Protein Needs of Athletes

With the most recent update to the ISSN Exercise & Sports Nutrition Review, the protein needs of athletes have been discussed in great depth.

Over the years, there has been a considerable amount of time spent on the protein requirements of athletes. Initially, it was believed that athletes did not need to digest more than the RDA for protein. However, more recent research shows that this may not be true. Instead, it proves that athletes need to ingest roughly two times the RDA of protein in their diet during intense training.

What is the big deal? Athletes who don’t get the proper amount of protein can fall victim to negative nitrogen balance that can result in slow recovery. Over time, this can lead to training intolerance and muscle wasting.

For those involved in a general fitness program, protein needs can typically be met by ingesting approximately 0.8 – 1.0 grams/kg of bodyweight per day.

Athletes with intense training regimens, however, need to ingest more protein with the recommended amount falling somewhere between 1 and 1.5 grams/kg per day. Even more so, those partaking in high volume intense training should consume up to 2.0 grams/kg of bodyweight per day.

Is all protein the same? This is a common myth. It is important to note that proteins differ based on the source from which it was obtained.

Different types of proteins are ingested at a different rate. For this reason, athletes should consider the amount they are ingesting as well as the quality. The best sources of high quality protein are egg white, skim milk, and skinless chicken.

Although it is not required, some sports nutrition specialists suggest that a protein supplement be used to ensure that the daily dietary needs are met.

Here are the guidelines as given by the ISSN:

  • Exercising individuals are should ingest roughly 1.4 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day
  • Any concern that ingesting this much protein can be dangerous is unfounded
  • Individuals should attempt to ingest this much protein through whole foods but adding a supplement can be both convenient and safe
  • Those who are partaking in regular exercise need more protein than those who are not
  • The timing of protein intake has several benefits including the ability to recover in a timely manner

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