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Protein – not enough or overload?
Nutrition: Protein is one of the most important food components that an athlete can consume but are we having enough or are we overloading? By Sarah Burkhart Nutrionalist.
Protein plays a role in muscle growth and development, along with a role in immune function and in producing some hormones. As an athlete protein is vital to performance - along with carbohydrates, good fats, vitamins, minerals and water.
Good sources of protein are found in the dairy and meat/meat alternatives group, although you will also find small amounts in some of the breads and cereals.
Just how much do you need?
You may be surprised! An endurance athlete only needs around 1.2 – 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight a day – for example a 70kg cyclist is looking at around 84 – 98 grams of protein a day.
In food terms this translates to approximately 150grams of lean red meat, 4 slices of bread, 400mLs of milk and 3 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds.
If an athlete is eating a balanced diet there is no reason why they shouldn't be meeting their protein needs each day.
The foods given above don't even take into account any other protein containing foods such as yoghurts with breakfast, cereals, cheese in a sandwich or on a salad, eggs and more so it's easy to see that we consume enough.
Research also backs this up showing we eat more than enough protein – the great part of human behavior is that when one increases their carbohydrate intake (as athletes need to at times) they automatically increase their protein portion of their meal – just think if you increased the rice in your stir-fry you would probably also increase the chicken right?
However, one group who does need to be more concerned about their protein intake is the vegetarian athlete – because they chose to avoid meat products (and sometimes dairy and eggs) their sources of protein can be limited but there is no reason why they can't still eat a healthy diet with more planning and carefully combining plant protein sources.
About Sarah Burkhart....
Sarah is a Sports Nutritionist who is known for her practical and realistic approach to improving performance and getting results with athletes from recreational to elite international level. She has a BSc majoring in Human Nutrition and Physiology, and has just completed a MSc in Human Nutrition.
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