How Much Protein Do Athletes Need?

November 10, 2010

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Protein provides amino acids to the muscles, which they need to rebuild, recover and gain size and strength. Experts recommend consuming between .8 and 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. One kilogram equals 2.2 pounds, so (for example) a 200-lb. guy weighs about 91 kg. Thus, he needs between 73 and 137 grams of protein per day.

Here's the easy formula:

Weight (lbs)/2.2 = Weight (kg)
Weight (kg) x Protein (.8 - 1.5 g/1 kg bodyweight) = Total Grams of Protein per Day

In spite of this dietary recommendation, the benefits of protein lead many athletes to the misconception that more is always better. In reality, there's a limit to the amount of protein the body can process and use. Consuming too much protein can lead to an imbalance in an athlete's diet. If protein outweighs carbohydrate, the body begins to use protein as a source of energy. This produces toxins (called ketones), which place unneeded strain on the organs, and can cause dehydration and even bad breath.

When considering adding more protein to your diet, first educate yourself on your dietary needs. Meeting the daily protein requirement with five or six small meals, each with 20 to 30 grams of protein, is recommended for most athletes. Great sources are dairy products, such as milk (8g for one cup); lean meats and fish (20g for 3 oz.); and chicken (27g for 4 oz.).

If a deficiency still exists or you need to jumpstart strength gains, leading sports authorities recommend drinking one whey protein shake a day, about half an hour to 45 minutes following a workout. During this time, muscles are primed to rebuild and recover. Whey is the easiest form of protein to digest, making it the best option for supplying an athlete's muscles with a quick burst of amino acids.

To learn more about the best kinds of protein, check out STACK’s exclusive content on the best protein sources:

Essential Protein Sources
A Guide to the Best Protein Sources
Whey Protein Powders
Protein Shakes
Recovery Drinks

Topics: PROTEIN | DIET
Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is the Performance Director at STACK. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Miami...
Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is the Performance Director at STACK. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Miami...
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