Protein supplementation is big business today, with mass food producers jumping on the bandwagon, but how much protein do endurance athletes really need? This is one area about which Athletic Mentors’ clients routinely ask when in training. One thing that folks often forget is that whatever the source, protein = calories, so there’s a trade-off when training.
According to one Vanderbilt University study, endurance athletes do use protein as a source of 5%-10% of total energy expended due to the duration of their training sessions. This protein needs to be replaced as well as protein that is used for tissue repair, thus an elevated level of intake can be beneficial. However, a point exists at which any more protein taken in is no longer beneficial, and exceeding that point means unnecessary calories.
In her book, “Sports Nutrition Guidebook,” author Nancy Clark points out that many athletes eat more protein than they require just through standard meals. That is, a 150-pound recreational athlete who burns 3,000 calories can easily consume 300 – 450 protein calories. This equates to 0.5 to 0.7 grams of protein per pound, which is more than the RDA of 0.4 grams per pound.
Meanwhile, research shows that protein intake exceeding 0.9 gram per pound would offer no further benefit. Clark suggests that adult enduarance athletes aim for an intake of 0.6 – 0.7 gram per pound of body weight.
So, if you’re a 140-pound bike racer, you’d need to consume between 85 – 98 g protein each day.
Low Cal, High Protein Food Choices
In terms of food that have high-protein-to-calorie ratios, leaders include egg whites at 20 grams per 6 egg whites (100 calories); chicken breast at 18 grams per 2 ounces, tuna at 20 grams per 3 oz, haddock at 21 grams per 3 0z and cottage cheese at 15 grams per 1/2 cup. For vegetarians, extra firm tofu nets 12 grams per 4 oz, and Boca burgers net 13 grams per 2.5 oz.
For more information: Check out Nancy Clark’s Book or contact us to schedule a nutritional counseling session with us today!