Posted by THE FUEL Nutrition Editorial Staff on Nov 17th 2016
Every athlete needs to eat enough protein in order to optimize performance and health. After all, the amino acids in protein are used to rebuild muscle, tissue, and bone. They also stimulate the immune system and are involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters that regulate mood and cognition.
Do you ever wonder if you are getting enough?
Here are a few rules for optimizing protein intake for peak athletic performance.
#1: Shoot For A Bare Minimum of 1.6 g/kg Protein A Day
The word “protein” stands for “prime importance.” This couldn’t be more true than for athletes who need to ensure they are getting sufficient protein from a variety of sources in order to optimally recover from training.
A baseline intake of 1.6 g/kg/bodyweight of protein is recommended, but emerging research shows serious athletes may benefit from going even higher.
For example, a recent study found that when trained athletes ate 3.4 g/kg of protein a day for 8 weeks in conjunction with a training program they lost 1.6 kg of fat mass, decreased percent body fat by 2.4 percent, and increased lean mass by 1.5 kg. They also improved athletic performance on vertical jump and strength tests. What was most interesting about this study was that the very high protein intake allowed subjects to improve body composition despite eating an extra 400 calories a day of protein.
#2: Evenly Distribute Protein Throughout The Day
Eating protein stimulates an increase in muscle protein synthesis and suppresses the breakdown of muscle for several hours so that you end up with more lean tissue overall. Any time you replenish the pool of amino acid building blocks by eating protein, it’s a good thing, promoting muscle development.
This is why it’s necessary to eat regularly planned high-quality protein meals. Research suggests that best results will come from eating at least 20 grams of high-quality protein every three hours.
Here’s a tip: Make sure that you’ve eaten at least 50 percent of your total daily protein goal by the time you finish lunch.
#3: Choose The Highest Quality, Most Digestible Proteins
All protein sources are not created equally. Foods differ in regards to their digestibility and nutrient content. Animal proteins top the list for both requirements: They are easily digested and contain all the essential amino acids, making them complete proteins.
Eggs, poultry, beef, and fish are all excellent protein sources that are high in leucine, the most powerful amino acid for stimulating protein synthesis. Whey protein is the best supplemental protein source because it increases protein synthesis more than all other sources and has performed best in long-term muscle and strength building studies. It is also rapidly digested, making whey your go-to protein source after a tough workout.
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