One hears a lot about sports nutrition and protein. And although it is true that a number of athletes – who participate in strenuous exercise – may have a somewhat heightened need to get some quality protein in their diet, it may not be so much as you may think.
No matter if you’re running sprints, swimming long distances or lifting weights, athletes consume more energy than the average person. This means that their bodies need additional nutrients in order to recover from intensive physical activity. Protein plays an essential role in an athlete’s eating plan as it assists with repairing and strengthening muscle tissue. High-protein diets are popular among athletes and especially those who are seeking a leaner, more defined physique.
Technical expertise, as well as training, are the cornerstones of improving athletic performance, however, good sports nutrition is equally crucial for athletic success. Over the 20 years or so, our knowledge of the important role that dietary protein plays in building muscle and recovery has grown vastly. We now know that it is not merely the quantity of protein consumed, but also the quality of that protein and when we consume it that dictates muscle health and function.
Where Does Energy Come From?
All the energy that we need in order to maintain our body and mind, in addition to the fuel to help us exercise, comes from the:
- Foods we eat, and
- Fluids we drink.
To determine the correct amount of calories, and nutrients to consume, it’s useful to contemplate how we utilise our energy stores on a daily basis and broken replace energy accordingly. It’s also useful to understand the main groupings of nutrients in the typical diet.
The macronutrients our bodies need the most are broken down into three main categories:
Each of these categories of food is important for health. In addition, everyone needs to consume foods from each food group. The ratios in which we have to consume these foods, however, is often the topic of debate, especially when it comes to athletes.
Endurance Athletes Need Protein
Endurance athletes tend to concentrate on carbohydrate intake and pay little, if any, attention to protein. As a consequence, protein shortage appears often among endurance athletes with its unavoidable negative effects on performance and health. Serious endurance athletes do require substantial amounts of protein which is far above the normal adult RDA. This is because maintenance, repair, and growth of lean muscle mass all rely on it as well as optimum immune system functioning.
Low dietary protein prolongs recovery time, triggers muscle weakness, and inhibits the immune system. Chronic protein shortage will cancel the positive effects of your workouts. Instead, you will become prone to fatigue, lethargy, anaemia, and possibly even more severe disorders. Athletes with over training syndrome typically have a protein deficiency.
Athletes fall into a somewhat different category than the characteristic non-exerciser. An athlete uses protein mainly to repair and rebuild muscle that is broken down during exercise and to help optimise carbohydrate storage in the form of glycogen. Protein isn’t an ideal supplier of fuel for exercise but can be utilised when the diet lacks sufficient carbohydrates. This is detrimental, though, because if used for fuel, there isn’t sufficient available to repair and rebuild body tissues, among them muscle.
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