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Protein for athletes

by La Boite à Grains 05 Jun 2024
Protéines pour les sportifs - La Boite à Grains

When it comes to exercise, there are two ways of looking at "power".

One relates to the energy needed to give your muscles the fuel they need - a bit like the gasoline you put in your car. The other is the actual force you can produce - like the horsepower in your car engine. Both factors are important for achieving the best possible results as an athlete.

It's this second definition of power that many gym-goers are looking for. This muscle-building effect is the result of resistance and endurance training, both of which are necessary to stimulate muscle growth.

Muscle repair and building depend on the availability of proteins, those amino acid compounds, a kind of building block. Make sure your muscles have access to the protein they need by eating high-protein whole foods, such as lean meats, eggs and fish, plant sources like beans, lentils and legumes, nuts and seeds, tofu and certain grains like quinoa.

How much protein do you need? On average, a sedentary (inactive) person needs 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.8 g/kg) per day, which works out at around 45 g for a 54-kilogram (120-lb.) inactive woman. This total is easy to achieve with a diet that includes many protein-rich whole foods, such as meat, fish and legumes.

However, extensive research has shown that elite athletes and weekend warriors alike need more protein, sometimes twice as much, than the recommended average. The convenience of protein supplements is behind their popularity with gym-goers across Canada. Among Canadian athletes, 87% report taking some form of sports nutrition supplement, with protein powders among the most common.

This simple "catch-all" category of protein is subdivided into sub-categories designed to help athletes fine-tune their training preparation, performance and recovery to improve results.

The secret of protein sources

The most common and widely used protein powder base is whey. It's fast-acting, offers a full range of essential amino acids ("complete proteins") and dissolves well in liquid. Whey protein is rapidly metabolized by the body, making it a favorite of athletes who take it before and during training, to increase amino acid availability and accelerate muscle repair. Casein is the foundation of another protein powder; it is released more slowly into the body, making it ideal for sustained muscle recovery after training.

Whey and casein proteins come from dairy sources, but the growing trend towards plant-based foods and supplements has resulted in a growing number of plant-based protein powders, including pea, hemp, soy and rice proteins.

If you're looking for the supplement that's right for you, but you're confused by the breadth of products available, ask your local CHFA member health food retailer about available solutions. Let your experience, protein needs and personal taste and texture preferences guide your choice.

Remember, simply adding a protein powder to your shake or diet does not automatically build new muscle. It's physical activity that stimulates the processes of muscle repair and formation. Dietary protein will help you do just that. Let your reason and common sense guide you in your choice of protein powders and other energy-boosting supplements. To achieve the body composition you're looking for and give your body the tone it needs to "show it off" on the beach, you need a balanced diet with good sources of protein throughout the day and a well-planned exercise program.

Just as you'd want to consult an experienced trainer about your workouts, it's important to consult a health care practitioner about adding supplements to achieve your training goals.


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