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.