Protein is essential for any athlete, particularly those actively training. It builds and repairs muscles, aids in recovery and helps your muscles adapt fully in response to your training. Unlike glucose, which your body can synthesize even if you do not eat carbohydrates, your body cannot manufacture protein from other sources. Without enough protein, your body will start breaking down muscle to get the amino acids it needs to function.
Proteins are complex molecules formed by smaller sub-units called amino acids. There are 20 known amino acids, each belonging to one of three groups. Essential amino acids include 10 amino acids that your body cannot make on its own. Non-essential amino acids are the amino acids you can synthesize either from essential amino acids or from protein. The third group, the conditional amino acids, contains amino acids that are usually non-essential, but can become essential when your body is under stress.
For a body to get the amount of amino acids it requires each day, the Institute of Medicine recommends all adults consume at least 0.8grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that bodybuilders and athletes actively training consume at least 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, depending on training.
Keep in mind, some sources of protein are better than others. The best dietary protein sources offer a balanced profile of amino acids, a high concentration of protein, additional nutrients and healthy amounts of fats.
Here are our top 7 recommended sources of protein for athletes in training.
Fish packs a ton of protein in a low calorie, nutritious package. Three ounces of wild salmon, for example, has 19 grams of protein with only 175 calories. Fish also provides important omega-3s for your heart and brain. Whenever possible, look for wild caught fish. Farm raised fish are not fed a natural diet, are often sick and do not have the same concentration of omega-3s as wild caught fish.
Rich in thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folic acid, vitamin B12, biotin, vitamin D, vitamin E and phosphorus, eggs are a powerhouse of protein and nutrients. They are also easy to digest and quick to prepare. Look for whole, organic, cage-free eggs which will be far more nutrient-rich. Lastly, make sure to include the egg yolks in your diet. The yolk contains the concentration of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that will keep your brain and body strong.
Chicken contains all essential amino acids and is easy to digest. A 100g serving contains 27g of protein and 239 calories. When buying chicken, look for chicken that was raised in cage-free, humane conditions and was fed a nutrient-dense, variable diet.
Grass-fed beef offers cleaner, more flavorful, more nutrient-rich meat than grain-fed beef. It is packed with zinc, iron and all essential amino acids.
The second most abundant protein derived from milk, whey protein is found primarily in meal-replacement powders and protein powders. Whey contains all the essential amino acids and is high in the branched-chain amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. It is also high in glutamine which boosts immune and muscle recovery. When buying whey, make sure it comes from cows that are grass-fed an organic diet and free from hormones.
Almonds serve as a great source of protein and energy, as well as act as an anti-inflammatory. They provide vitamin E, fiber and healthy fat.
Low in sugar, relatively high in protein and rich in healthy fat, organic Greek yogurt is a great addition to a balanced diet.
Strength and endurance exercise go a long way in athletic training, but nothing can replace nutrition. Without protein, muscles deteriorate, energy declines and recovery slows. Fortunately, an athlete can achieve the recommended protein amounts through diet alone.
Find out how Legend Fitness can provide quality equipment for athletes in training by contacting a Legend Fitness sales rep today.