How much protein should an athlete eat?

Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT
A simple and safe formula for figuring out an athlete's protein needs is approximately 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. More protein is unnecessary unless severely dieting for weight loss. Exercisers and athletes generally have a higher protein requirement than their sedentary counterparts, which is slightly less than 0.5 grams per pound. Additionally, proper timing of protein ingestion around the workout (30 minutes before and immediately after) and spread evenly throughout the day can dramatically enhance exercise-induced results. This is especially true for recovery, which is most important to "in-training" athletes. Using the Sharecare Fitness Application, you can design ideal athletic menus individualized for you including proper protein requirements, meal timing and complete food plans. Simply fill in your personal statistics and create your program. The Sharecare Fitness Application is located under the Coach tab; click here for access:

Muscles and other body tissues are made up of proteins. Although protein contains the same amount of energy as carbohydrates, its primary function is the growth and repair of these tissues. Because it is not the body’s preferred source of energy, very little protein is used for fuel unless carbohydrate availability is limited or energy demands are extreme. In this case, protein is detoured from its main functions and broken down for fuel. Consuming adequate amounts of carbohydrates insures that protein is used for building and repairing tissues and preventing the loss of muscle; in other words, carbohydrate is protein sparing. General protein recommendations are listed below:
  • Protein should make up approximately 10 to 35 percent of your total daily calories, which most young athletes meet with a typical diet.
  • The daily protein requirement can be up to 1 gram/lb of body weight.  
  • Lean meats, poultry (chicken, turkey) without skin, seafood, eggs and soy products are excellent sources of protein. Other sources include beans, nuts and dairy products.
The average American diet contains enough protein for recreational or even competitive athletics.

Six to seven daily ounces of lean meat, poultry or fish or the equivalent from eggs, beans, nuts or seeds, along with dairy foods and grain products, supply enough protein for most athletes. Weight lifters and athletes involved in endurance sports do need more protein.

Athletes who are vegetarians can consume enough protein for rigorous activity by eating a variety of foods including beans, nuts, seeds and peanut butter.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.