Protein — More is Not Always Better

by Chrissy on May 26, 2014

healthy-foodsProtein is a significant nutrient in anyone’s diet, especially in the athlete’s diet. Protein is a macronutrient that helps build and repair our muscles. If protein is so important for our body and our muscles then the more we eat, the bigger muscles we will have, right? Wrong!

How much protein an athlete needs has become a much-debated topic, especially with all the supplement products that are on the market. What we really need to understand is that each individual is different. For instance, an athlete that is endurance focused (swimmers and runners) will have smaller protein requirements than a strength athlete (weightlifter). Duration and intensity of your exercise play a key role in protein requirements as well.

Believe it or not, the majority of athletes receive their required amount from diet alone without any supplementation necessary! The supplement industry is continuously growing and is having a greater affect on the minds of consumers. Once your body has all the protein it needs for the day to do it’s job, what happens to the excess protein? We would like to think that excess protein just means bigger muscles. That is not the case. Our body is incapable of storing protein as protein. When you have consumed more than your daily requirement of protein, the protein will break apart. Part of it will be lost in your urine and the other part will be stored as energy (fat).

There have been studies that have shown that timing of protein intake for athletes plays a large role in muscle building. The trick is to eat a high-quality protein immediately after exercise. This is where protein shakes can come in handy for a busy athlete that does not have time to make or eat a protein-powered meal right after a work out.

Make sure to educate yourself if you are considering using supplements. Remember, protein does not just come from animals; there are great sources of protein from plants as well. Here are some good protein choices for your diet:

  • Lean meats, focusing on non-red meats
  • Fish
  • Legumes
  • Eggs
  • Nuts, seeds, and grains
  • Milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese
  • Tofu, tempeh, soyburgers and other soy products

Sample diet of a male cycler (endurance athlete) who is 180lbs with protein needs of 1.2-1.7g/kg of body weight (100g-140g of protein per day).

Breakfast:

2 hard boiled eggs (14 gm protein), 1C strawberries, 1C nonfat milk (8 grams protein), 1C cooked oatmeal (6 grams protein

Snack:

1 slice whole-wheat bread (3 grams protein), 1T peanut butter (4 grams protein)

Lunch:

6oz skinless chicken breast (42 grams protein), 1C steamed broccoli (4 grams protein), 1C cooked brown rice (6 grams protein), 1 banana

Dinner:

6oz salmon (42 grams protein), 8 spears asparagus (4 grams protein), 1C cooked quinoa (12 grams protein), 1C blueberries

(About 145 grams of protein total)

-Macy Focken

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