Protein and the Sport You Play
Despite what you may have heard, protein is not just for bodybuilders. In fact, all active men need protein to help build and repair the muscles they use during exercise. Your individual protein needs will not only vary based on your body weight, total caloric intake, and overall health, but also by the training program or sport you participate in. Put simply, your body will require more protein for a 2-hour, high-intensity workout than it needs for a 10-minute run.
Men in a general fitness program, one where they exercise moderately a few times a week, can meet their protein needs by consuming protein at or slightly above the Recommended Dietary Allowance, which is 0.4–0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. For a 200-lb. man, that’s approximately 80–100 grams of protein per day.
Athletes who engage in intense exercise on a regular basis—for example, sprinting, obstacle race training, CrossFit, soccer, MMA training—need more protein than those doing less strenuous exercise because of the physical demands placed on their body. Athletes participating in intense exercise typically need up to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day, approximately 180 grams of protein per day for a 200-lb. man.
Endurance athletes in particular need to pay close attention to protein. While these athletes may not be focused on building muscle size, protein enhances recovery by repairing the microscopic damage to muscle tissue caused by long bouts of exercise. Adding protein to a carbohydrate-rich, post-workout meal enhances protein synthesis in muscles and helps to restock an endurance athlete’s fuel tank.
Take a look at the chart below to determine your protein needs (both daily protein needs and “window of opportunity” needs in the first 30 minutes after activity) based on the sport that you play:
|Intensity of Sport||Examples||Daily Protein Needs||“Window of Opportunity” Protein Needs|
|Low to moderate endurance activity||Jogging, recreational racquetball||0.4–0.5 grams per lb. body weight||0.09–0.23 grams per lb. body weight|
|Moderate to intense activity||Football, basketball, ultimate Frisbee, team sports||0.45–0.68 grams per lb. body weight; more likely at the upper end of this range for those playing at an intense level||0.09–0.23 grams per lb. body weight|
|High-intensity endurance activity||Marathon training, long-distance swimming||Up to 0.73 grams per lb. body weight||0.09–0.23 grams per lb. body weight|
|High-intensity sport or training||CrossFit, weight lifting, obstacle race training, MMA training, competitive triathlon||0.68– 0.91 grams per lb. body weight||0.09– 023 grams per lb. body weight|
Check out the Protein Calulator for more specific recommendations on protein needs based on body weight and activity level, and suggestions for high-protein foods.