Don’t I need more protein if I am a power athlete?

While it’s easy to convince endurance athletes of their need for carbohydrates, power athletes are a bit harder to convince of the need for adequate carbs and moderate protein. While muscle is made of protein, and adequate protein provision is necessary for power athletes, the fuel pushing the weight is carbohydrate. High intensity, powerful muscle contraction (such as power lifting) is fueled with carbohydrate and phosphocreatine (PCr) pathways. Neither fat nor protein can be oxidized rapidly enough to meet the demands of high-intensity exercise. Adequate dietary carbohydrate must be consumed on a daily basis by power athletes to restore glycogen levels.
Katie Davis
Nutrition & Dietetics
This answer is tricky -- yes and no. Yes protein is very important for power athletes. Protein is what helps recover broken down muscles after a lifting workout, as well as helps build muscle back up again overnight. But you'd be surprised to learn that you don't need much protein for this to happen. Studies have shown no effectiveness for muscle building at anything above 1.7-1.9gm/kg protein daily. So, for a 180lb athlete, that's only 140-155gm of protein daily. Not much when you consider that a 4 oz serving of chicken, turkey, or beef has ~25-35gm protein, a tall glass of milk is 16gm, and one egg is 8gm. Protein adds up fast -- so getting enough typically isn't a problem. In fact, most Americans eat upwards of 2.5-3gm/kg protein daily. The bigger problem is making sure you're taking in enough carbohydrate to support muscle building. Did you know you actually need twice as much grams of carb as protein? That's right -- so that protein shake label better read a 2:1 ratio of carb to protein or you're in trouble. Why? Think of it this way: Carbohydrate is the key that opens the door to the muscle cells so protein can come in to rebuild and repair. So, yes protein is important, but it's not the whole story.
Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT
Power athletes need more protein than non-athletes/exercisers but about the same as other hard-training athletes. The easiest and safest formula for figuring a power athlete's protein needs is ~ 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. Exercisers and athletes generally have a higher protein requirement than their sedentary counterparts, which is slightly less than .5 gram/lb. 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" power athletes. Using the free 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:

As mentioned above, as a simple “rule of thumb,” if you consume 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, you will cover all your protein needs, and consuming more will not be helpful unless you are severely dieting to lose weight. So if you weigh 175 lbs, consume 175 grams of protein spread evenly throughout the day including before and immediately after training. Protein recommendations are based on the majority of energy requirements being met by dietary carbohydrates and fats.

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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.