Many athletes love to fuel up on protein bars or drinks and other supplements at every opportunity whenever in training or races. Some athletes even swear by a diet that is high in protein and try and all but eliminate carbohydrates as much as possible. But is this really necessary?
In this Excellent article by Jennifer Hutchison, a certified specialist in Sports Dietics and a USA Triathlon Certified Level 3 Elite Coach, she explains the basics of protein in our diets at a grass-roots level.
Among the most significant points Jennifer makes is:
- Dietary protein’s primary role in the body is to support growth, maintenance and repair muscle and other body tissues
- Protein is also the backbone for many hormones and enzymes and a healthy immune system.
As dietary protein’s main purpose is to repair and recover damaged muscle and cells caused by training and racing, an athlete must ensure that they are already meeting both their calorie and carbohydrate needs
- Protein is synthesized from amino acids (the building blocks of protein) of which there are two major categories: Essential and Nonessential
- Essential AA’s cannot be made in the body and therefore must be supplied in what you eat.
Nonessential amino acids are important, but CAN be made by the body so do not need to come from your diet
So is a protein containing sports drink really necessary during endurance training? Nope! In spite of popular belief, endurance athletes can meet their protein needs without tons of dietary supplements. While it is a common practice for some athletes to consume protein believing this in turn will help boost lean body mass, the truth is that the body does not store excess dietary protein as muscle. Once dietary protein has fulfilled its role, the excess is broken down and used as fuel, stored as body fat or excreted by the body via urine.
Adequate daily protein is, however crucial for athletes to maintain a strong, healthy and powerful body, but in truth, meeting these requirements is really not that difficult. In Jennifer’s oppinion, the average athlete may only need 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day.
For a 70kg male this works out to only about 56 grams per day.
Athletes training at a higher level will require more and she provides the following guidelines for those on heavy training loads:
|Daily Training||g/lb bodyweight||g/kg bodyweight|
|Up to 60 min per day|
|Between 1 to 2 hours|
|Between 2 to 3 hours|
|Greater than 3 hours|
To be honest, as long as you eat a well balanced diet you should more than cover your protein requirements, but Jennifer presents some meal suggestions in her article regardless.
If you’re concerned, there are many good online resources and lists that identify the quantity of protein contained in various foods or a qualified sports nutrition professional can help you take the guess work out of your eating plan calculations.
Here is the link again to the full article.