Protein for Fitness & Athletics

Why is protein important for fitness and athletics?

Protein is the most common nutrient linked to sports and athletic performance. High protein diets are especially suitable for athletes because exercising results in a more accelerated metabolism, which means that more protein is required. Eating protein not only helps prevent muscle breakdown, but it can also help build and strengthen your muscles. It is well established that combining regular activity and exercise with high protein intake promotes muscle growth and strengthening.

 

Protein for Fitness and Athletics

Regular activity and exercise with high protein intake promote muscle growth and strengthening. Image: Pexels

Protein Recommendations 

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating high-quality proteins (such as meat, fish, eggs, dairy or soy) within two hours after exercise promotes muscle repair and growth. Daily protein intake goals should also be met with a meal plan providing moderate amounts of high-quality protein spread across the day and following strenuous training sessions.The Academy further states that studies show "ingesting protein during the recovery period (post-exercise) led to accelerated recovery which also delayed onset muscle soreness and allowed more repetitions during resistance training."

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day for athletes, depending on training.  Strength-training athletes need about 1.4 to 2.0g per kg of body weight per day especially with frequent, high intensity training.  Endurance athlete's protein intake may vary according to many factors although the average need is about 1.2 to 1.4g per kg of body weight per day. The average values recommended to lose body fat and gain muscle mass are between 1.8g - 2.7g of protein for kg/body weight for athletes performing endurance or strength training. 

The best types of protein to consume

Animal products, such as meat or fish, have the highest and complete protein levels. But you also have foods like eggs, milk or yoghurts.

For a plant based protein diet recommendations go to vegetables, beans, nuts, almonds, peanuts, chia or pumpkin seeds.

Commercially available supplements like Vidafuel Wellness Protein with high biologically available protein sources and low sugar, can conveniently help people consume the additional protein they need throughout the day and post-workout. Vidafuel Wellness contains a powerful blend of whey and collagen protein. Whey protein digests quickly and is rich in branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). Leucine, one of these BCAAs, plays a major role in promoting muscle growth and recovery after resistance and endurance exercise. Collagen, another protein source, supports healing by ensuring the production of collagen-building amino acids circulating around the tissue to prevent or heal tissue damage. It may be taken after exercise or 30 to 60 minutes prior to exercise.

Protein for Athletes

Athletes who train frequently or engage in high intensity sports utilize more protein than the average person and their bodies require additional nutrients to recover from intense physical activity. They also have an increased metabolism even at rest, which means more daily protein intake is needed.

Protein also helps to feel full longer, enabling athletes to adhere to caloric restrictions as well as to better recover and become stronger from strength training regiments. The position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is that: "over a period of 4-12 weeks, increasing protein intake during hypocaloric conditions maintains lean body mass in male and female resistance-trained athletes. When adequate energy is provided or weight loss is gradual, an increase in lean body mass may be observed."

Protein: Recovery and Injury Prevention

At the 2021 virtual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND, the nation’s largest group of nutrition professionals), several presentations offered updates on nutrition for injuries:

One of the speakers, Keith Barr PhD, a researcher at University of California at Davis, explained tendons and ligaments have a collagen-filled matrix. "As a preventative measure for predisposed athletes (master athletes, or athletes with chronic injuries), a daily dose of collagen may reduce issues that could impact on your training." He went on to say, new research suggests that in order to create tissues that are more injury-resistant, athletes in sports that include explosive movements (basketball, track and field, soccer) might want to take collagen supplements prophylactically. Doing so may also enhance their performance. 

Nutrition plays an important role in athletic performance on the field and in recovery and injury prevention in between competing activities. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American College of Sports Medicine support that nutrition strategies including adequate protein intake will enhance performance and recovery times for athletes. Supplementation with a high quality protein such as Vidafuel, can aid in achieving these nutritional goals and optimizing peak athletic performance.

Protein + Exercise for Seniors

Both protein and exercise go hand-in-hand for protecting muscle in seniors. A gradual loss of muscle occurs with aging (known as sarcopenia). It can rob older adults of their mobility and independence which leads to a poor quality of life. That's why protecting muscles as we age needs to be a focus. Protein has an important role in protecting muscle. Eating enough calories is the first step to minimize loss of muscle. Next, make sure older adults are eating enough high quality protein, along with incorporating resistance and endurance exercise into their day. The increased protein intake can also benefit immune function. 

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