Protein Requirements for Athletes

Protein pic

Protein
Image: sportsmedicine.about.com

A former award-winning varsity athlete, Cody Saltsman now focuses on rebuilding his strength after surgery. Cody Saltsman attends carefully to his diet and ensures that he takes in enough protein to fuel his body.

According to a review that appears in the Journal of Sports Medicine, athletes need more protein than the amount recommended for the average individual. An athlete’s body relies on protein to rebuild muscle and connective tissue, which a key process particularly for those seeking to increase muscle mass. Athletes also require sufficient amounts of protein to partially fulfill energy requirements during exercise, to keep the immune system working efficiently, and to bring vital nutrients to the cells. Furthermore, proteins are essential in the potassium and sodium transport process that balances electrolyte levels.

To keep all of these functions running optimally, athletes need to maintain a protein intake level commensurate with their levels of activity and strain on the muscles. Experts suggest 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for athletes in light to moderate endurance training and slightly less for those with a purely recreational workout schedule. Athletes who participate in power sports and endurance training need a bit more, while resistance athletes in early stages of training generally require the most protein to compensate for wear on the muscles.

Essential Nutrients for Athletes

Essential Nutrients for Athletes pic

Essential Nutrients for Athletes
Image: dailyburn.com

An accomplished student athlete and aspiring physical therapist, Cody Saltsman played outside linebacker and wide receiver for the varsity football team at Steubenville High School in Ohio. Having since undergone surgery, Cody Saltsman now focuses on conditioning and proper nutrition.

Suitable intake of vitamins and minerals through a balanced diet is important to keep athletes’ bodies running smoothly and efficiently. Low energy levels may be a sign of a deficiency in B vitamins, such as B6 and B12. Riboflavin, thiamin, and folate also fall into this category and are key in converting sugar and protein into the energy that athletes need.

Similarly, a vitamin D deficiency can interfere with muscles’ ability to rebuild energy after contracting. This can lead to premature fatigue, which in turn impacts performance. Insufficient iron and zinc levels also contribute to low energy levels, while adequate magnesium intake is key to efficient energy metabolism.

In addition to maintaining energy, proper nutrition also plays a pivotal role in muscle recovery and injury prevention. Potassium helps to balance hydration levels in the body and interacts with sodium to promote healthy muscle function. Finally, calcium is crucial in protecting an athlete’s bones and helping athletes avoid stress fractures, particularly those involved in high-impact sports.