For athletes to recover from competitions and workouts, they need to stick to a healthy diet. Carbohydrates are an important fuel source, and help people recover after exercise.
However, it’s important to remember the role protein plays in muscle recovery.
“There is no doubt that protein helps athletes recover from exercise,” kinesiologist Martin Gibala writes about the connection between protein and exercise in a paper published on Active.com.
Whether you’re a person who exercises regularly, runs marathons, or competes at a professional level, it’s interesting to see the importance of protein in replenishing muscles.
How Much Protein Should I Be Getting?
Most adults need 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight each day. But for people who exercise intensely, including athletes, that requirement is higher.
For athletes involved in endurance exercises, the protein recommendation is 1.2 to 1.4 grams for every kilogram of body weight. In athletes doing resistance and strength training, that number jumps to 1.6 to 1.8 grams.
That means a cross country runner who weighs around 130 lbs. might need roughly 80 grams of protein a day, while her 220-lb. brother, the running back, would need at least double that amount.
Athletes need more protein because the protein they eat has more work to do in terms of helping with muscle recovery:
- Protein helps repair damage incurred by muscle fibers during exercise.
- Protein helps restore exhausted energy stores.
- Protein promotes training-induced adaptations in muscle fibers.
It may be difficult to meet the recommended protein requirements through diet alone, without the help of protein supplements.
Strength/Resistance Exercise and Muscle Recovery
Engaging in heavy resistance exercise increases both the rate of protein synthesis in the body and the rate of muscle breakdown for at least 24 hours following a workout. By eating a meal with protein during this period, we can avoid the loss of muscle mass.
This doesn’t need to be a lot of protein, just five to 10 grams of amino acids. Fish, milk, eggs and meat are all rich in essential amino acids.
Studies have shown that there is a tipping point to amino acid intake, which suggest that consuming large single doses of protein in hopes of gaining extra muscle growth may not work.
Gibala points to one study that found that the amount of muscle protein gained was similar when subjects consumed 20 to 40 grams of essential amino acids after lifting weights.
Endurance Exercise and Muscle Recovery
Exercise is fueled by muscle glycogen, and athletes need to restore it during their recovery, especially if they’re undergoing multiple daily workouts.
Carbohydrates are important for muscle recovery, but it’s important to add protein to the mix as well. Eating protein with a carbohydrate/fat supplement can increase muscle protein growth, whereas the same supplement without protein would result in a loss of muscle protein.
After a difficult workout, athletes should consume a snack or beverage that contains a small amount of high quality protein as well as carbohydrates to aid in muscle recovery and stimulation, and replenish glycogen resources. Gibala writes that foods like yogurt, milk, a small sandwich or energy bars with at least 10 grams of protein can all help.
If you’re an athlete who wants to recover from strenuous workouts, you’ll need proper nutrition. But you may also want to consider Proper Nutrition.
Products like our Seacure supplements -- made from fillets of deep-ocean white fish – are an excellent protein source while also contributing to digestive health and wound healing.
Visit our website to find a product that’s right for you and your exercise routine.