Protein is really important to everyone’s diet. We all must ingest this macronutrient because it is involved in many biological processes. However, if you are into sports, you know that high protein diets are popular among athletes. But why is it so? Is it as important as we usually hear? The quick answer is that athletes need to take in adequate amounts of protein to maintain health and fitness. So, yes, protein is definitely essential if you practice sports. Let’s see the long answer.
What is protein and why is it important for athletes’ diets?
Protein is one of three macronutrients needed by our bodies (the other two are fats and carbohydrates). It is made up of long chains of amino acids that play an important role in both the growth and repair of body tissues. Our body is unable to produce them so we have to get them through food. Whether you do any physical activity that includes resistance or strength training, protein is important in your diet because:
- It is important for building various tissues of the body. The structure of tendons, ligaments and even vital organs depends on the adequate presence of proteins in the body.
- It is another source of energy that our body can turn to when carbohydrate and fat stores are insufficient.
- It interferes with the correct delivery of basic nutrients for sports performance, such as oxygen and glucose, to those that need them most (especially to muscles when they are at full effort while exercising).
- It is essential for muscle repair. Without proper protein intake, recovery takes longer and muscles cannot rebuild as well. Protein helps repair tissue damaged by exercise.
- It is also essential for muscle growth. This only happens when exercise and nutrition are combined.
10 best sources of protein
How much protein should I take?
The World Health Organization recommends eating at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. It is recommended to take 1.5 – 2 grams per kilogram of body weight for people who practice a sport every day or do intense physical activity, especially for strength/strength athletes. The reason is quite simple: Protein is important for muscle growth and proper functioning.
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What if I don’t get the protein I should?
This amount we just wrote about can be easily achieved in a diet where 12 to 15% of total energy comes from protein. It is a food that contains proteins of high biological value such as eggs, white meat (chicken or turkey) which are also low in fat. However, for some athletes, it may require supplementation. If this is your case, supplements or protein powders can be helpful right after a workout. The best time to consume protein is after physical exercise as it will aid in recovery and muscle development.
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When people who practice sports do not have adequate protein consumption, their physical and mental resistance may be affected, some muscle wasting may occur, and their metabolism may slow down. With a lack of protein, training loses its effectiveness. On the contrary, adequate protein consumption guarantees adequate recovery of our body after finishing sports activities.
Where else can you get protein? Here you have some food suggestions for adding more protein to your diet: seafood, lean meats, and poultry, legumes that include beans, peas, or lentils, nuts, seeds, soy products…
In short, getting enough protein is involved in muscle growth, repair, and because many biological processes, we all need to consume this macronutrient. So make sure you get the amount of protein you need, especially if you do strength or endurance sports!
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