Are you eating enough protein?

You're playing your sport, you're lifting, you're sleeping well, you're putting in the extra practice...all great contributors to success, but are you eating for success? A lot of athletes, especially younger, neglect to take their daily nutrition into account. They take what they're served and don't give it another thought.

Granted younger athletes are served most of their meals, so their say in what they consume is a little limited, but you can tweak some aspects to make useful changes. Whether this is making better choices at your school lunch, hinting to your parents what to make and buy at the grocery store, or even buying/cooking some meals for yourself-all of these can manipulate a diet for the better. For example and illustrated in this article, tweaking your protein intake is a small (well huge in retrospect) yet effective method for your growth.

It's well understood by most that protein is a building block for muscle and better recovery-we need it in athletics and training. Although, how much do you need? Does the protein source matter? When should you eat protein? Well let's find out...

How much protein do you need?

A lot of athletes shouldn't worry about tracking or anything too technical when it comes to consuming protein. What is important is that you're consuming a good source of protein at every meal, whether it be a snack, breakfast, dinner, etc. The normal athlete will eat 4-6 times a day between meals and snacks, if every meal you're eating protein that will usually be sufficient amount for a day's intake. Although, if you're an older athlete and want to get technical....

A general rule of thumb and basic guideline for protein intake for an athlete is to shoot for .8- 1g of protein per lb body weight. Aka a guy who weighs 150 pounds should shoot to consume 120-150g of protein a day. This amount will ensure optimal muscle growth and recovery and while some protein consumed may not be used, you're never chancing under-consuming.

  1. Bodyweight (150 lbs) divide by kilo (2.2 lbs) = 68 kilos X 1.8g protein = 122 grams

If you want to dumb down the process and avoid math you can shoot for 1g protein per lb of body weight.

Does the protein source matter?

YES. Not all protein is created equal, as we mentioned in the whey and amino acid articles, protein's amino acid profiles differ from source to source. A better source will have higher amounts which will equal a better/longer rate of protein synthesis (use of protein to build/repair muscle). Shoot for sources like: eggs, whey, grass-fed beef/bison, chicken, salmon. Organic and natural sources are always a best choice, along with quality whey sources.

When should I eat protein?

Simple answer: like stated above-every meal. Every time you eat you should aim to consume a quality source of protein. The breakdown of protein takes several hours, by consuming protein throughout the day you're continuing the breakdown. This in return will result in prolonged protein synthesis which will increase recovery and growth of muscle. Also, when you're eating frequently you'll be increasing the metabolism by always having an energy source to use and breakdown for fuel.

Takeaways about protein and your growth.

  • Aim to consume protein at every meal.
  • Try to consume quality sources of protein, natural/organic whole foods and whey shakes are the best.

 

 

5 Daily Success Strategies

At Institute 3e we believe there are 5 steps to everyday success; these steps will ensure your dietary, sleep, and fluid demands are met.

  1. Early to rise, early to bed.
    • Sleep is huge for a young developing athlete, it ensures you'll be getting the optimal recovery needed from your daily activities. When you doze off the body increases the production of natural occurring hormones that will speed up recovery. Also, when you're sleeping enough you're less likely to get sick from a run down immune system. A couple steps for better sleep...
    1. Turn off technology 30 minutes before sleep, read, take magnesium (ask us about this supp), avoid eating/drinking right before bed, create a dark sleeping environment, breathe deep and relax your thoughts as you lay.
  2. Water intake.
    • An athlete should aim to consume half of their body weight in fluid ounces of water each day. If you weigh 150 lbs, your water goal would be 75 ounces (8 ounces in a cup), so roughly 9 cups of water throughout the day. Adequate water intake will provide better performance and energy.
      1. Drink a cup of water right after waking up, carry a water bottle throughout the day, and have a goal for consumption with an amount of time. For example, every hour and half that passes consume another cup.
  3. Protein intake.
    • Protein the building block of muscle and key to proper recovery. Every meal should contain a whole protein: chicken, turkey, beef, fish, etc are all examples of good sources. The whole protein will contain ample amino acids and will continue your rate of protein synthesis (muscle growth/recovery) through the day. 
    1. It's incredibly important to eat a whole protein source for breakfast, ditch the sugary cereal. The protein will create a sustained energy along with protein synthesis like stated above. If you consume protein at every meal, your daily protein needs will more than likely be met, plus you'll be ensured you're eating to grow 24/7.
  4. Carbohydrate intake.
    • All carbs are not created equal, every carb will create a different response in the body, some favorable, some unwarranted. Aim for slow digesting carbs with low sugar: oatmeal, rice, and potatoes are good examples. Limit your sugar intake, sugar will create a spike in insulin which will result in an energy crash leaving you feeling lethargic. Aim to eat a surplus of vegetables, these will create better energy levels, below is table of great "all you can eat examples". 
  5. Smart fats.
    • Fat intake should include smart fats, these will help regulate hormones and improve energy/health. Every meal should contain some type of healthy fat these include: borage oil, palm oil, coconut oil, fish oil, and olive oil.

If you can perform these 5 steps everyday you're taking the guess work out of your success. The body will be constantly meeting its dietary, sleep and fluid needs and your recovery/growth will never be slowed. Every time you miss out on these steps that's potential growth lost; a solid diet, sleep, and fluid intake is a foolproof way to success.

Tournament Nutrition

 How to eat in-between games to maximize your energy and recovery. 

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When playing a demanding sport a common task will arise where decisions must be made–this of course, is what to eat in-between games. We’ve spoken about pregame nutrition in a past article and how important it is to follow our guidelines for maximal energy. But, what about nutrition for tournaments or those weekends when multiple games are played in one day?

 This article will provide you with tips to help make better meal choices. It’s a no brainer that poor nutrition in-between games can lead to decreased performance. 

1. Avoidjunk food. Examples include: sports drinks, sodas, fast food, candy, cookies, cakes, donuts, chips, artificial ingredients and flavor enhancement, refined grains (cereals, breads, pastas), imitation foods (soy milk, margerine) corn syrup. 

 These foods will spike insulin very high, which will result in an equal crash. With a food high in sugar you'll feel a rush of energy for a shorter amount of time and crash feeling worse than before eating. While some insulin spike is good for glycogen (energy stores) replenishment, we want to the spike to be lower and over a prolonged amount of time. 

The I3E fix–shoot for a meal that contains lower amounts of sugar. The goal is to provide yourself with recovery and sustained energy, not quick bursts. A balanced meal with lean meat, vegetables, fruits and some complex carbs (potatoes, oatmeal, etc) trumps sugar loaded/processed foods. This meal offers a lower insulin spike and will provide energy released over time–key for hours of gameplay. 

2. Avoid hydrating with sports drinks and sodas. Sports drinks aren’t cracked up to what they’re supposed to be. Those drinks are loaded with sugar and artificial flavors/colors, which like mentioned above can increase chances of crashing. 

The I3E fix–water. Dehydration is one of the main causes for fatigue and feeling sluggish, the best way to hydrate is with H2O. Make sure to drink ample amounts of water post-game and then a little more before the next game. 

3. Learn to eat for your specific body composition. Your body fat will heavily influence what food choices you should make in-between games. Someone who is lean will have a different method for recovery, as opposed to someone  who is heavier. It’s essential for an athlete to understand this concept for proper replenishment of their energy stores and optimal gameplay. 

The I3E fix–know your body fat and how you respond to foods. An easy way for an athlete to assess their body fat is to look at themselves, if you can see veins throughout your body and muscles in your stomach, more than likely you’re under 10% body fat. If you can not, then chances are you rank higher on the body fat scale. 

An athlete under 10% needs to rely on consuming a little more carbs in-between games–they’re going to have more of a demand to refuel their glycogen stores. It’s important to consume a meal a little more carb dominate–with a majority of them being complex.

Immediately post game: A banana, grapes, fruit juice, whey protein shake.

In-between game meal: Chicken breast (lean meat), white rice, green vegetables. 

Before the game: Apple, berries, pear, oranges (low sugar fruit). 

An athlete over 10% should have a meal more concerned with the protein aspect. Their insulin responses won’t respond in the same way to a carb dominate meal, their insulin is already on a roller coaster. The protein intake will help provide the sustained energy needed. 

Immediately post game: Whey protein shake + glutamine. 

In-between game meal: Chicken breast (lean meat), brown rice, green vegetables. 

Before the game: Apple, berries, pear, oranges (low sugar fruit). 

4. Avoid eating a large meal. Even though you may be starving, avoid eating too big of a meal in-between games. This not only will make you feel sluggish, but will take your body’s energy away from the task at hand–playing. Your body works in a way where it sends energy and blood to places where it’s needed most, the digestive system shouldn’t be competing with your muscles, nervous and cardiovascular system. 

The I3E fix–eat slow and consume smaller meals. This will allow you to actually feel full and gauge how much you should eat. A smaller plate of food will help when your eyes are bigger than your stomach. 

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 If you still have questions about in-between game nutrition don’t hesitate to ask or seek out advice!

Pre-Game Nutrition

Athletes know that their most successful games are usually played when they feel great and have energy to leave everything on the ice. 

It’s extremely important that younger guys learn how to eat before games, this will lead to better habits as they grow. While older guys need to be wary of supplementation that will help increase their performance and recovery (supplement article coming soon). Whether you’re a parent with concern for what to cook for your child or an athlete–we’ve made a list of recommendations to assist you. 

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1. 

Always eat breakfast. 

No matter the game time, breakfast is important. This is the meal that will be starting your day with energy, skipping this meal will leave you deficient and more susceptible to crashing. Although, your game time will decide the size of the meal–if the game is early then a small meal will usually be best. When it comes to deciding the foods, we’ve made number 3 exactly for that question. 

2. 

Drink water. 

With water there are a few rules you should follow to ensure optimal hydration. On an everyday basis aim to consume half of your body weight in fluid ounces–bodyweight of 120 lbs divided by 2 would equal 60 fluid ounces (around 7 cups of water). When it comes to pre-game water consumption, a good goal is to consume 16-20 ounces (2-2.5 cups) 2-3 hours before the game. 

**Water will always trump sugared sports drinks, avoid them as much as you can–constant sugar intake will make you more susceptible to crashing. 

3. 

Choose real foods-avoid processed.

 This sounds like common sense, but in our society processed foods are easier to come by and usually get chosen over something natural. When consuming meals on game day choosing natural foods will result in more sustained energy. These foods will offer more nutrients which will supply your body in the long run. Processed foods have ingredients that your body can’t utilize and will often result in a large spike of energy followed by a crash.

**Whether you’re a parent or athlete, choose natural foods–these are better for energy and healthier in the long run. 

4. 

Trial and error.

 The perfect pre-game ritual doesn’t develop overnight, it takes time to figure out how and what to eat for optimal energy. If you’re new to figuring out your perfect pre-game meal work with one meal at a time, this allows for easy tracking. Once you’ve decided what to eat for one meal, move on to the next and begin building your meal options. 

**Don’t wait for games to figure out your ritual, use practices and workouts to mock a game like situation. 

5. 

Interchangeability. 

Everyone has preferences and tastes, that’s why it’s important to have multiple trial and error runs to see what you enjoy the most. Manipulate foods you don’t like and create meals you enjoy eating.  On game day when meals are crucial it’s important to eat things that will make you feel good (non-processed), this usually correlates to playing well. Not every day you’re going to feel like the same meal, this is when meal interchangeability comes into play. 

Pre-game nutrition can be simple if you follow our list, the difficult part is finding a consistent ritual that you enjoy. When using the trial and error method you’ll find foods and meals you like and dislike–this leads to options, which will enhance your pre-game nutrition arsenal.