If you’ve followed along here on G&G then you know that I have been trying to increase my physical activity this summer. I am hoping to build my endurance enough to be able to complete a triathlon and/or half marathon towards the end of the year (although that seems like a lofty goal right about now!)
As I have increased the time and intensity of my workouts, I have become more interested in the role nutrition plays in athletic performance. I especially have been reading up on protein intake and muscle recovery. It was very coincidental that this exact topic was mentioned on my Facebook page last week!
Here are the current recommendations for protein intake:
- Average intake: 0.8 g per kg of body weight
- Endurance Athletes (ex: running/biking): 1.2 to 1.4 g per kg of body weight
- Power Athletes (crossfitters!): 1.2 to 1.7 g per kg of body weight
So these would be the recs using a 150lb person (150 / 2.2 = 68kg) as an example:
- Average Intake = 54 g
- Endurance Athlete = 82-95 g
- Power Athletes = 82-115 g
Post Workout Fuel
These have been my standard post-workout guidelines (although I’ve seen several different ones)
- Carb to protein ratio of 2:1 after a low/moderate intensity workout
- Carb to protein ratio of 3:1 after a high intensity workout
Too Much Protein Intake
It’s a common thought that too much protein can cause health issues because it overworks your kidneys. I actually found from some research that studies don’t support this. However, I think it’s important to point out a few things…
#1- From what I could find, there’s no scientific evidence that shows consuming more than 2 g protein per kg body weight is beneficial for muscle repair or athletic performance
#2- If someone is sticking to a specific amount of calories and has a huge protein intake then they are likely not consuming enough carbs or healthy fats
Thoughts on Protein Powders/Supplements
The short version: I’m not really a fan.
The long version: I think protein powders have their place, like at the end of a strenuous workout when an athlete truly does not have access to other sources of nutrition. However, sometimes the ingredient list for protein powder is scary and they can be high in calories. I also noticed that many either do not have many carbohydrates, which are an important part of post-workout nutrition, or they have wayyyyy too many.
Fish, chicken, dairy and many other foods are great sources of protein that you probably already have in your fridge.
Timing of Protein Intake
This article was in the June edition of Today’s Dietitian and discusses protein intake in athletes in detail. One thing I really took away from it was that it is important to spread your protein intake out throughout the day. Just like the average person, my protein intake is lowest at breakfast and highest at dinner. I will definitely keep this in mind from now on! (here’s the abstract to the actual study if you’re interested)
Here are some resources that I found interesting and informative:
Basic Nutrition for Athletes (powerpoint from the ACSM website)
ACSM’s Fit Society Newsletter from 2011
I tracked my own protein intake yesterday in My Fitness Pal and ended up consuming 64g protein for the whole day. So overall, I was just shy of the 68g recommendation for me. I decided to compare myself to the lower end of the endurance athlete recommendation, 1.2 g per kg, because I’m averaging biking/running/walking ~25 miles per week spread over 3-4 days.
Things with nutrition are always changing and new studies come out all the time. If you’ve found anything new or different about protein intake and exercise then please let me know!