If your goal is to develop muscle mass, a proper diet for working out or playing sports is important. Protein supplements are not for everyone.
Medical Advisors: Jasbleidi Buitrago Uribe – Nutritionist and dietitian
Camilo Becerra – Professional athlete, former Olympic swimmer
While proteins help people gain muscle mass, they are not the only nutrient that can do so. To develop a muscle, a balanced diet is key, which includes eating foods that help the body to function properly. As nutritionist and dietitian Jasbleidi Buitrago Uribe highlights, food items that are part of a food group should be consumed that include other nutrients in addition to protein, “This point is very important, it’s not about a food or a nutrient, it’s about the balance between them, according to your needs”, Buitrago states.
She adds that more intense physical activity is necessary for training your muscles. “Actually, exercise is what determines muscle composition, and your diet is the foundation in order for your workouts to function. You can also do strenuous sports activity, but if you do not follow with the right diet you will not develop muscles”.
The professional athlete and former Olympic swimmer from Colombia, Camilo Becerra Velasco, also highlights the value of leading a healthy diet when playing a sport either as an amateur or professional. “Depending on the phase of training a person is in, more or less carbohydrates and proteins should be eaten. This usually consists of a balanced diet with more protein, which helps repair the fibers that are ‘damaged’ from physical exertion. Similarly, carbohydrates are key because they provide the energy for supporting high loads of activity”.
When you are in competition mode, Becerra Velasco adds, your diet should change with a lighter intake of protein, such as with fish or chicken. In some cases, red meat is eliminated and is supplemented with other nutrients. “This for high performance athletes. For the average person who swims, for example, a balanced diet is more than enough”, Becerra clarifies.
When to eat
The best recommendation is to make sure there is some source of energy in the body before doing exercise, regardless of the time of day you do it. It is also good to include several nutrients. This usually consists of a protein that can be easily absorbed (such as yogurt or a glass of milk) together with any type of carbohydrate, except for concentrated sugars.
If you do physical activity in the afternoon, around 3:00 pm, you should eat lunch before. If you are going to be active after you exercise, you should eat. Try to have a good meal one to two hours after working out, when you begin to feel hungry again. If you exercise at night, you should have eaten well during the day.
Be careful with supplements
As nutritionist Buitrago explains, protein supplements lack natural properties, so they do not function the way the body needs. If a person does mild or moderate sports activity, or goes to the gym for an hour, the recommendation is to avoid them. “Protein powders work in isolation as they only provide protein; while the proteins found in food come with other substances such as carbohydrates or fiber, among others. Because they are part of a meal, digestive processes will naturally improve their absorption, therefore maintaining metabolic balance”.
Thus, for high performance athletes or for athletes who need high amounts of protein, these supplements are important; however, in order to make them part of your exercise routine, they should be taken according to the suggestions and evaluation of a professional.