Protein is often considered essential for active populations involved in weight training, gym classes or high-intensity training, in order to promote muscle remodelling. Indeed, our muscles contain hundreds of proteins that all perform a variety of functions that are essential to everyday life and of course, exercise performance. For example, the contractile proteins are responsible for making our muscles produce force, the structural proteins provide structure to our muscles and the enzymatic proteins help provide the action molecules that can break down carbohydrate and fat to produce energy.
Protein ingestion in the post-exercise window and day-to-day can support muscle recovery and facilitate training adaptations. Training provides a stimulus that stresses and damages the muscle, known as muscle protein breakdown. The combined effects of exercise and protein feeding results in the formation of new proteins, referred to as protein synthesis. It is these repeated changes in muscle breakdown and rebuild, in response to every single training session, which forms the basis of how our muscles adapt, remodel and grow.
Active individuals can use protein to promote recovery and support desired changes in body composition, with a range of related goals linked to training and protein ingestion – reduced body fat, increased muscle mass and development of muscle strength. In these situations, the amino acids in protein provides the building blocks for new muscle tissue.
We typically need in the region of 1.4-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram body weight per day. As such, a 75 kg individual would need between 105 and 135 grams of protein per day. Even if you train just 2-3 times per week, your protein intake needed is likely to increase towards the upper end of this range.
Perhaps more important than total daily protein, however, is the pattern of ingestion throughout the day, where it is advised that protein is consumed as 20-40 g feedings every 3-4 hours. In addition to high quality whole foods, protein supplements and snacks such as PROTEIN20 are an extremely useful addition to the active individual.
Ben is a Performance Nutritionist at Science in Sport