What is the role of protein for exercise?

Neal Spruce
Neal Spruce on behalf of dotFIT
Protein is responsible for rebuilding your muscle tissues after exercise and also plays a minor role in producing energy under more extreme training conditions. The complete proteins we consume (e.g. meats, fish, dairy, eggs, etc.) are made up of the same amino acids that make up our muscles. After we consume the protein, our body breaks it down to amino acids and incorporates them into our tissues as needed. Exercise causes muscles to demand more protein than under sedentary conditions because exercise, and especially unaccustomed exercise, does structural damage to the tissues. The structural damage gives to body a reason to rebuild the tissues stronger and/or bigger so that they can handle the continuing challenges. Without protein, the body cannot perform this function and therefore you must supply it through the diet if you want to recover and build properly. Exercisers and athletes generally have a higher protein requirement than their sedentary counterparts. 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. The Sharecare Fitness Application has the ideal athletic menus individualized for each person including proper protein requirements, meal timing and complete food plans. Simply fill in your personal statistics and create your program. 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 more will not add more muscle. Below are the protein recommendations for exercisers and athletes:

Active Recreational Athletes:
  • Minimum -- 1 g/kg/d of body weight
  • Adaptation period -- 1.2 - 1.8 g/kg/d
Strength Athletes/Off-season Bodybuilders:
  • Minimum -- 1 g/kg/d of body weight
  • Adaptation period -- 1.6 - 2.0 g/kg/d
Endurance Athletes:
  • Minimum -- 1.4 g/kg/d of body weight
  • Adaptation period -- 1.6 - 2.0 g/kg/d
Dr. Vonda Wright, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
The predominant role of protein for exercise is to repair the microdamage that occurs to muscle and bone. Protein also supports immune function. A small amount -- about 5 percent -- is used to fuel exercise. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of weight per day for the average person (an ounce of fish or meat has approximately 7 grams of protein).

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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.