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How much protein do we need?

This topic is hotly debated and has been for many years. On the one hand, researcher is starting to unravel some of the complexities of this nutrient however, on the other hand, athletes have been consuming protein in higher doses than the suggested guidelines and maintain the opinion that this is essential for optimal performance.

Research enables us to measure protein balance in athletes. Endurance athletes in heavy training require extra protein than the average person to assist with the repair and recovery process. Strength athletes need more protein in the early stages of resistance exercise to build muscle and adolescents, who are growing, have additional protein requirements.

Protein requirements are often provided as grams per kilogram of body mass to account for the vast differences in body size across the athletic population. Here are the current recommendations provided by Burke and Deakin (2006):

*Female athletes have a ~15% lower protein requirement compared to male athletes

The good news is, most athletes already consume a diet that provides ~2g/kg/day of protein. Therefore, as long as a source of protein is ingested at regular intervals throughout the day, special high protein diets are not required.

Animal foods (~10 g protein)

Plant foods (~10 g protein)

2 small eggs

70 g tub cottage cheese

250 ml milk

40 g cooked chicken

50 g cooked fish

50 g canned tuna

200 g Greek yoghurt

4 slices of seeded bread

330 g cooked pasta

400 g cooked rice

150 g lentils or kidney beans

200 g baked beans

120 g tofu

300 ml soy milk

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