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Athletes make use of dietary supplements with the aim of enhancing their performance. Proteins are some of the most popular “performance-enhancing” supplements used by amateur and professional athletes. Norbert et al. report that at least 40% of athletes make use of protein supplements because they feel that an ordinary diet is unable to provide the necessary nutrients in adequate quantity (2).
The prevalence of protein supplement usage among athletes is because of the supposed benefits that these products give to the individual. However, most of the advantages are overstated and research indicates that supplements have some significant demerits. This paper will set out to argue that protein supplements are bad and as such, they should not be used by athletes.
Why Protein Supplements are Bad
Protein supplements are associated with a number of adverse health effects on the individual. Protein supplements are consumed in order to add the protein content in the athlete’s body. Since most supplements contain a high dosage of protein, consuming them might lead to the overloading of the body with proteins.
Nemet and Eliakim document that when this happens, the kidneys and the liver experiences a high urea/nitrogen load (13). Excess proteins lead to the production of more ammonia by the body and it is the function of the kidney to get rid of these ammonia.
The kidneys are overworked as they try to eliminate more ammonia from the body. This kidney and liver overload can contribute to the loss of kidney function or the development of kidney complications. Large amounts of protein also result in dehydration, which is undesirable for the athlete.
Vaughn warns that a decrease of as little as 2% of body weight from dehydration can significantly reduce the muscular strength and stamina of the athlete (236). Dehydration also places the athlete’s body at risk since the body temperature rises steadily and the heart rate increases. It can also result in an increase of calcium loss from the body, therefore reducing the strength of the athlete’s bones.
Protein supplements do not stimulate muscle growth in the athlete. Most athletes consume protein supplement under the false assumption that this will assist in muscle growth. Whitney and Eleanor reveal that protein supplements do not assist in the building of muscle (195).
This assertion is supported by research by Nemet and Eliakim, which indicates that there is no scientific evidence demonstrating that increased protein intake will increase muscle mass” (13). The additional protein provided by protein supplements is dismantled by the body and used for energy or stored as body fat.
The athlete is only able to stimulate muscle growth by engaging in vigorous exercising. Taking protein supplements in the hope that these products will stimulate muscle growth is ineffective and it does not assist the athlete to enhance his capabilities.
Protein supplements lead to excess fat development and this might decrease the performance of the athlete. Athletes consume protein supplements due to the body-building ability of proteins. Nemet and Eliakim reveal that most athletes use these substances to change body composition and improve looks (12). However, consumption of excess proteins might have the effect of increasing the body fat composition.
While proteins are body building foods, excess consumption leads to the conversion of proteins into fats. The protein content of most protein supplement sources such as protein bars, powders, or shakes are very high and this makes it easy for excess protein intake to occur quickly.
Bartlett and Gratton explain that when high protein intake is engaged in, the body will convert the excess protein into fatty acids and store it in the fat cells (1087). Increased body weight and fat are an undesirable outcome for most athletes who hope to maintain lean bodies in order to increase their performance.
Supplement intake might lead to the reduction of motor skills and mental performance in the athlete. While adequate amount of protein intake is necessary for enhancing body performance, excessive intake might be detrimental to this function. The supplements used by most athletes contain high doses of proteins. Stepto et al. (671) declare that this high-dose supplementation lead to a decrement in motor skill performance.
The agility of the athlete is compromised by consuming excess proteins. In addition to this, the supplements have an adverse effect on the cognitive functions due to the depletion of serotonin.
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Stepto et al. warn that supplements must be taken in moderation in order to limit the potential negative impacts (680). However, most athletes do not take exercise moderation and therefore expose themselves to the risks of protein supplement overuse.
Taking protein supplements exposes the athlete to steroid contamination. Consuming such products might result in the athlete being banned from the sport because of doping. The demand for protein supplements by athletes has turned the dietary supplements market into big business. Most manufacturers are keen to demonstrate impressive results in order to increase their market share.
Norbert et al. state that some manufacturers lace their products with steroids in order to increase the performance of the athletes and therefore raise the popularity of the particular brand of protein supplements (5). Most athletes are unaware of these contaminations since the active ingredients are not included on the label.
Protein supplements are costly and they might become a financial burden for the athlete. Bartlett and Gratton document that most athletes and fitness enthusiasts spend a lot of money annually on protein supplements (1087). This observation is supported by Norbert et al. who declare that the protein suplement industry has grown into a multi-billion industry (3).
Even with the supplements, the athlete will have to ensure that he/she takes regular meals. Nutritionists state that with a proper diet, athletes do not need to involve themselves with protein supplementation. Considering that these supplements are not as efficient as they are purported to be, athletes end up wasting their money without achieving the performance enhancement goals that they seek to get from consuming the supplements.
This paper set out to argue that use of protein supplements is bad for the athletes due to the risks that it exposes the individual to. The paper began by observing that athletes require an increased daily amount of protein compared to their non-athlete counterparts. However, it noted that supplements do not lead to outcomes such as increased muscle mass which the athletes seek.
In addition to this, the supplements expose the athlete to health problems such as kidney problems, dehydration, and calcium loss. These ends up decreasing the performance of the athlete, who is supposed to have superior physical performance. The paper also noted that protein supplements are not the primary means through which this increased protein dose can be obtained.
Considering the numerous negative impacts and risks associated with using protein supplements, athletes should avoid these products and instead stick to an ordinary diet that contains all the necessary nutrients in adequate quantity.
Bartlett, Roger and Gratton Chris. Encyclopedia of International Sports Studies. NY: Routledge, 2012. Print.
Nemet, Dan and Eliakim Alon. “Protein and amino acid supplementation in sport.” International SportMed Journal 8.1 (2007): 11-23. Web.
Norbert, Baume, Hellemans Len and Saugy Martial. “Guide to over-the-counter sports supplements for athletes.” International SportMed Journal 8.1 (2007): 2-10. Web.
Stepto, Nigel, Shipperd Benjamin, Hyman Graeme, McInerney Bernie and Pyne David. “Effects of high-dose large neutral amino acid supplementation on exercise, motor skill, and mental performance in Australian Rules Football players.” Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Metab. 36.1 (2011): 671–681. Web.
Whitney, Ellie and Eleanor Noss. Understanding Nutrition. NY: Cengage Learning, 2009. Print.