One of the most common sports nutrition questions I get asked is, “how much protein do I need to eat?” I’m going to give you the answer to that question, along with a ton of other interesting facts about protein and exercise.
Top Reasons to Include Protein in Your Sports Nutrition Diet
1) Vast research supports the claim that individuals engaged in regular exercise training require more dietary protein than sedentary individuals.
2) 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 training. Protein helps repair and rebuild muscle after exercise. Pinpointing the amount of protein depends on many things such as the type of exercise, gender, and a person’s amount of lean body mass. There are 2.2 pounds per kilogram of body weight if you would like to calculate your own protein recommendations.
3) When part of a balanced, nutrient-dense diet, protein intakes at the level mentioned in #2 are not detrimental to kidney function or bone metabolism in healthy, active people.
4) While it is possible for physically active people to eat their daily protein requirements through a varied, regular diet, supplemental protein in various forms are a practical, convenient way of ensuring adequate and quality protein intake for athletes.
5) Different types and quality of protein can affect amino acid availability following protein supplementation. The superiority of one protein type over another in terms of optimizing recovery and/or training adaptations remains to be completely proven. To learn more about different types of protein, read my blog, Which Protein is Right For You.
6) Timing is critical! Appropriately timed protein intake is essential for proper recovery, immune function, and the growth and maintenance of lean body mass.
7) Within 30 minutes after exercise, consuming carbs at high dosages (8 - 10 g carb/kg/day) have been shown to stimulate muscle glycogen re-synthesis, and adding protein (0.2 g - 0.5 g protein/kg/day) to those carbohydrates may further enhance glycogen re-synthesis.
8) Under certain circumstances, specific amino acid supplements, such as branched-chain amino acids (BCAA's), may improve exercise performance and recovery from exercise. The three BCAA's are leucine, isoleucine, and valine.
9) Eating carbohydrates alone or in combination with protein during resistance exercise increases muscle glycogen, offsets muscle damage, and facilitates greater training adaptations.
10) Pre-exercise consumption of a carb + protein supplement may result in peak levels of protein synthesis.
11) Being injured or sick increases your protein needs.
If you're not much of a meat eater, turn to beans, fish, milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, or a tasty protein powder.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
Campbell B, Kreider RB, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007 Sep 26;4:8.
Kerksick C, Harvey T, et al. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2008 Oct 3;5:17.