Protein is probably one of the most widely uttered words in the health and fitness industry, and rightfully so. No matter if you are training to gain muscle mass, increase strength, or improve your cardiovascular endurance, protein intake seems to be one of the most important elements in your fitness routine.
However, how much is too much and can protein alone influence your entire training career? Is there such a thing as too much or too little protein in your diet? Here to answer these questions are the facts about protein every athlete needs to know.
Importance of regular intake
Protein literally is, the building block of life. Your body uses protein not only for proper muscle tissue and CNS repair, but it can also use it for energy as well as a myriad of other healthy processes. With that in mind, protein is essential in your diet, whether you are an avid gym goer, or a predominantly sedentary individual.
Getting enough protein in your diet from various sources such as lean meats, dairy, nuts and seed, and vegetables on a regular basis will help you maintain your overall health, and a youthful, radiant glow. Protein is important for repairing muscle tissue, improving bone density and blood circulation, rejuvenating your skin, as well as your hair and nails.
Implications in sports performance
For an athlete, elevated protein intake is crucial plays a crucial role in repairing the micro-tears in the muscles after a vigorous workout, battling muscle soreness and CNS fatigue, as well as improving strength levels before the next training session. Unsurprisingly, a protein-rich diet is important for all types of athletes.
Research has shown that an average individual needs to consume approximately 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight on a daily basis in order to maintain healthy bodily processes and preserve existing muscle tissue. For an endurance athlete and even strength sports athletes, the protein requirements increase with their rate of exertion, metabolic rate, and muscle weight.
Endurance athletes are advised to consume anywhere from 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight, while strength athletes and bodybuilders can go as high as 1.8 grams, although optimal intake will be between 1 and 1.5 grams for most people. It is important to gauge your ideal protein intake over time according to your progress, recovery rate, and daily energy levels.
Supplementation is vital
Protein is found in abundance in many foods, ranging from meats and dairy, all the way to dark leafy vegetables. However, for gym-goers and performance athletes, nutrition alone is not enough to supply your body with ample amounts of protein on a daily basis. That’s why regular supplementation in the form of a pre- or post-workout protein shake is vital in reaching your daily macronutrient goals.
You can buy or make your protein drinks while prepping meals for the day. Also, make sure you only buy the products with low-carb, low-fat contents that are rich in whey protein. After all, you don’t need the extra calories, just quality ingredients. Use your protein shake to replenish your energy levels after a workout, or even as a healthy bedtime snack that will help your body recover while you’re sleeping.
Dangers of protein deficiency
With all of the aforementioned benefits in mind, it only stands to reason that malnutrition and protein deficiency can have severe consequences for your health and overall quality of life. Protein helps strengthen your immune system and fight inflammation, so the first sign of a deficiency would be frequent infections, including the common cold and other inflammatory conditions.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as protein deficiency can cause hair loss, muscle atrophy, poor tissue regeneration, cognitive decline, as well as numerous sexual and reproductive problems. Even if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, it is absolutely imperative that you stick to a protein-rich diet with the help of natural, vegan-friendly supplements as obtaining ample protein on a daily basis from non-animal sources can prove to be a difficult task.
Protein-rich food choices
Fortunately, by simply noting down some healthy, protein-rich food sources, you can easily create an ideal diet plan for your body type, activity levels, and fitness goals. The obvious choice is meat and dairy, however, not everyone wants to consume meat, and not everyone can consume dairy products. In that case, you can turn to various nuts and seeds, as well as vegetable sources.
A plant-based diet is a great way to lead a healthy, meatless lifestyle, help preserve the environment, and avoid stuffing your belly with dense foods that take hours to digest. So look for protein-rich foods such as quinoa, almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and all dark leafy vegetables, lentils and legumes.
Protein is an essential macronutrient your body uses for a myriad of healthy processes, and if you’re an athlete, consuming ample protein becomes even more important for reaching your fitness goals and leading a healthy lifestyle in general. With these benefits in mind, be sure protein makes it into every one of your meals and you will have no problem taking your fitness journey to a whole new level.