As a former athlete, I get asked this question all the time: “How much protein does an athlete need?” This is something I wondered as well when I was growing up.
Unfortunately, I never got a straight answer. I didn’t even know the difference between a quality protein source, and a not-so-quality protein source. In fact, I'd just look at the labels and assume that the more protein it had, the better.
That’s probably what led me to eating a whole frozen pizza after every one of my workouts. I mean come on, the one I got had 70g of protein! I had to be doing good, right? Wrong.
So, how much protein does an athlete need? The answer is "a lot" ... but it also depends on the athlete. Let’s talk about it.
What is Protein?
In case you don’t already know exactly what protein is … it’s a macronutrient that your body uses a lot of! Your muscles, bones, organs, hair, skin, nails … all of these tissues and more are made from proteins.
You see, protein is made up of amino acids. When you consume a protein source, your body breaks down the protein into amino acids it can use to synthesize these different tissues.
...and whether you're an athlete or not, protein is important!
So … How Much Protein Does an Athlete Need?
Now, the current RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for protein is 0.36g per pound of body weight (0.8g/kg) for sedentary adults. Clearly, if you’re an athlete, you aren’t sedentary. Plus, this is just the amount of protein a normal person needs to function, not perform at the highest level.
As your level of activity increases, your body will require even more protein. This is because the more active you get, the more potential damage you’ll cause your muscle tissue.
For an athlete, and for active people in general, I always recommend shooting for 0.8-1.2g of protein per pound of body weight (3).
If your body doesn’t get the protein it needs to repair and rebuild your muscle tissue, your performance may suffer. Just think about trying to compete when your body isn’t fully recovered. You'd probably stand no chance, right?
Heck, if you don’t give your body enough protein to repair muscle damage from training … it could even lead to injury.
When I started getting enough protein in my diet, everything changed for me. My performance was better. My recovery was better. I got faster. I could jump higher. You name it.
My point is ... consuming an adequate amount of protein for your lifestyle and goals is important!
What Are The Best Proteins For Athletes?
Like I said earlier, protein quality is important! For us athletes, we need to get our protein from complete sources. What does that mean, you ask?
With that being said, you should make these protein sources a priority! Some examples of complete protein sources would include:
• Whey Protein
There are also a lot more plant-based protein sources that are complete as well. One thing to mention with these protein sources, however, is they are typically low in some of the most important amino acids for building new muscle such as leucine. These are sources like nuts, legumes, quinoa, tofu, soy, and more.
More Tips For Athletes
My hope for you is that you’re able to take this information and see huge improvements with your performance!
Obviously, applying the information is a lot easier said than done. Getting in enough protein throughout the day can be a real struggle.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tools available to help you out. If you need help getting more protein in your diet … we have plenty of high-quality options for you!
Phormula-1 is a rapid assimilation protein that can help jump start your recovery after a workout. As a part of our post workout stack, Phormula-1 is a phenomenal tool to help increase your recovery and performance.
Level-1 and Vegan Power Pro are our sustained assimilation protein options. You can use either of these proteins as a slower-digesting option for any meal or snack throughout the day. I personally use Level-1 as a midday snack to help reach my protein goal for the day!
But, even if you’re getting enough protein in, you nutrition as a whole is still key. That's why you should keep track, and make sure you’re fueling your body appropriately. We designed the 1st Phorm App for this reason!
The 1st Phorm App is the ultimate tool to help you reach your health, fitness, and athletic goals. Inside the app, you’ll get access to features such as:
• Food tracking
• Nutrition programming
• Custom workout programs for your goals
• 1-on-1 messaging with a certified advisor
• Instructional videos
• Educational livestreams
• Progress tracking and body metrics
Just download the app and get started today!
If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to reach out! Our team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches are more than happy to help out. Just give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 or send us an email at CustomerService@1stPhorm.com anytime!
(1) Tarnopolsky M. Protein requirements for endurance athletes. Nutrition. 2004 Jul-Aug;20(7-8):662-8. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2004.04.008. PMID: 15212749.
(2) Lemon PW. Protein and amino acid needs of the strength athlete. Int J Sport Nutr. 1991 Jun;1(2):127-45. doi: 10.1123/ijsn.1.2.127. PMID: 1844991.
(3) Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018 Feb 27;15:10. doi: 10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1. PMID: 29497353; PMCID: PMC5828430.ABOUT THE AUTHOR