What effect do protein supplements have on the body?

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Kausha Shah

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Kausha Shah  asked the Naked Scientists:
   Hello Naked Scientist,

Since I am a vegetarian, and have people constantly trying to convert
me, by using low protein in vegetables as an argument. i have
recently started adding a spoonful of protein in my morning coffee.
but now i am worried if i will end up with a bulked up body like a
bodybuilder, which is not really a good look for me.

So my question is, how do you increase your protein intake, with out bulking up?

Does the type of protein taken have an impact? does the time and
method of taking it have an impact?

Please advice.

Many thanks

(P.S: Love the show...never miss it!!)
What do you think?


Offline glovesforfoxes

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What effect do protein supplements have on the body?
« Reply #1 on: 06/09/2009 20:11:51 »
a good way is by eating nuts - however some of the protein will not be fully digested. you do not need to worry about protein intake provided you are meeting your requirement for calories and are eating a variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts and/or legumes. cereal grains are also important, but nearly all cultures will use this in food. really, as long as you get a mix of different foods in your diet, you have little to worry about. eggs are a great source of protein too. soya beans (or soy beans) contain all 8 essential amino acids (amino acids are the backbone of protein. essential amino acids are constituents of protein which your body cannot make, and so must be eaten) and derivatives from soya beans are commonly available. soya milk is an option - 200ml daily should help. you can get it fortified with various vitamins and minerals, too. i like alpro's soya milk - it tastes like slightly thinner cows milk, if you enjoy it ^^

of course, the protein powder is fine in a small quantity. i really would recommend meeting your protein needs with eating a variety of foods, however, as vegetarians (and indeed everyone!) benefits by getting a wide range of nutrients in their diet as mentioned above. you won't become a bodybuilder just by having protein powder, only with lots and lots of exercise will that happen! if you take too much protein, however, you may risk obesity, as the body will convert it to carbohydrates and fat if not used up. if you find yourself gaining weight, there is an easy solution - lower the quantities of what you eat day by day until you are no longer putting on weight. then once you aren't putting on weight, stick to that amount of food.

the time will not matter, unless you take all your protein in one go (which your body will be unable to process quickly, and you may lose some!) but the method you do will. it's all about how easy it is for your body to break down and absorb the protein. so nuts are commonly said to be a good source of protein (which they are) but when comparing eating soya beans to drinking an equivalent amount of soya milk, i would say that the milk is more easily absorbed because it has a very high surface area:volume ratio once you've drank it.

as for the conversion problem. if you don't know already, take the time to educate yourself in the basics about protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fats and fibre. this way, you can ensure that the next time you are questioned, you can respond in a reasoned way backed up by learning. it is surprising (or perhaps not) how few non-scientists actually know what protein is - next time someone questions you about how much protein you get, ask them to describe what protein is, and how much is required per day. many do not know, and the ones worth engaging with will reflect on their own ignorance and perhaps be a little less opposed to your diet. if they are educated about this, then you can go on and ask them instead of them questioning why you are vegetarian, they should instead question why they consume and use animals. it really depends on how you phrase things as to how omnivores will respond to you. it takes great effort, but it is worth remaining polite and keeping anger or sarcasm to a minimum when discussing this with people. it also helps gain respect if you explain your reasons fully. if you're lucky you might even persuade a few people [;)]

here is a good page to read on protein for vegetarians:


and a forum for veg*ns:


and finally, well done
The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than blacks were made for whites, or women for men. - Alice Walker


Offline Nizzle

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What effect do protein supplements have on the body?
« Reply #2 on: 07/09/2009 16:12:03 »
You can eat all the protein in the world.
If you don't work out, you won't become a body builder.
Proteins which are not used to build muscle are broken down, digested, and incorporated on human proteins needed to perform all kinds of reactions in the human body
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Offline Bored chemist

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What effect do protein supplements have on the body?
« Reply #3 on: 07/09/2009 18:45:38 »
Any leftover proteins are effectively "burned" as fuel- the process isn't terribly efficient and the nitrogen has to be excreted as urea so it's not a good strategy if you are short of water.
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