You might have noticed that many of the proteins on the market today are seemingly packed full of vitamins and minerals in order to increase the nutritional density of the shake. Many proteins also add some vitamins and minerals into the blend in order to make it a ‘Meal Replacement’ or ‘MRP’ so to speak. A few things to note here though…a meal replacement by definition must deliver all the average daily allowance of vitamins and minerals per daily serving i.e. they should be nutritionally complete. So if they don’t provide this, then they’re not technically a meal replacement.
The benefit of adding Thiamin (Vitamin B1) to a protein shake
So why do supplement companies add this important vitamin (also known as vitamin B1) to their blends, is it for taste, texture, nutritional value, or simply to say that it’s in there!? Well actually Thiamine comes with some clout, and I for one like to see it in a supplement if possible. One of Thiamines key roles is the part it plays in the release and utilisation of energy from the food we consume. Around 90% of the bodies Thiamine is in the form of Thiamine diphosphate, a coenzyme for certain enzymes (something that makes a reaction happen) needed to break down and metabolise carbohydrates. So Thiamine does actually have a part to play in a protein shake, and is not just there for show.
Are you getting enough Thiamine?
Interestingly, your Thiamine requirements are actually based on your rate of energy metabolism, meaning the daily requirement is dependant on your energy requirements. This roughly works out at 0.4mg Thiamin per every 1000kcal you consume. So a ball park figure would be as follows:
- Adult men 1.0mg/day
- Adult women 0.8mg/day
(Thomas & Bishop, 2007)
The consumption of regular vitamin and mineral supplements can increase a persons average Thiamine intake by 11% in men and 26% in women, this said only a small number of the population are low in Thiamine to begin with (3% men and 1% women). So the amounts of thiamine added to a whey protein supplement may make for a good top up for people that train regularly and expend a lot of energy over the course of the day.
Is there enough Thiamine per serving to make it worthwhile?
If we consider that an average 2500kcal male diet might require approx 1mg Thiamine per day, then the addition of 0.8mg of vitamin B1 (labelled as Thiamine) present in the ever popular USN Pure Protein GF-1 will contribute a significant amount to your total daily requirement (approx 80% in fact)! What is interesting is that many vitamin and mineral supplements actually provide up to 20+ mg of Thiamine, that’s approx 20x the reference nutrient intake (the level that is adequate for most people) per day! Suppose it’s playing it very safe from the supplement companies perspective, safe to say you probably won’t be deficient in Thiamine should you consume one of these vitamins and minerals…or indeed any whey protein shakes that contain it.
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
Another vitamin you might commonly find added to ‘Meal replacement’ supplements or some protein supplements in general include Riboflavin. So why might supplement companies add this, well probably for 2 reasons…1.) Riboflavin is another important component of coenzymes such as flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) which are key metabolites in energy production, 2.) for it’s role in regulating normal growth, as well as supporting the integrity of mucous membranes. So there are real reasons why it would make sense to add Riboflavin to a shake that people generally consume on a daily basis.
How much Riboflavin do we need?
It is accepted that Riboflavin consumption is relatively good in the UK with only a very small percent of the population falling short of the minimal recommended amount (Lower Reference Nutrient Intake or LRNI). However the proportion of women deficient in Riboflavin increased from 8% to 15% between the ages of 19-24 years (Ruston et al. 2004). The addition of riboflavin to supplements increased Riboflavin intake by 10% in men and 26% in women.
Current recommendations are as follows (note these are guidelines:
- Adult men to consume approx 1.3mg/day
- Adult women to consume approx 1.1mg/day
(Thomas & Bishop, 2007)
Is there enough Riboflavin per serving to make it worthwhile?
USN Pure Protein GF-1 provides 0.8mg of Riboflavin (labelled as vitamin B2) as an additional source of nutrition to support its high protein count. This is around 60% of an average males daily requirements (approx 1.3mg per day) making it a very useful addition to a person habitual daily food and drink intake.
The addition of micronutrients to a macronutrient dominant supplement such as a whey protein that contains protein, carbs and some small amounts of fat is a good option for several reasons. Thiamine enables the body to release and utilise energy from food, particularly for the metabolism of carbohydrate (our bodies preferred energy source)! Riboflavin is a key component in enzymes needed to produce energy via metabolic pathways, and the addition of Riboflavin to a protein shake (for example) will be of particular benefit to females aged between 19-24 years because of the increased prevalence of deficiencies seen in this age bracket (around 15% of females in this age range are below the minimal requirement for health and wellbeing). So is it a good thing that supplements contain these additional ingredients, or are they only in there to look good…well, it seems they have a real job to do and most definitely warrant their place in the tub!
Thomas, B & Bishop, J. (2007). Manual of dietetic practice. 4th Ed. Dietary Cholesterol. Kent: Blackwell Publishing.