The nutritional needs for athletes are slightly different than the nutritional needs of the average population. Athletes burn more energy and their body needs proper nutrients to help recover from extensive physical activity. Protein plays an important role in an athletes diet because it helps repair and strengthen your muscles. Consuming high amounts of protein will not make you bigger and stronger. Protein should be consumed for your body health.
The amount of protein you should consume can depend on your age, gender, body composition and the type of sport you complete. To get the most accurate protein recommendation visit your family doctor or nutritionist. Keep in mind that 6 to 7 ounces of protein are recommended for the average population. You will need to consume more than 6 to 7 ounces. You can also figure out a protein estimate by using this formula: divide your current weight by 2.2, multiply that number by 1.4, the number you come up with is the number of grams of protein you should consume. Another method to try is consuming 10 to 15 percent of your daily calories from protein sources.
Protein Food Sources
Protein can be found in a variety of food products. Meat, fish, nuts, seeds and dairy are all sources of protein. Include a variety of sources into your diet to receive your desired protein levels. Be aware that too much red meat can have adverse side effects, so it should not dominate your menu. Nuts and seeds make for easy snacks and additions to salads. Soy beans and therefore soy products also contain protein. If you don’t drink milk, you can substitute with soy. Fish and seafood not only contains protein, but also essential fatty acids your body needs for development. Try to get as much protein from natural food sources before turning to supplements.
Protein supplements do not provide as much protein as do the foods you eat in your normal diet. The packaging is often misleading and contains false claims. Protein should not be consumed in excess as you can experience side effects. Too much protein can cause calcium loss, dehydration, diarrhea and potential kidney damage. Before you begin using a supplement it is best to consult your physician or nutritionist. Your doctor will be able to guide you on if a supplement is necessary and what type to use.
When to Eat Protein
Like the rest of your diet, your protein intake should be balanced. Do not try to consume your daily amount of protein right before or after you exercise. Instead, integrate it throughout your day. Eat protein with each meal and have snacks. Eating protein throughout the day will help your body stay energized and strong.
- McKinley Health Center: Macronutrients: The Importance of Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Protein Needs of Athletes
- Cleveland Clinic: What You Need to Know About Protein
- University of North Dakota Fact Sheet: Protein
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Foods are in the Protein Group
- Harvard School of Public Health: Protein