What the Research Suggests About Protein & Exercise:
Protein is great for building muscle and promoting weight loss, but what does the research say about how and when we should use it?? Athletes who play multiple sports require enough protein to replace the calories burned. More importantly as they push themselves during sport, an athlete needs to recover from the demands of sports competition. The recovery and rehab with sports from an athletic injury can be aided (or hindered) with adequate (or inadequate) protein intake.
Here are some recommendations from the International Society of Sports Nutrition for healthy, athletic individuals.
1) Resistance exercise paired with protein consumption stimulates muscle protein synthesis. This is the muscle building process to maximize and fuel muscle growth.
2) Protein consumption is beneficial Pre or Post-workout. The post exercise anabolic benefits may last 24 hours, but likely decreases farther away from the workout.
3) To build or maintain muscle mass effectively, an overall protein intake of 1.4 – 2.0 grams of protein per kg of body weight is sufficient for most individuals. Recommendations for a sedentary adult would be around 1.2 – 1.8 grams.
4) New evidence suggests that higher protein intakes >3.0 grams of protein per kg of body weight may promote loss of fat mass in resistance-trained individuals.
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What suggestions for distribution during the day?
The optimal amount of protein consumption per serving varies, and is dependent on age and exercise stimulus. The recommended amount ranges from .20-.40 grams, with general recommendations of .25 grams per kg of body weight.
Aim to distribute the protein evenly throughout the day, ideally every 3-4 hours.
Protein requirements can be met through eating whole foods. Focus on proteins that contain high proportions of essential amino acids and adequate leucine (Meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and fish are complete contain all 9 essential amino acids)
Protein supplements are also helpful in ensuring adequate protein intake. Aim for supplements that contain all essential amino acids and have a higher leucine content (700 – 3000 mg of leucine).
Essential amino acids are crucial for athletes trying to compete or recover from an injury at the highest level they can. The rehab and recovery for sports and athlete (especially in conjunction with physical therapy rehab for sports) is an important aspect to performing at their best.
Endurance athletes need to focus on carbohydrate intake for optimal performance in their unique sport, but protein consumption will likely help offset muscle damage and assist with recovery.
Check this resource out to assist with calculating your protein intake.