WHO can use them?
Basically anyone can use protein supplementation. From the body builder trying to increase muscle mass to the athlete trying to decrease recovery time to an average Joe trying to lose weight and tone up. Whether these people need protein supplementation depends on their goals, typical diet and exercise habits.
WHAT are protein supplements?
Protein supplements generally have a high percentage of protein, but can also be added with other nutrients such as carbohydrates, creatine and glutamine depending on the desired effect. A very high % protein supplement (such as a WPI) is used for building lean body tissue and losing weight as it is low in fat and carbohydrates therefore low in calories. Carbohydrates can then be used to increase the amount of calories to promote a positive energy balance (increase body weight). Creatine is used to increase the amount of fluid that goes into a muscle cell, creating an environment to promote growth. Glutamine is added to some of the supplements to help aid the repairing process as well as aiding in other body functions such as immunity, brain function and the digestive tract.
WHEN to take supplements?
Always follow the directions on the product. When to take supplements really depends on the function of the supplement. For most supplements the 20 minutes immediately after exercise is the best time to ingest protein. But for some supplements with extra calories and/or ergogenic aids are prescribed both before and after training. This is due to the ingredients ability to help with the actual training.
HOW it works?
Protein supplements work by increasing the amount of Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) in the blood stream. BCAA are used to repair and build lean tissue after exercise. These amino acids are then arranged by the body to form muscle tissue.
Some supplements have carbohydrates as well; this is to increase the energy intake of the athlete to gain weight. Having glucose (usable form of carbohydrates) in the blood not only helps in providing energy to exercise but also used as energy to transport the protein into the muscle cells.
Creatine is known as a cell volumiser. It makes the cell wall more permeable to diffusion (allows water to rush into cell). This allows the cell to increase in volume; allowing a lot more extracellular fluid that contains nutrients into the cell. This makes the nutrients readily available to the muscle cell.