Hi everyone…welcome to my new segment…Ask Anna.

I get a ton … a few… questions from readers, friends, and family about my thoughts on health and I am more than happy to put in my two cents.  I am not a doctor, registered dietitian (yet!), or all-out health expert BUT I’ll try to help out where I can!

For my first addition of “Ask Anna” I’ll be talking about some sports supplements, protein and creatine…  My friend Lynn contacted me because her son wants to bulk up a bit and is interested in using protein and creatine supplements.

 

First:What are we talking about?

Protein supplements usually come in powder form and are often used after exercise to provide protein to the muscles to recover quicker and restore glycogen.  There are a ton of kinds:

-Whey – the most common type of protein powder.  It comes from the whey portion of milk protein and can either be whey isolate or whey concentrate.

             Whey Isolate – purer form, less fat, higher Biological Value

             Whey Concentrate – usually cheaper but contains more fat and lactose

-Casein – also comes from cow’s milk protein.  It takes longer to digest and therefore is often taken at night or other times when the body needs a slower releasing protein.

-Soy – made from soybeans, often used by vegetarians.  It has a bit lower amino acid profile than whey.

-Egg – made from egg albumin protein with high biological value and amino acid profile.  Good for those allergic to milk.

-Pea – pea protein is gluten-free and also good for vegetarians.

-Hemp – another vegetarian option but it does not contain all of the essential amino acids.  It does contain a lot of healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Completely different — Creatine is naturally found in the body but can also be supplemented to build muscle mass by providing energy to cells.  Supplements can increase levels by up to 20%…  The body can only use so much at a time and so any excess taken in won’t be used but simply ‘disposed of’ (ie lost in urine).  Most of the creatine found in the diet comes from meat products, so vegetarians might have lower levels in their body.

Second: Are they safe?

Yes, I believe protein powders are very safe.

Since creatine is a natural substance found in the body, it has been found to be safe to use with some controversy.  There is some concern that creatine could affect kidney, liver, or heart function in high doses.  However, creatine supplements had no effect on urea or liver enzyme activity in a 5 year study.

A typical dose for creatine would be:  in exercise performance (for adults ages 19 and older): Take 5g of creatine monohydrate, 4 times daily (20s total daily) for 2 to 5 days.

Maintenance dose in exercise performance (for adults ages 19 and older): Take 2g daily.

Third: So my take?

I’d say it is a personal preference on this one.  I do not think protein or creatine supplements are necessary for anyone to get enough protein in the diet or build muscle.

I personally use whey protein powder after some of my workouts, either in over-night oats or a protein shake.  I also use them sometimes in baking, like in protein bars.  I do think there are benefits to getting protein in powder form that can be quickly used by the body after a workout when it needs it most.  It can be cost-effective, and of course, the flavors are just delicious sometimes!  However, protein from other sources would be just as helpful.

I think creatine would be safe to use, following dosage instructions, particularly for short-term use.  But, again, I don’t think its necessary.

 

So what do you think?  Do you use protein powder or creatine supplements?!

If you have any questions you’d like answered on “Ask Anna” feel free to send me an email or leave comments and I’ll respond!

 

Again, I am not a doctor so please consult a medical professional if you have questions about supplements or other health questions!

Sources:

http://www.muscleandstrength.com/expert-guides/protein-supplements

http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/creatine-000297.htm

A–Z of nutritional supplements: dietary supplements, sports nutrition foods and ergogenic aids for health and performance Part 11. British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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