We were pleased to work with the BBC on this documentary. Whilst we don’t agree with everything that was said, it is important the sports nutrition industry’s voice is heard in programmes such as these.
As we told the BBC, the sports nutrition industry is tightly regulated: there are laws covering every facet of our work, from the manufacturing of a product to its packaging, labelling and advertising. ESSNA members across the EU work in the framework of this legislation. Any company that makes claims such as “you can get a six pack in four weeks by taking a pill” is breaking the law, and a claim like that has no place on any legitimate sports nutrition product. ESSNA members know this more than anybody else – which is why it is often ESSNA who are first to raise such nonsensical claims with regulators in the UK and across the EU.
It is also important to stress that protein, first and foremost, is a simple food ingredient. Many protein products are composed of milk or egg protein – although increasingly we are seeing other sources such as pea – which have simply been processed to remove undesirable nutrients such as carbs and fat. Therefore, protein is an entirely natural ingredient and not a “synthetic supplement”. It has no added chemicals and there are no associated health problems that happen to healthy people. Rather, protein has some very clear benefits for those who use it correctly: it aids in weight management, lean body mass, muscle recovery and supporting a healthy immune system, to name just a few.
Moreover, the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommendations state that ‘protein intakes of 1.4 – 2.0 g/kg/day for physically active individuals is not only safe, but may improve the training adaptations to exercise’ – which would amount to 105 to 150 grams of protein for a normal-sized man. In addition, the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has recommended that the optimum protein intake for a typically-sized male should be about 115 to 265 grams of protein per day – and that is regardless of whether they exercise. You could add 33% or even more to that in the case of someone who exercises often. Unfortunately many of the statements made on the programme were factually incorrect and don’t resemble the recommendations of the top experts, or the conclusions of the best scientific research on protein consumption and exercise.
In a nutshell, however, what this programme shows is that there is a need for better education of the public on how to consume protein products to get the best results. Protein is best consumed as part of a lifestyle that also includes plenty of exercise and a healthy diet. It is certainly not a substitute to all other food, as any ESSNA member would immediately point at.
ESSNA will once again soon be taking the lead in the sports nutrition industry, launching our public-facing consumer campaign to talk directly to members of the public and help educate them on how they can best use sports nutrition to support more active, healthier lives.
Dr Adam Carey, Chair, European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance