Most athletes recognize that protein is an important component of their sports nutrition plan. Protein is necessary for building and repairing muscles and the synthesis of immune cells. It is also a key component of enzymes and is necessary for the transportation of oxygen within the blood. With all of these important functions in the body, it is easy to assume the more protein, the better…right?
It is recognized that athletes do have a higher protein need than the general population. The RDA for protein for an adult is 0.8 grams or protein per kg of body weight per day. For an individual who weighs 175 pounds this would be approximately 64 grams of protein per day.
Recommendations for athletes range from 1.2 – 2 grams / kg per day. For the same 175 pound individual, this would be 95 – 159 grams of protein per day. So definitely more protein is recommended for athletes than for the general population – however, most athletes easily meet these protein needs with their everyday diet. Consuming protein over and above these recommendations is not going to result in bigger muscles or a greater response to training. When too much protein is consumed it can end up taking the place of other important components of the diet such as carbohydrates, which are needed for energy, and essential fats.
One key concept regarding protein that often gets overlooked, is the importance of spreading protein throughout the day. To get the greatest benefit from protein intake, it is recommended to include ~25 grams of protein spread throughout the day with meals and snacks. Unfortunately, this is not how most people tend to eat. Many individuals eat a breakfast with a small amount of protein – maybe a bowl of cereal, a lunch with a moderate amount of protein – perhaps a turkey sandwich, and then a dinner that is very protein heavy – a 16-oz steak. Making an effort to spread protein more evenly throughout the day is a beneficial step athletes can take to assist with building and maintaining lean muscle mass.
Pro-Tip: Spread protein throughout the day. Aim to include ~25 grams of protein with each meal.
- 3 – 4 oz of beef, poultry, or fish
- 3 – 4 eggs
- 1 cup Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
- 2.5 cups of milk
- 1 cup black beans + 1 cup brown rice
Looking for more ideas on how to incorporate protein into your meals and snacks throughout the day? Contact Mandy to work with you on an individualized meal plan to meet your exact needs.
Jäger, et al. (2017). International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8
Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(3), 501–528. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2015.12.006