How Much Protein Do Athletes Need And When Do They Need It?



With so much nutritional information out there at the moment, it's easy to get lost in the weeds about how much of a specific nutrient we need. Today we will be discussing protein intake and how much should be consumed daily. This will of course depend on various factors such as; age, size, activity level, training goals, training intensity, and genetics name a few. I will not get too in-depth about which type of protein each person should consume as that is based both on personal preference as well as each individual's tolerance to different types of protein. For example, if you are lactose intolerant you should probably avoid whey protein. Lactose intolerance is a condition in which the body has a deficiency in the enzyme lactase leading to symptoms such as bloating, abdominal cramping, and diarrhea if foods containing lactose are consumed. This includes many dairy products. If you suffer from a soy allergy it's important to avoid soy protein to avoid suffering from an immune system reaction. Some of the negative side effects include bloating, swelling, red skin, nausea, and vomiting. If you have more serious soy allergy symptoms you could suffer from anaphylaxis which requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms of anaphylaxis would include; trouble breathing, increased heart rate, light-headedness, dizziness, a drastic drop in blood pressure, or even blacking out. That being said, choose your protein sources wisely as this will ensure your body can focus on protein absorption and not body irritation.


Protein is the primary structure as well as a functional component of each human cell. It is used for growth, development, and repair. One of the main reasons behind dietary protein consumption is that it is needed for more muscle protein. Proper resistance training combined with a positive muscle protein balance will increase skeletal muscle through hypertrophy. Resistance training of various types stimulates the process of muscle protein synthesis where the body adds new protein to the muscle tissue. The current data suggest that athletes(or very physically active people) should consume between 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or 0.5 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. This holds for all different types of athletes from cross-country runners to competitive powerlifters.


The amount of protein will largely depend on the intensity of your training regiment. If you are in a very intense stretch of a training program or have a lot of physical activities going on at once, target 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. If you are a 150-pound athlete, then that would equate to 135 grams of protein per day. If you are in a less intense portion of your training program or have less overall physical activity going on, shoot for that 0.5 grams of protein per day. For a 150 pound athlete, this would be 75 grams of protein per day.


According to the American College of Sports Medicine, an athlete should consume between .1 and .17 grams of protein per pound of body weight within 0-2 hours post-training session. Consuming protein in this time window will increase the rate of protein synthesis. If you are a 150-pound athlete this equates to between 15 and 25 grams of protein depending on the intensity of your training session. This same idea can be repeated with meals throughout the rest of the day to help athletes build and repair muscles to maintain strength and a lean muscle mass.