I'm due for a new blog post, but couldn't think of a concentrated topic - so thought I'd hit on three questions I always get asked, relating to diet and supplements!
To Whey or not to Whey?
Whey protein is probably the number 1 most used supplement around. It is a great way to deliver high protein/calorie yield to your body and is especially good for people trying to build muscle. However, I don't recommend it for everyone. The problem with whey protein is that is isn't formulated to act as a meal replacement (on purpose). Since you are taking in 80+ calories of protein with no other nutrients, no carbs, no vitamins or minerals, the whey shake by itself will not fill you up and provide a meal's worth of nutrition for you. However, if you add a whey protein shake sometime during the day as a snack, or perhaps add a scoop to your oatmeal (protmeal!!) and are still within your daily caloric needs, then it can be a good idea. I must say, because it isn't a meal replacement, many of you who are trying to lose weight as fat shouldn't necessarily be taking it. If you are trying to create a greater caloric deficit to burn fat, why would you want to ADD calories, even if they are "healthy" and from protein? Protein delivers essential amino acids to your body that your body cannot produce on its own, and it can help maintain blood sugar levels, but you can certainly get it from whole food sources without have to add 80+ calories a day.
If you are trying to gain mass, whey protein is almost a must. Bodybuilders will say that you need to consume 1-1.5g of protein per body weight in pounds to gain. In that case, you need those extra calories anyway, so whey protein is a perfect solution! But if you told me your goals are to "tone up" or "lose weight" or "burn fat" whey probably isn't for you. A meal replacement shake like Shakeology delivers 17g of protein, along with 15g healthy carbs and an unbelieavable amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other nutrients from vegetable and fruit sources. It will deliver that high protein/calorie yield, but also fill you up and reduce cravings by replacing a meal.
Carbs are not the Devil
Carbs are the new fat. Everyone is trying to cut carbs, find low-carb options, drink low carb beers, you name it. The reality is, while we seem to put such a large emphasis on protein for athletic performance, it is still empirical knowledge that carbs are your body's most important source of energy. While low-carb diets can work for a while, the truth is you can maintain healthy carbs in your diet by choosing what KIND of carbs you take in. The more athletic activity you engage in, the more carbs you need, hands down. If you are doing 2 hours of workouts a day with p90x doubles, you have to up your carbs. If you are not working out, your body will not need to rely on carbs for energy as much as someone who is working out, so looking at healthy low-carb diets like South Beach might be a solution.
The key to choosing your carbs is considering glycemic index. Glycemic Index measures how fast a certain food will be absorbed into your blood stream. Pure glucose has a GI of 100, which is high and it means when ingested, your blood sugar will spike, insulin will be released and you will get a short burst of energy, but kind of like a roman candle this will burn out quickly and you will probably be left feeling less energetic than when you started. White bread, cornflakes, potatoes all have high glycemic indexes. Whole grain foods which contain fiber and fruit tend to have lower numbers on the GI scale. Fiber cannot be digested in the stomach and therefore takes a long time to absorb, allowing for a sustained release of energy over time. Likewise, fructose is a kind of sugar that isn't broken down until it reaches the liver, so it has a very low number. Fructose is the main sugar found naturally in most fruits, which is why fruit is lower on the scale as well. While fructose has a bad name for itself because of high-fructose corn syrup, know that fructose itself has nothing to do with corn, and when eaten from natural sources is actually a fine source of sugar. Fun fact: Table sugar has a Glycemic index in the 60's which might seem low (lower than corn flakes for example!), but that is because it is made of a glucose molecule bonded to a fructose molecule, and the fructose molecule lowers the index.
There are times to eat high glycemic foods. For example, if you need a boost before a workout, a light simple carb snack might do the trick. You wouldn't want to eat something high fiber, as it might cause bloating and certainly won't be readily available as energy until hours after eating it. I only suggest this pre-workout snack if you feel like otherwise you won't be able to complete the workout (as in, you haven't eaten for a long time, or are working out first thing in the morning). Post-workout, simple carbs are essential. When your stored carbs are at a low point after a workout, you need something that will absorb quickly to replenish these carb stores quickly to begin aiding in muscle recovery and to avoid a crash later. I have numerous articles that touch on these concepts of post-workout nutrition on my www.fitasylum.com website if you'd like to browse! Just remember, a protein shake post workout is NOT where it's at!
Are Vitamin Supplements Necessary?
In my mind, the food you eat is about 90% of the battle and the supplements 10%, maybe less when you consider genetics. I'll answer the question quickly: I take 2 vitamins daily. Vitamin D3 for my immune system. Can't workout if you are sick! Vitamin B complex for energy. Might be placebo effect, but I have noticed increased energy from taking Vitamin B, which is supposed to help metabolize food as energy. For me, the rest comes from my Shakeology, and there is about 500% daily value of vitamin C in my p90x Recovery drink which also helps immune system, and post-workout helps curb cortisol levels. So if you want to know what I use, there is the answer!
So take these points into consideration and tweak your diet as necessary!!!