Getting a Protein Rich Diet

proteinProtein requirements for athletes has been widely misunderstood and the balance between protein and carbohydrate intake for optimal athletic performance has often been overlooked. Traditionally, a high protein intake was considered synonymous with building muscle mass and fueling endurance, but this is not actually the case. Muscles primarily rely on carbohydrate for fuel, resorting to burning protein stores only as a last resort when glycogen stores have been depleted and energy demand is still high.

It is important to remember though, that though protein is not a first-line fuel for energy output, it is a vital component of recovery both during and following intense exercise. If an athlete becomes injured, their protein requirements will increase as their body rebuilds damaged tissue and handles inflammation and swelling. A diet adequate in lean meats, dairy products, beans and legumes, and possibly soy products (though female athletes should use caution with soy because of its estrogenic properties) will usually provide sufficient protein even for injury recovery.

Also important is the fact that all carbohydrates are not created equal. Refined carbs such as white flour and white sugar are actually a drain on the body’s energy and can cause digestive sluggishness and immune suppression. Better choices include whole grains, and unrefined sweeteners such as honey or pure maple syrup, especially in the days before an especially demanding athletic event. The human body functions best when kept in balance, and this is also true for protein and carbohydrate intake.

Sports Nutrition

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