An Athlete’s Guide To Protein

Hope you had a good Christmas. Now it’s exercise time! Before you stop reading this article due to the mention of the word “athlete”, I’d like to say that my definition includes anyone who is actively exercising – so yes, most of you who are fans and readers of this blog. That’s because I believe that if you think you are an athlete, even if you are only competing with your previous self, the contents of this article can apply to you. So read on:

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Doctors, trainers and various other sports medicine professionals are all sure to tell you that eating healthily is part of being a successful athlete, i.e. you!  What is not always mentioned is the need and requirement that you actually put forth the time and effort to create a very balanced diet.  This includes fats, proteins, and carbohydrates – the main macronutrient components for us.

You see, one most always consider food as a form of energy.  Eating the right food can provide benefits to the body by way of sustained energy and increased muscle mass. Conversely, omitting the vital components can result in muscle fatigue, weakened muscles, deteriorating muscles, and even exhaustion! If I could turn back time, I would actually expand on this point in more detail in the Strategic Nutrition Guide and Lifelong Fitness Blueprint.

Of course, professional competitive athletes have the responsibility of working closely with their doctors and coaches to develop an appropriate diet based upon their individual athletic abilities. However, people who are mostly concerned with weight loss and health should also take their nutritional needs into consideration.

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In order to be successful, especially when doing endurance or strength intensive sports, it is important to have the necessary muscle strength to actually perform the activity.  If you are not consuming the correct nutrients, you are harming your body.  However, there is more to proper nutrition than simply eating a small amount of the nutrients.

Unfortunately, protein is a nutrient that many people have tried omitting in recent fad diets.  This is a mistake, as protein is required in order to help build and maintain muscle mass.  People who cut protein from their diet will lose muscle strength as well as mass, which can ultimately alter their performance, strength, and even health in the long term.  Because of the benefits of consuming protein for athletes, it is vital that enough protein be consumed to keep the muscles in proper shape.

A rough guideline that is standard to use is you need to consume 0.8 grams of protein for each 2.2 pounds, or 1 kilogram of body weight each and every day.  Of course, for athletes who are involved in endurance sports, the number increases to 1.2 to 1.4 grams per day, and for those athletes who are involved in strength training activities the number jumps to as much as 1.4 to 1.8 grams per 2.2 pounds of body weight per day. It might be hard to estimate such numbers, so let’s just round it up to 1 gram of protein per kilogram of weight. Isn’t that much easier?

In addition to the general guidelines that are set forth there are also times when it may be beneficial to increase protein consumption, such as to assist in a muscle injury healing.  When this is a consideration, you should talk to your doctor and get their exact recommendation on the amount of protein you should be consuming in accordance with still keeping an overall healthy outlook and physical routine.  Of course, it goes without saying that resting should be your priority, followed by a progressive reintroduction to the activity.

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It is essential that you always careful discuss your exact protein requirements with your doctor as well as your coach anytime you start a new athletic activity, and especially if you are enduring some especially rigorous training for any reason.  It is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your body continues to develop and maintain the muscle mass that is needed to sustain the athletic activity of your choice.

If you are even considering trying a diet that is low in protein, it is vital that you first discuss the risks with your doctor and consult to see if any other dietary changes could help you achieve the results you wish to achieve by omitting protein.  Remember, protein is a necessary component to help you ensure that you are creating and maintaining muscle mass, which is a requirement for all athletic activities.

Never omit protein from your diet without first discussing it with your doctor, no matter what fads you are tempted to follow!  If your doctor agrees that it is wise to reduce or omit your protein intake, ensure that you are following your doctor’s instructions quite carefully.  Failing to properly follow your doctor’s recommendations in regards to your nutritional health can harm your overall health as well.

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Also published on Medium.


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