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Why is protein so important for team sport athletes?

Including protein in your daily diet is essential for your body to grow and repair. Structurally and functionally, protein is a primary element and exists in every cell of the body. It also supplies between 10-15% of dietary energy, making it the second richest compound in the body. Find out more about the importance of protein and how to give your body the right amount.

Protein as a source of fuel

The main role of protein is to build and repair tissue. But it also has other important jobs like making enzymes, hormones, other body chemicals, and helping to supply energy to working muscles during exercise. As a fuel source, high protein foods provide as much energy density as carbohydrate – 4 calories per gram, which comes from excess proteins being converted into glucose. However, unlike carbohydrate, protein is synthesised by working muscles at a much slower rate, which is why carbs are the main energy source when it comes to team sports.

“The main role of protein is to build and repair tissue.”

The importance of protein

For athletes who train and compete regularly, protein is essential. Not only does it help to reduce muscle soreness and promote muscle repair, it helps you recover properly between sessions. That’s why it’s advised that protein forms part of each meal throughout the day. Research also suggests that protein intake should range between 1.3g-1.8g per kilogram of bodyweight a day (Phillips and Van Loon, 2011). So for an athlete who weighs 70kg, their daily protein intake should be between 90-125g per day. And when you split that into four meals, each one should include between 20-30g of protein.

    Protein intake for team sport athletes

    Protein lays the foundation for good recovery, especially in team sport athletes. The intermittent and multi-directional nature of most team sports, coupled with the use of muscles across the whole body, increases the chance of muscle damage – more than that of an endurance runner, for example. For this reason an increased intake of between 1.5g-2.0g per kilogram of body weight a day is recommended (Ranchordas, Dawson, & Russell, 2017). So using a 70kg team sports athlete as an example again, this would mean a daily intake of between 105-140g of protein per day – between 25g-35g of protein at each meal (4 meals per day). Research suggests that the increase is required to aid recovery from the demands of training and congested fixtures throughout a season (Ranchordas, et al., 2017). So whatever you’re training for, make sure you’re taking on the right amount of protein – your body will thank you later. 

     

    References

    Phillips, S. M., & Van Loon, L. J. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of sports sciences, 29(sup1), S29-S38.

    Ranchordas, M.K., Dawson, J.T. & Russell, M. Practical nutritional recovery strategies for elite soccer players when limited time separates repeated matches. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 35 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0193-8

     

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