One of my most frequent questions as a sports dietitian is “How much protein do you need?” There are many factors that influence how much protein you need to achieve your goals of optimal performance and health. It can also help you to plan your diet by understanding the best places to find protein.
Why Protein Matters
Your body uses amino acids to make protein. These amino acids are essential for basic functions such as maintaining hair and skin, nails, and bone health, and also producing hormones, enzymes, and other chemicals. It is also necessary for the repair and building of muscles.
Protein deficiency can cause muscle wasting and fractures. It also increases your susceptibility to infection. As long as you eat enough calories, protein deficiency is very rare
How Much Protein Do I Need A Day?
Our culture seems to be focusing on protein and promoting the idea that more protein is better. Marketing tactics that include adding protein to processed foods have become very popular, including protein ice cream and protein potato chips.
Although athletes need more protein than the average person, their daily needs aren’t always as high. A lot of protein won’t build muscle mass. Quality does matter.
A balanced diet with macronutrients will ensure that protein is used to build muscle mass and not for energy. It is important to consume enough complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein.
Most professional dietetic and exercise organizations agree on the importance of athletic protein requirements. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, athletes should consume between 1.4 and 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. It also depends on how intense and the type of training you do.
This is enough protein to sustain a 150-pound female with a healthy lifestyle.
To maximize the benefits of protein on your recovery, repair, and growth, it’s best to eat protein throughout the day, particularly within 30 minutes after a workout.
Best Sources Of Protein For Athletes
A majority of people, even athletes, can get their daily protein needs met by food alone. Many people don’t realize that protein can be found in many foods. Although animal-derived protein is the most popular source of protein, like meat, eggs, dairy, and poultry, there are many other sources. Whole plant proteins include legumes, peas, and lentils, as well as soy foods like tempeh and tofu, whole grains and nuts.
Protein powders are a convenient alternative to protein shakes, but they are not required to meet your protein requirements. You can use a protein powder as a supplement to your training by reading my guides on whey and plant-based proteins.