Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Five months of strength training with and without whey

Strength athletes can do themselves a favour by making sure they get a portion of protein before and after a strength workout. Fundamental research has shown this. Physiologists at the University of Jyvaeskyla in Finland did an experiment with 31 subjects in their twenties, which reveals exactly what you can expect from protein supplements.

The test subjects had never done weight training before, but for the experiment they went twice a week to a gym for 21 weeks. The control group didn't train. The rest of the subjects trained all their big muscle groups, with the leg-press, leg-extension, leg-curl, chest-press, shoulder-press, lat-pulldown, biceps-curl and triceps-extension, calf-raises and finally the leg-abduction and leg-adduction.

The subjects in the protein group [PROT] drank a shake containing 15 g whey just before and another just after their workout, and the placebo group [PLAC] got, ahem, a placebo.

At the end of the 21 weeks the placebo group had gained 2.57 kg lean body mass. The protein group had gained 3.1 kg lean body mass. So taking a supplement of just 30 g whey resulted in 21 percent more increase in lean body mass.

Five months of strength training with and without whey

Five months of strength training with and without whey

The training scheme the subjects followed was focused on the quadriceps. The figure above shows how, according to scans, the big quadriceps femoris [QF] and vastus lateralis [VL] muscles increased as a result of training and whey-protein supplementation.

How you judge the effect of this modest protein supplementation depends on what you're after. If you only look at the amount of lean body mass you can gain, then the results are not very impressive. But if you look at what you can gain from strength training at all, then protein supplementation can boost your progression considerably.

Amino Acids. 2009 Jul; 37(2): 297-308.

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