A person who is physically active spends more energy than someone who is sedentary and needs more energy and nutrients to recover from intense work out. Protein is necessary to help repair and strengthen muscle tissue, but how much is really needed?
Many people tend to think that a high protein diet is better and will help to develop a defined muscular physique. Unfortunately, more protein does not necessarily equate to a toned body. When determining the protein needs of athletes, it is crucial to look at the overall diet. Calories from protein should be 15-20% of total calories and the remaining calories should come from fats and carbs. If your consumption of protein is higher than the amount required for building and maintaining lean muscle, the remaining is used as energy or stored as calories. Athletes need to ensure that they are also meeting needs for carbs and fat, not just protein.
Muscle building is achieved by a combination of diet and exercise. Studies show that eating a high quality protein (meat, fish, eggs, dairy or soy) with or without carbs , within two hours of exercise, promotes muscle repair and growth. You also need more protein during the initial training phases when muscle gain is the greatest, but as you train more, your body becomes more efficient in using protein, so you don't need as much.
Exercises that build muscle (power exercises such as resistance training or speed drills) require a higher amount of protein than endurance exercises. The current recommendation from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American College of Sports Medicine is :
- 0.5 to 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight for power athletes and
- 0.5 to 0.6 grams of protein per pound of body weight for endurance athletes
An athlete weighing 180 pounds may need 90 to 126 grams of protein if doing power exercises, but 90 to 108 grams for endurance exercises. Protein supplements are convenient for those pressed for time, but getting protein from whole foods is always preferable. For ideas on best protein sources, please refer to my article from last month.
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