Importance of Protein for Athletes

Posted: December 3, 2007 in Nutrition
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Doctors, trainers and various other sports medicine professionals are all sure to tell you that eating healthy is part of being a successful athlete. What is not always mentioned is the need and requirement that you actually put forth the time and effort to create a very balanced diet. This includes the use of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, three components that are typically considered bad nutrients.

weight training on ballThe thinking that is required of athletes not only in training but in nutritional situations is to consider food as a form of energy. Eating the right food can provide benefits to the body in extended energy and better muscle mass, while omitting the vital components can result in muscle fatigue, weakened muscles, deteriorating muscles, and even exhaustion to just mention a few problems. This leaves athletes with the responsibility of working closely with their doctors and coaches to develop an appropriate diet based upon their individual athletic abilities.

In order to be successful, especially when doing endurance or strength intensive sports, it is important to have the necessary muscle strength to perform the activity in an optimal fashion. If you are not consuming the correct nutrients, you are harming your body. However, there is more to proper nutrition than simply eating a small amount of the nutrients.

For example, protein is a nutrient that many people have tried omitting in recent fad diets. The bad news for athletes is that protein is a requirement in order to help build and maintain muscle mass. This results in athletes who cut protein from their diet losing muscle strength as well as mass, which can ultimately alter their performance, strength, and even health in the long term. Because of the benefits of consuming protein for athletes, it is vital that enough protein be consumed to keep the muscles in proper shape.

A rough guideline that is standard to use is you need to consume .08 grams of protein for each kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight each and every day for inactive adults. For people trying to lose weight it is recommended that they take in a minimum of 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight due to their decreased caloric intake.(1) For athletes who are involved in endurance sports the number increases to 1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilogram per day, and for those athletes who are involved in intense strength training activities the number jumps to as much as 1.7 to 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. (2)

In addition to the general guidelines that are set forth there are also times when it may be beneficial to increase protein consumption to assist in a muscle injury healing. When this is a consideration, you should talk to your sports medicine doctor and get their exact recommendation on the amount and timing of protein consumption in accordance with your over-all routine. Usually the key times to consume more protein are first thing in the morning and immediately after a workout.

It is essential that you always carefully discuss your exact protein requirements with your sports medicine doctor as well as your coach/trainer anytime you start a new athletic activity, and especially if you are enduring a rigorous training routine. Doing so will ensure that your body continues to develop and maintain the muscle mass that is needed to sustain the athletic activity of your choice.
If you plan to modify your protein consumption, it is vital that you first discuss the risks with your sports medicine doctor and consult to see if any other dietary changes could help you achieve the results you wish to achieve. Remember, protein is a necessary component to help you ensure that you are creating and maintaining muscle mass, which is a requirement for all athletic activities, but protein is only one piece of the puzzle and a complete nutritional plan is necessary for optimal performance and muscle gains.

By Peter Marino

1. K. C Maki, T. M Rains, V. N Kaden, K. R Raneri, and M. H Davidson
March 1, 2007; Effects of a reduced-glycemic-load diet on body weight, body composition, and cardiovascular disease risk markers in overweight and obese adults, Am. J. Clinical Nutrition, 85(3): 724 – 734.
2. Lemon, Peter. (1996). Is Increased Dietary Protein Necessary or Beneficial for Individuals with a Physically Active Lifestyle? Nutrition Reviews, 54, S169-S173.

The information, including opinions and recommendations, contained in this website is for educational purposes only. Such information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. No one should act upon any information provided in this website without first seeking medical advice from a qualified medical physician.


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