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Shaken but not stirred

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Protein shakes are a part of a daily workout regime for some of those who are trying to get fit or bulk up quickly.

They are marketed to a wide range of potential users from body builders to slimmers and you may be wondering what they are and whether they are safe to use.

Commercial protein shakes are made up of powdered proteins that can be purchased ready mixed with liquid or can be bought in powder form and then mixed with a liquid when required.

If you are taking protein shakes offshore with you, then you will probably choose the unmixed powdered protein shakes as they will be lighter to carry. They will need to be in their original marked containers and still be sealed. You will need to declare that you have them with you when you travel offshore.

Various proteins are used in shakes including; casein, egg, milk, soy or whey. Some shakes contain a single source of protein but others can contain a combination.

Whey protein is considered to be absorbed into the body particularly quickly. However, a combination of fast and slower acting proteins are preferred by some who would like a more gradual effect. Soy protein is avoided by some men as they wrongly think that it will lower their testosterone levels.

But how much protein do we need to consume? An average adult needs 45 to 56 grams a day.

If your diet is healthy and balanced, then it shouldn’t be necessary to supplement your daily intake of protein. Those who exercise strenuously or take part in resistance training to build up muscles may need a little more in their diet but this can be done naturally.

The most important thing is to make sure you drink something after working out. Some nutritionists consider that milk is the ideal “sports drink”. A low-fat milkshake after exercise is an easy and safe alternative to expensive protein shakes.

Catering standards offshore are usually excellent and if you wish to enhance your protein intake then, it shouldn’t be difficult to find plenty of protein rich foods to eat such as milk, eggs and chicken breasts. You’ll find a useful article on “Food For Sport” on the NHS Choices website

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/Sport.aspx

which provides excellent nutritional advice for those who wish to eat well and get the best results from their exercising.

Some athletes use protein shakes to help recover from a strenuous workout when it’s not possible to have a meal straight afterwards. In this situation, a protein shake may help recuperation from intense exercise. However, endurance athletes would favour more carbohydrates in their post-exercise drink in order to help replenish depleted glycogen reserves.

You only have to enter the words “protein shakes” on an internet search and you will see countless companies ready to sell them on-line and telling you about the amazing body building or slimming effects of their products.

If you do decide to use such products, pick a reputable brand. You can buy protein shakes at some health food stores and from large chemist chains.

Avoid buying them from obscure websites or from on-line auctions. Some protein shakes sold on-line have been found to contain contaminants such as lead, so don’t be tempted by extravagant claims and a cheap price.

If someone overdoes the recommended consumption, would it be harmful?

Yes; excessive protein intake can damage your health.

Too much could cause kidney or liver problems due to the strain of eliminating the waste products of excess protein metabolism. US research has shown that excessive amounts of protein shakes could be toxic as some brands contained low-level heavy metals.

Body building and keeping fit can be a source of pride and enjoyment but don’t be tempted by dangerous short cuts. Protein shakes are one thing, but dodgy supplements and products that offer super-quick results can seriously damage your health and may lead to heart and liver damage.

Steroids not only damage your physical health but can also lead to unpleasant personality changes.

When you work offshore, you need to rely on your colleagues and you don’t want to be working with someone who has taken steroids and is aggressive and unable to make balanced and sensible decisions around safety issues.

There are no truly beneficial short cuts to fitness and a fine physique – plenty of physical exercise and a healthy balanced diet are the keys – simple!

Val Grant is senior occupational health nurse (UKOH) at Abermed

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