Protein- why do you need it and what sports/athletes needs more?

by Lauren James on March 26, 2015

Do you know why you need protein for training and what types of sporting activities require more protein?

Written by Rebecca Evans Accredited Dietitian and Sports Dietitian

 

Exercise can increase the body’s protein requirements through a few mechanisms:

 

  1. Protein plays a role by acting as building blocks for muscle growth (hypertrophy) following resistance training
  2. Provides amino acids for muscle repair (turnover) following damage caused by exercise
  3. Plays a role with providing the body with fuel for exercise (although this is something you really don’t want to happen as your Carbohydrates and Fatty acids are your body’s first choices and safe choice.  If you use protein to fuel your body you can be breaking down muscle tissue which is not ideal for any sport)

 

Each sport, physical activity and phase of training for an athlete or exercise enthusiast can influence how much protein they require daily.  For instance those starting a resistance training program (early training) require approximately 1.5-1.7g/kg/day of protein compared to those who are in a ‘steady state’ of resistance training (after the initial 3-4 weeks of a program) who only require 1.0-1.2g/kg/day of protein.

 

Other sports and physical activities that may surprise you with the amount of protein they require are those who do endurance events.  Elite endurance athletes actually need approximately 1.6g/kg/day of protein, moderate-intensity endurance athletes that train for approximately four to five times per week for 45-60mins require 1.2g/kg/day of protein (just as much as those who are doing resistance training).

 

The highest protein requirement for a sport are the athletes that play football or power sports.  Their protein requirements are from 1.4-1.7g/kg/day due to the high intensity training sessions, resistance training and the games themselves with the hard hits.

 

It is important to note that females actually don’t require the same amount of protein for each of the above sports, even if they are doing the same amount of training.  It is recommended that females have approximately 15% less protein for their sport/physical activity that their male counterparts.  This is due primarily from the differences in our body composition and the female bodies requirements.

 

Next week I will talk about how to attain a positive net protein balance and what foods will help you achieve this.

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