The Importance of Protein in an Athlete's Diet

Many athletes neglect the importance of protein in their diet. Protein is the building block for muscles. Not having enough protein in your diet can not only hinder your performance, but it can lengthen your recovery time, too.

Have you ever experienced sore muscles after a hard workout? That soreness is the micro tears of the muscle fibers. The muscles have broken down from a challenging workout. When they repair themselves, they become stronger than they were before. Protein synthesis is necessary for this muscle repair. Without proper protein intake, recovery takes much longer and the muscles cannot rebuild as well. Athletes that don't consume enough protein are also more prone to injury because their muscles have not properly recovered before the next workout during periods of high training.

It is common for athletes to supplement extra protein in their diets. Recent research suggests athletes take in one gram (or more) of protein for every pound of body weight. For example, if you are 120 pounds, it is recommended that you have at least 120 grams of protein in your daily diet for optimal muscle output and recovery. Visiting with a personal trainer or sports nutritionist can help you determine how much protein you personally need to achieve your goals.

Supplementing protein with protein powders is a great way to get that extra protein while still keeping your calories in check. There are many different brands to choose from and different types ranging from your veggie/vegan proteins, like pea, soy, hemp, and rice to the dairy-based whey protein. All types are beneficial and can provide anywhere from 20-40 grams of protein in a single serving with minimal calories.

Personal preference plays a big part of selecting which protein is best for you. Consuming lean proteins at meal times like fish, chicken, and lean cuts of beef can also help ensure that your diet consists of enough protein. Many legumes and beans also are good sources of protein. A sports nutritionist can help with meal suggestions and planning to help you reach your goals.

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