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Protein Improves Performance – Here’s What You Need To Know

A woman showcasing her strength by drinking a protein shake from a yellow bottle.
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Eating a protein-rich diet is beneficial when exercising and looking to achieve your fitness goals because dietary protein is a trigger for muscle protein synthesis. This process helps you build muscle, strengthen tendons and bones, and improve body composition. These beneficial adaptations are made by eating protein in combination with strength training because when we work out, it increases the body’s sensitivity to proteins.

Protein intake inactive people has been well-studied, and research shows that most athletes should consume above the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein (0.36 grams per pound of body weight). However, this is simply not enough for athletes who need more than this to maximize training adaptations and sports performance. In addition, eating enough protein can be challenging for some to consume.

How much protein do you need daily? To figure out your daily protein goals, simply multiply your weight in pounds using one of the following formulas:

Growing Athletes (Kids & Teens)0.5–0.6 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight (1.1 to 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram body weight)
Endurance Athletes0.5–0.6 grams of protein per pound body weight (1.1 to 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram body weight)
Strength & Power Athletes0.7–0.9 grams of protein per pound body weight (1.54 to 1.98 grams per kilogram body weight)
Active older individuals0.7–0.9 grams of protein per pound body weight (1.54 to 1.98 grams per kilogram body weight)

While these recommendations are not hard-and-fast rules, you can use them as general guidelines. For example, for athletes who need more protein to prevent loss of muscle mass during periods of high training volume, recovering from injury, and low-calorie intake when trying to reduce body fat, some may need up to twice the recommended amount.

Some proteins are better than others when it comes to building muscle. Animal proteins contain all the essential amino acids, the building blocks of cells required to build muscle. Plant-based proteins usually lack some of these essential amino acids, and most are incomplete – meaning you have to eat a more significant amount and variety of them to meet your protein needs.

Protein & Daily Life

By spreading protein intake throughout the day, you can maximize its benefits. Even small amounts like 10–20 grams of protein right after a workout can be beneficial for increasing strength training. If your goal is to become a more severe strength trainer, eating 20–30 grams of protein every 3–4 hours and after strenuous workout sessions can help optimize sports performance, reduce body fat, and promote lean muscle growth. Protein also helps suppress appetite, promote fullness and increase metabolism, which can help you lose weight and keep a good body composition. Protein and strength training help keep your metabolism high and ensure that what is underneath the fat looks good.

Body composition is a hotly debated topic in fitness. Looking at the scale can give a misleading view of someone’s body since different body parts (like muscles) will weigh more than other parts. This is especially true for people with high levels of muscle mass since they tend to have a higher overall weight.  If you have ever heard of the term “skinny-fat,” this is when someone looks skinny but has a relatively high percentage of body fat and a low amount of muscle mass, despite having a “normal” BMI. Focusing on Body composition and not overall weight loss can help give you a fit look you want without the stress of chasing numbers on the scale.

Protein is one of the essential nutrients. A higher protein intake is linked to beneficial effects on appetite, weight, body composition, and overall health. Spreading your protein intake throughout the day and choosing high-quality sources with healthy carbs and fats while doing a strength training program will lead you toward your fitness goals.

Editor’s note: The content on Base Strength is meant to be informative in nature, but it shouldn’t take the place of advice and/or supervision from a medical professional. The opinions and articles on this site are not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. Speak with your physician if you have any concerns. Please also see our disclaimers.

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