Protein and Athletes

Supplements, diet pills, protein shakes and thousands of other health products are out there on the market claiming to help you build muscle faster, lose weight, or both. Is it so crazy to believe that you can get all of the nutrients you need, even if you are an athlete, from whole foods? It’s not as crazy as some would like you to think.

Probably one of the most popular health products out there on the market right now for athletes is protein supplements in the form of shakes and bars. Athletes seem to believe that they need more protein in their diet since proteins are needed to build and repair muscle, tissues and skin. Getting enough protein can easily be done by eating protein-rich foods. Extra protein from protein powders is rarely needed. In addition, protein powders can be costly and do not have any benefits over a balanced diet.

Adults (19 years and over) need 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight. As long as you’re getting enough calories and eating from all four food groups, healthy adults, athletes and even vegetarians don’t usually need extra protein, according to EatRight Ontario, a nutrition resource provided by Registered Dietitians.

In addition, your body can only absorb a certain amount of protein. Remember, more protein powder is not better. Too many calories whether from protein powders or food may lead to weight gain.

So next time you are contemplating buying an expensive protein supplement, stop and consider your needs. Talk with a registered dietitian, because chances are you are already reaching your protein requirements by eating whole foods such as lean meat (e.g. tenderloin) and meat alternatives (e.g. tofu). The good news about eating whole foods is that they also provide you with many other nutrients which help contribute to a balanced diet. Some of these vitamins and minerals include vitamin B12, Zinc and iron. If you are worried about your protein intake after exercise, eat about 20 grams of protein after your sport activity. This is about: 2 cups of milk,  ½ a cup of cooked meat, or 175 grams of yogurt.

So next time you are worried about your protein intake, just pack a lean protein option and don’t forget to keep your head in the game!

*For more information regarding protein requirements and other nutritional information look at reliable sources such as www.dietitians.ca or www.eatrighton.ca

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