NEWFOUNDLAND'S SPORTS INJURY REHABILITATION SPECIALISTS
Why do we need protein?
Proteins play a hugely important and varied role in the body, from providing the structure for things such as bone, to helping regulate key bodily processes e.g. insulin to help regulate blood sugar levels, as well as playing a key role in supporting our immune system. Of more relevance or interest to athletes, skeletal muscle is mainly made up of protein, while mitochondria, the “energy currency” of our cells, is also made up of many different types of proteins.
In the context of athletic performance, when you train, whether it be on the pitch, rink, road or in the gym, you are trying to force your body to adapt or change in a way that will allow to perform your sport at a higher level e.g. make your muscles stronger, give you greater speed or endurance. While this exercise stress alone will help you achieve these training goals, eating the right type and amount of protein will ensure you achieve them must faster!
Where can you find protein in the diet?
All proteins are made up of different combinations of 20 different amino acids, or “building blocks”, nine of which are considered “essential”, in that they cannot be produced by the body and must be provided in the diet. Animal-based proteins such as dairy, meat and eggs provide a full complement of Essential Amino Acids (EAA), while plant-based proteins e.g. legumes, nuts, are usually low in one or more of these. However, when you combine two different types of plant-based proteins e.g. beans with rice, grain bread with peanut butter, you will be giving your body all the EAA it needs.
How much and when?
Having 0.3-0.5g/protein/per kilogram of body mass every 4-5 hours is seen as the best way to promote optimal adaptation and recovery from your training program, with the biggest “hits” soon after your main training session and 60-90 minutes before going to bed. For a 70 kg (154 pound) athlete, this equates to ~21 – 35g (or 0.75 – 1.2 ounces) of protein per meal.
Can I just take a supplement?
It’s always preferable to try to meet your protein targets by choosing “real food” options e.g. eggs, Greek style yoghurt, that provide not only protein, but also other nutrients important for health and performance e.g. iron from red meat, calcium from yoghurt, healthy fats from nuts. That said, protein supplements such as whey can be beneficial when trying to meet your protein targets while also trying to reduce the total amount of energy in your diet, as may be the case if you are injured or when trying to reduce body mass. For example, while one scoop of whey protein and 250g of Greek style yoghurt will provide a similar amount of protein, the caloric density of the yoghurt is far greater, making the whey a more suitable option in this context.
For individualized advice on how best to meet your protein requirements or for other dietary advice tailored to your needs, book an appointment with our Sports Nutritionist Stephen Gurr today.
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