How Much Protein Should You Consume?

How Much Protein Should You Consume?

Mar 12, 2011 • By

The amount of protein that an athlete engaging in sport performance training should consume is directly related to the body weight of that athlete.  In general athletes must take in higher protein amounts then sedentary individuals of the same body-weight.  A higher need for protein consumption is due first to the fact that during exercise of any intensity or duration protein is consumed as an energy source (Lemon, 2000).  Even though protein is less efficient than fat and carbohydrate for energy production, during exercise some protein is always being broken down into energy within the body.  Therefore, when an athlete is engaging in exercise their body will be using some of their dietary protein consumption for energy thus requiring more protein for post exercise recovery. 

Higher protein consumption by athletes is also necessary due to an increased need for protein synthesis post exercise.  Protein synthesis is the actual building or rebuilding of functional structures within the muscle cells.   Amino acids, which are the building blocks of functional muscle structure, are derived from protein consumed in the diet.  The body breaks down dietary protein into individual amino acids for use in muscle and other cells throughout the body.  Several thousand individual amino acids are used to build each structure vital to muscle function and contraction.  Without the adequate availability of amino acids structures cannot to be correctly synthesized after exercise, which slows the recovery process and adversely effects workout performance. 

Research indicates that athletes should consume between 1.6 and 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body-weight.  For example, an athlete that weighs 100kg should consume between 160 and 180 grams of protein per day.  This is, however, less then what is generally reported by many elite level athletes.  A study by Hoffman et al (2006) studied the effect of consuming greater than 2g/kg compared to the recommend 1.6 to 1.8g/kg.  The research found no statistically significant difference increases in strength or body-weight between the two groups.  However, the greater than 2g/kg group increased more in strength than the 1.6 to 1.8g/kg group, almost 5lbs more on average in back squat strength increase during the 12 week study.  While the differences between groups were not statistically significant, most athletes would be interested in any benefits they can derive from something as simple as consuming more dietary protein. 

Therefore, it can be concluded that if you are looking to improve your workouts without gaining significant muscle mass, you should consume amounts of protein within the 1.6 – 1.8 grams per kilogram range described in the above research.

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