“Hey, Coach, why should I eat protein?”
Athletes of all ages ask us this question all the time at Velocity. Simply put, protein is what is going to make you stronger. A body that is getting sufficient amounts of protein is able to effectively grow and repair lean muscle mass. Without enough protein, your muscles will struggle to repair themselves after your workouts.
“That sounds great! I definitely want to get stronger and recover fast, so what foods should I eat to get my protein?”
Animal sources like chicken, fish, and beef are great options. Animal proteins contain all nine essential amino acids, which are the actual components responsible for the growth and repair of your body’s muscles, bones, and tissues. Remember, milk and eggs come from animals, so they are also excellent options for a protein-rich diet. Try your best to choose animal protein options that are lower in fat, such as skinless chicken rather than fried chicken.
If animal proteins aren’t your thing (I’m looking at you, vegetarians and vegans), consider pairs of foods such as beans with rice, or nut butters with wheat bread. The beans or nut butters have proteins, but only when paired with the rice and bread, respectively, do they contain all nine essential amino acids.
“OK, that’s very helpful. But what if I’m a really picky eater? Are there any other ways to be sure that I’m getting enough protein?”
Many athletes include protein supplements in their daily diet. High quality whey proteins are the best option for athletes – particularly people without food allergies. Whey is a protein extracted during milk production, it belongs in the “animal proteins” category that we previously discussed. Check the labels and look for things like BCAA’s (branched-chain amino acids) and glutamine. If you’re lactose-intolerant, try to choose a hydrolyzed whey protein. These have already been broken down into their simplest forms, so they won’t cause digestive issues, and they will also be absorbed into your body more quickly. Vegetarians and vegans should look for plant-based protein supplements containing hemp and pea proteins. These contain ample amounts of all nine essential amino acids.
“Thanks, Coach! One last question before I head to the store to get my protein: How much should I be taking each day?”
Every athlete is different, but a simple beginner’s rule to follow is to get 25-30 grams of protein five times per day. More specifically, someone who wants 150 pounds of lean muscle mass (such as a very fit and lean 170-pound athlete) should be eating approximately 150 grams of protein each day. It can sometimes be difficult to get this much protein into your daily diet, so using both foods and supplements throughout the day is recommended. Also, always try to get 25-30 grams of protein shortly after every workout because this is when your body is most receptive to the benefits that proteins provide.