Protein: A Definition
Proteins are the building blocks of our bodies. They are essential macronutrients that are involved in the body tissues' synthesis. Namely, proteins grow and maintain your muscles mass.
Many people believe that endurance athletes need to adopt a high-protein diet, taking more proteins than necessary.
However, protein intake strictly depends on personal body weight, muscle mass, and training type and intensity. Everyone needs to eat a specific amount of protein according to the the above-mentioned personal factors.
Consequently, sports professionals and amateurs do indeed need more proteins if compared to the average adult population, since they train more intensely (above all those athletes doing strength and endurance sports). Protein is needed to build and keep the muscle mass, as endurance sports increase protein turnover (i.e. the re-building of muscular proteins due to the possible, partial conversion of proteins into energy).
Average Protein Intake
The daily average protein needed by an individual is calculated based on body weight. A human adult needs on average 0.8 grams protein/ per day/ per kg of body weight.
When an adult is exercising regularly (twice or three times a week), this data can be increased to 1 g per kg. While for athletes, the range is between 1.2-1.5 g/kg (for endurance sports) and to 2 g/kg (for strength training).
But pay attention! Taking more protein than you really need won't boost performance. Indeed, your body can neither use the extra protein nor maintain it (as happens with fat and sugar). So, protein will simply be eliminated. Thus, with a high-protein diet, the protein you take might just be discarded, without bringing a real benefit to the body in terms of nutrients.
What Science Reveals
Recent scientific papers underline the importance of distributing protein intake throughout the day, in small quantities, besides having them in the right amount. Don't have protein in one single shot! Take 20 - 25 g daily and divide this dose of protein between meals to get the most of it in terms of muscle mass.
How to get the best out of protein? Here is the advice of an expert nutritionist:
It's true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Start your day with a breakfast powered by vegan protein (e.g., soy or low-fat plant-based yogurt, tofu, or a smoothie loaded with spirulina).
Having snacks is fundamental not to get to the end of the day extremely hungry. Organic protein bars are the ideal anytime snack as they are perfectly balanced in nutrients as well as being yummy and healthy (they have only 100% natural ingredients).
Take Vegan Protein
Plant-based protein is healthier and sustainable: they protect the body and the planet. They are low in saturated fats and they soothe the inflammatory process.
Take Protein Throughout the Day
Make all your meals including proteins (in small quantities)! Give preference to vegan protein sources. For instance, legumes and cereals are perfect to provide you with a balanced supply of all essential amino acids.
Author: Francesca Deriu, nutritionist
Jäger R. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Jun 20;14:20
Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Journal Of The Academy Of Nutrition And Dietetics. March 2016 Volume 116 Number 3.