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.
- 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.