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Protein Myths, Lies and Intrigue.

Protein is so hot right now! The diet industry is the king of cool, making the latest diet fad look like the solution to weight loss and building a ripped body. The real solution is a lifetime of healthy eating and exercise, as discovered from years of scientific studies. But let's not digress, athletes do need extra protein.

Protein is made up of essential and non-essential amino acids. Protein is a macronutrient, like carbohydrates and fat. The human body needs bigger portions of macronutrients to function properly. Protein is used to repair and build tissue, such as muscles and tendons. Your hair, nails, muscles, skin, brain and nerves are also composed of protein. Protein is in every cell in the body and helps in the process of making hormones and digestive enzymes. Protein is not stored in the body, if you run out; you need to eat more protein. On the other hand, fats and carbohydrates are stored reservoir style for a future moment of panic, example: an endurance workout lasting over 60 minutes or when you end up on the Discovery Channel Show Naked and Afraid and will only have coconuts to eat for weeks.

Just for the record, Micronutrients are the vitamins, minerals we get from our food that are used in smaller amounts by the body. The body absorbs micronutrients better when carbohydrates, fat and protein enter the system together. This is particularly important to athletes. In order for our bodies to recover fully, we need to absorb macro and micronutrients together. Meaning, don’t just eat an apple after a workout, eat an apple with peanut butter and trail mix.

So how much protein should you eat a day?

Here is the recommended amount for the average person.

Men .45 g per pound

Women .36 g per pound

ACE Fitness recommends this for athletes who are strength training and doing intense workouts.

Men 1 g per pound

Women .8 g per pound

Here is what the math looks like.

Average woman weighing 150 pounds x .36 = 54 g

Woman weighing 150 pounds x .8 = 120 g

The American College of Sports Medicine and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics States

Strength athletes 1.2-1.7g

Endurance athletes 1.2 – 1.4g

Chart from ACE Fitness

If you are training nearly everyday of the week, you will need more protein and calories in general. During a workout we damage tissue, that sounds bad, but this is how new muscle forms. As athletes we put extra strain on the muscles and therefore may need extra protein to repair the damaged tissue. We also need to take rest and recovery time to heal the muscles. Heavy or big workouts should not be happening every day. Every body is different and some people will naturally need less or more protein for recovery.