg. Uneven stride length and power over long distances cause a lot of problems starting at the ankles right up to the lower back.
Okay so we've established a few ways these glutes can cause a lot of problems. There are hundreds of different adaptations and ways to target each muscle group. Here are a few simple and basic exercises I like to use in practice to strengthen and activate the glutes before exercises or even as part of one. From left to right, start to finish, then repeat.
Glute Bridging - Double and Single leg
Targets: Gluteus Maximus
Clams - Regular and with a twist
Targets: Gluteus Maximus and Medius/Minimus when with a twist
Side Laying Hip Extensions
Targets: Gluteus Maximus/Medius/Minimus
Prone Hip Extensions
Targets: Gluteus Maximus/Medius/Minimus
In summary, don't bundle your glutes all together as one and neglect them. They do a lot of movement and stabilising that impacts everyday activity. Activate them properly and they can provide you with better stability and power for jumping, running and walking as well as potentially put your ankles, knees, hips and lower back in a position to function properly and smoothly; ultimately preventing further injury and recovering from nagging old ones.
Thank you and stay healthy guys and gals,