Introduction to Protein and Its importance For Exercise

A quick summary:

Protein is an essential macro-nutrient that plays a crucial role for muscle repair and growth, weight loss, feeling fuller for longer and your general overall health.

Muscle protein breakdown occurs during exercise and causes the breakdown of the muscle. For good muscle growth and muscle building, we need to counteract this breakdown with a greater amount of muscle repair. We can enhance and stimulate muscle repair by preventing protein breakdown, and this can be done by increasing our daily intake of protein. The balance between muscle protein breakdown and muscle repair determines our protein balance, and generally we want to have a positive balance with increased muscle repair.

The consumption of ~20 grams of protein maximises muscle repair rates during the first period of recovery after exercise. To further support this recovery process, regular consumption of foods high in protein throughout the day will maximise recovery by promoting a greater availability of protein to support and re-build muscle tissue. You should aim to consume 20 - 40g of protein, every 3 - 4 hours, to maximise your recovery and training!

Your individual protein needs

The current Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) for protein in healthy adults is 0.75g per kg of body weight, per day, according to the British Nutrition Foundation. However, you will require greater amounts than this to support exercise and your adaptations to training. The International Society of Sport Nutrition suggests that, if you are taking part in exercise, you should be ingesting 1.4 - 2.0g of protein per kg of body weight per day.

  • 1 - 1.6g per kg of body weight per day is recommended for endurance exercise. The exact amount depends on the intensity and duration of the exercise!
  • 1.4 - 1.7g per kg of body weight per day is recommended if you are playing sports such as football, basketball etc.
  • 1.6 - 2g per kg per day is recommended for strength power exercise

Here are some every day high protein foods to support you in your food choices:

Chicken breast (100g) = 31g of protein

Steak (100g) = 25g of protein

Salmon (100g) = 25.3g of protein

Tuna (100g tin) = 25g of protein

Greek yogurt (1 cup) = 10g of protein

Semi skimmed milk (200ml) = 7.2g of protein

3 medium eggs = 18g of protein

Protein powder (1 scoop) = 20-30g of protein

Red lentils (per 100g) = 7.4g of protein

Almonds (1 handful) = 7g of protein

Heinz baked beans (1/2 can) = 9.7g of protein

Curried chickpeas (1 pack) = 13g of protein

Peanut butter (2tbsps) = 9.4g of protein

Pinto beans (1/2 cup) = 11g of protein

Black beans (1/2 cup) = 7g of protein

Take home tips

  1. To promote muscle growth, you need a combination of resistance training and increased daily protein intake.
  2. Post training: try and ingest 20-30g of protein within 2 hours.
  3. Measure your daily protein intake based on your intensity and frequency of exercise.
  4. Try to maintain a positive protein balance with regular consumption of protein with each meal.
  5. Plan and prepare meals or snacks in advance!