Why do we need protein?
The inclusion of protein within the daily diet is essential for growth and repair of the body, as well as contributing to overall well being and health throughout the lifespan. Structurally and functionally proteins are primary elements in every cell of the body. It supplies between 10-15% of dietary energy, therefore making it the second richest compound in the body.
The main role of protein within the body is to build and repair tissues, however alongside this it is needed to make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals. Furthermore, it also contributes to supplying energy to working muscles whilst exercising. As a fuel source, food sources high in protein provide as much energy density as carbohydrate (4 calories) per gram, this is through excess proteins being converted into glucose. However, in contrast to carbohydrate they are synthesised by working muscles at a much slower rate, highlighting carbohydrate to be the main source for energy when it comes to participating in sport.
The importance of protein for athletes
For an athlete who trains and competes regularly, protein within the daily diet becomes essential to provide continuous optimal performance, as well as efficient recovery between training and competition. Predominantly protein is of upmost importance when it comes to reducing muscle soreness and the promotion of muscle repair. Additionally exhibiting the role it plays for an athlete. It is advised that protein should form part of each meal throughout an athletes day. Research suggests protein intake should range between 1.3g-1.8g per kilogram of bodyweight a day (Phillips and Van Loon, 2011). So for an athlete who weighs 70kg, their daily protein intake is advised to be between 90-125g of protein per day, meaning that each meal (4 meals per day) should include between 20-30g of protein.
Protein and team sport athletes
Protein intake may differ between an endurance athlete and a team sport athlete through a season, this is due to the in-season recovery approach a team must enforce to be able to maintain players physical and mental preparation to perform in the next training session or match. As previously discussed, protein lays the foundation for promoting recovery in athletes, especially team sport athletes. The intermittent and multi-directional nature of most team sports, coupled with the sports generally using the muscles of the whole body increases muscle damage, than that of for example an endurance runner. For this reason an increased intake of between 1.5g-2.0g per kilogram of body weight a day is recommended (Ranchordas, Dawson, & Russell, 2017). So to use a 70kg team sports athlete as an example again, this would mean a daily intake of between 105-140g of protein per day, meaning that each meal (4 meals per day) should include between 25g-35g of protein. Compared to a non team sport athlete, research suggests the increase is required to facilitate the recovery of team sport athletes from the demands of training and congested fixtures throughout a season (Ranchordas, et al., 2017).
Example day of a team sport athlete (70kg athlete)
Breakfast (Inclusion of protein 30g)
Train (Pitch based session)
Post session shake (20g minimum, important to start the process of recovery!)
Lunch (Inclusion of protein 30g)
Train (Strength session, on some days), (high protein snack of 20g, again to start the process of repairing damaged muscles)
Dinner (Inclusion of protein 20g)
Pre bed snack (High protein snack of 20g)
Phillips, S. M., & Van Loon, L. J. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of sports sciences, 29(sup1), S29-S38.
Ranchordas, M.K., Dawson, J.T. & Russell, M. Practical nutritional recovery strategies for elite soccer players when limited time separates repeated matches. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 35 (2017). https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0193-8
Protein Levels for Team Sports; Why do we need protein?; The importance of protein for athletes; Protein and team sport athletes; Example day of a team sport athlete (70kg athlete); References