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Protein Requirements for Athletes

Competitive athletes expend more energy on a daily basis than your average sedentary person. Athlete's bodies need additional nutrients to prepare for and recover from physical activity. We can all agree that protein plays an important role in our daily diet, but how much protein is actually necessary?

What Is Protein?

Macronutrients provide energy to fuel the body during activity and help the body to recover from activity. There are three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Protein is a macronutrient that is essential for building muscle tissue, and it also plays an important role in the ability of muscle tissue to recover after strenuous activity. This macronutrient is most commonly found in animal products, but it can also be found in other sources such as nuts and legumes. However, it is important to note that most nuts and legumes are incomplete proteins that must be uniquely combined for the body to utilize. Protein is composed of amino acids, which are organic compounds made of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, or sulfur. Amino acids are commonly known as the building blocks of protein and are responsible for the production and strengthening of muscle, bone, tendons, hair, skin, and other tissues. They also play a key role in enzyme production and nutrient transportation. When protein is broken down by the body, it helps to build muscle mass and increase metabolism.

How Do I Get Protein In My Diet?

Adequate, regular protein intake for athletes is essential because it is not easily stored in the body. The body needs 20 different types of amino acids in order to grow and function properly, and various food sources will supply varying amounts of protein. Of the 20 different types of amino acids, 9 of them cannot be made in the body and must be supplemented through the diet. These 9 essential amino acids include leucine, isoleucine, histidine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, thronine, tryptophan, and valine. Eggs, fish, and lean meats are great sources of complete proteins (containing all nine essential amino acids), while beans, nuts, vegetables, and grains will provide you with some, but not all, of the nine essential amino acids (incomplete proteins).

Protein Food Chart

Better Athletic Performance

  1. Boost glycogen storage

  2. Reduce muscle soreness

  3. Promote muscle repair

As An Athlete, How Much Protein Do I Need?

In order to prevent protein deficiencies, the recommended daily intake for the average person is approximately .8 grams of protein per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight. Athletes, however, fall into a different category when considering protein intake. Athletes need significantly higher amounts of protein in their diet to help build, repair and rebuild muscle mass. The old adage “more is better,” does not apply to athletes when it comes to protein intake, despite what your gym buddies tell you. Generally speaking, “more” protein is better, but a specific amount is needed for athletes to perform at their peak performance.

Guidelines for daily protein intake for athletes are as follows:

Endurance Athletes

  • Approximately 1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilogram (2.2lbs) of body weight

Strength Training Athletes

  • Approximately 1.4 to 2.0 grams per kilogram (2.2lbs) of body weight

Weight Loss

  • If weight loss is to be included while maintaining endurance and strength training, protein intake greater than 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight may be necessary.

Special Considerations

  • Timing of protein intake also plays a key role in protein synthesis. Research has shown that eating high-quality protein within two hours after activity enhances muscle repair and growth.

Aviator Sports Performance and Rehabilitation is deeply rooted in the scientific study of human movement and the innovative integration of technology into practice, ultimately aiming to help patients, athletes/clients in maintaining healthy, fit lifestyles, reduce injury risk, and achieve higher levels of sports performance. Our highly trained staff (Composed of Doctors of Physical Therapy, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialists & Biomechanic Specialists) & state-of-the-art movement screening services can help identify any significant abnormal movement patterns or strength limitations present, and work to provide our clients with a fully customized corrective action plan to mitigate injury risk and help improve performance.

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