by Dr. Rob Raponi, ND, CISSN, B.Kin(Hons), MSKNaturopathic.com, Special to SportsMD.com
With our ever growing knowledge of sports nutrition, we have seen athletes evolve with the expanse of growing information. Both macro and micro-nutrients have continued to redefine the way we look at optimizing performance. Protein, in particular, has continued to be a hot topic of debate in terms of how much is enough for what type of sport and athlete. I hope to present the latest knowledge in a way that covers the needs of different athletes based on the sport they participate in.
This category includes events such as marathons, triathlons, cycling, long distance swimming and anything in between that relies on a consistent and prolonged pace of activity.
Older data would have you believe that endurance athletes required less protein per kilogram of their body weight than strength or power athletes. While this may be true when comparing the needs that would arise if both athletes performed their respective activities for the same amount of time, when we get into hours of pounding feet and constant muscle activity, this gap closes significantly. A lot of muscle repair needs to take place after something like a marathon, and that is why the recommendation for endurance athletes should be in the range of 1.8g/kg – 2.2g/kg of body weight per day. This means that a 70kg runner, for example, should be aiming to consume between 126g- 154g of good quality protein* per day.
To put these numbers in perspective, older recommendations estimated requirements to be only about half of these current values!
Strength and Power Sports
This category would include any sports in which strength is the most important and the duration of the event is relatively short. Examples would be power lifting, body building, sprinting, hockey, or fighting sports.
When size matters, it is always better to safe than sorry in terms of protein intake. In this case, safe means ensuring that you never leave your body needing more protein than it is getting. In order to increase strength and size we must always maintain a positive protein balance in the body, meaning more needs to be taken in than is being used. For athletes that fall under this category, protein intake should be between 2.2g/kg – 2.7g/kg of body weight. As an example, a 100kg power lifter would require 220g – 270g of good quality protein per day. It is important to note here that going well over the required protein intake, while not dangerous, can eventually lead to weight gain as excessive amounts will be converted and stored as fat. If this is not the goal, it is best to start on the lower end of this range and increase gradually while monitoring weight fluctuations and body fat percentages along the way.
For any sport that does not fall directly under one of the above categories or has a combination of the two (i.e. Soccer, rugby, football, tennis, etc.), I would recommend an average protein intake of 2g/kg of body weight per day. This will cover most bases and can also be adjusted based on the particular position played in the sport or goals of training at the time.
Whatever the sport, optimal amounts of protein intake ensure any athlete can make the best of their training. Don’t let all that hard work get you anything less than maximum results!
*Good quality protein – Meat, fish, eggs, whey protein. If vegetarian, total protein per day needs to be further increased.
Cover Image: courtesy Pixabay