Athletes May Need More Protein

Maureen Robb's picture
By Maureen Robb on February 21, 2018

Are you training for a marathon or other long-distance event?

Do you work out intensely with weights?

If so, you may want to consult new guidelines recommending that “healthy, exercising individuals” eat more protein.

The guidelines, issued last year by The International Society of Sports Nutrition, recommend getting 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily.

In other words, an athletic woman of 140 pounds needs 89 to 127 grams of protein a day.

(To calculate how much you need, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 to get kilograms. Multiply by 1.4 to get the minimum number of grams of protein you need daily.)

In contrast, the average, non-athletic man or woman under 65 needs about half that amount.

“The Recommended Daily Allowance is now 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight,” said Jill Traegde-Halstead, a registered dietitian and certified lifestyle counselor in weight management with Carilion Clinic.

Vegetarian Choices

If you are an active individual, adding protein to your diet doesn’t mean loading up on burgers or steak. There are plenty of plant or dairy-based protein options to help balance your plate.

Complete proteins, for instance, are found in:

  • Quinoa
  • Edamame
  • Tempeh 
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese

You can also get protein from beans and rice, nut butters, and nuts and seeds.

“But because beans and nuts are not complete proteins, you need to consume complementary proteins throughout the day,” added Traegde-Halstead.

These are pairs of foods that together provide complete protein. They include beans and rice, beans and corn products, and seeds and grains.

“If you are trying to incorporate vegetarian protein into your diet, you could have hummus and crackers at snack time, dried edamame, or peanut butter and crackers,” Traegde-Halstead said. “Or you can take protein powder, which usually has 20 to 30 grams of protein per scoop.”

Popular protein powders include whey and casein (milk proteins) and pea powders.  

Why do you need so much protein? To build and repair your bones, muscles, tissue and other parts of your body. Also to boost your energy, stabilize your blood sugar, and help you learn and concentrate.

The new sports guidelines also suggest that everyone eat protein at every meal and at snack time.

It’s a lot to consider, and as with any habit, it can take time to incorporate changes in your diet. But aren’t we all interested in being as healthy—and as energetic—as we can be?

Talk to your doctor or dietitian about what might be best for you.

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