It is widely recognized that carbohydrates and fats provide the body with the energy needed to perform exercise and activities of daily living, but what is protein’s role and how much should we have? Can a vegetarian really get enough protein to satisfy his or her body’s demands for it? We are going to find out protein needs for athletes and recreational exercisers.
From an athlete’s, or even a recreational exercise perspective, protein should be thought of as the “repair guy,” rebuilding the muscle that has been broken down during exercise, be it from running or resistance training.
So while carbohydrates and fats provide us with energy, protein provides us with energy, protein provides every little (about 5% or so, just to give you an idea).
For Americans ages 18 and above, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. (This come out to being just shy of 0.4 grams per pound). However, numerous studies have shown that this is inadequate for athletes and weekend Warriors alike. Depending on the type of exercise that is being performed, protein needs vary. For example, those who are engaged in a strength or resistance training program require anywhere from about 1.5-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (about 0.7-0.8 grams per pound).
For a 150-pound person, that is 105-120 grams per day. For endurance athletes, such as runners and cyclists, it is recommended about 1.4-1.7 grams (about 0.6-0.75 grams per pound) of protein per kilogram be consume each day. Again, for for a 150-pound individual, this comes out to 90-115 grams.
Athletes trying to lose weight should consume about 1.6-1.9 grams per kilogram (0.7-0.9 grams per pound) to preserve muscle mass. This number are not exactly dead-on (but almost exactly dead-on).
So, now we Know the numbers – great. How does that translate into actual food? First of all, great protein choices include lean meats, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts, low-fat dairy products, as well as soy products.
Just 1 ounce of meat contains 7 grams of protein, and a serving the size of a deck of cards (about 3-4 ounces) contains about 20-25 grams. an 8-ounce glass of milk contains 8 grams, a 1/2 cup of cooked kidney beans has 8 grams; and an ounce of peanuts contains about 7 grams.
The average American diet is ample in protein. With that in mind, supplements can be a convenient choice, but are, in most circumstances, not necessary.
Supplements are also essentially an unregulated industry, and the safety and efficacy of some products is often brought into question.
Animal sources of protein, such as lean meat eggs, and fish are complete proteins. This means that they contain all of the essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein). They are “essential” because our bodies does not produce them, and they must be obtained from the diet.
Plant sources of protein such as beans, nuts, grains and seeds, are typically referred to as “incomplete” proteins because they lack at least one of the essential amino acids.
So does that mean that vegetarian athletes are unable to meet the aforementioned protein requirements? Absolutely not.
While vegetarians may not be eating certain animals sources of protein, the combinations of plant foods actually can complement each other. For example, brown rice is missing an essential amino acids that beans have. Likewise, beans are missing an essential amino acid that the rice has.
When eaten together (delicious and nutritious by the way), they provide all of the necessary components.
Additionally. beans and brown rice contain no fat, no cholesterol, and a ample in fiber.
However, if one chooses to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, supplementation for vitamin B12, calcium, iron and vitamin D, to name a few, should be included. I hope this information about protein needs for athletes and recreational exercisers is going to help you in your diet.