Protein is one of the essential macronutrients in the body, along with carbohydrates and fats, which help the body grow and develop over time. Without protein, you’ll eventually die because you won’t be able to produce hormones, neurotransmitters, and antibodies.
Aside from that, protein is also responsible for the overall structure of muscles and other tissues in the body. Additionally, it becomes more crucial when you’re physically active. This is why it’s crucial to the diet of an athlete.
When you consume protein, it disintegrates into smaller units called amino acids. Then, the body will use these amino acids to produce new proteins. Your body will utilize these to improve and maintain your body.
However, meeting your daily protein requirements won’t make you invulnerable to injuries such as tennis elbow, shin splints, runner’s knee, ankle sprain, and others. This is especially true for athletes because they’re exposed to extreme physical movements.
If you suffer from an injury, you might need to undergo physiotherapy to improve your mobility and prevent injuries in the future. And if you’re worried about physiotherapy costs, you may ask your insurance provider to determine whether it’s included in your policy.
How Can Protein Benefit Athletes?
Here are the reasons why protein is important for athletes:
Protein Helps Increase Muscle Mass
You’ve probably seen a lot of athletes, especially bodybuilders, consume a high-protein diet or drink a protein shake whenever they perform intense physical activities such as lifting. That’s because protein helps them build more muscles.
Protein helps the body maintain muscle growth and reduce muscle wasting. When you engage in physical activities, your muscle fibers slowly tear apart. Protein fills these tears in your muscle fibers, resulting in bigger and leaner muscles.
This is why it’s important to consume adequate amounts of protein, whether training or working out. Otherwise, you’ll lose the muscles you currently have over time, hence muscle wasting.
To meet your daily protein requirements, you need to follow a high-protein diet. If you don’t know how to prepare one, you may check out organic food delivery Toronto and other similar services for healthy, clean, and high-protein meals.
Protein Helps Improve Metabolism
Having a well-maintained and balanced metabolic rate is essential for overall health. This helps you obtain an optimum lean-fat-mass ratio and improve your performance.
If you have a slow metabolism, it’ll be difficult to burn calories. Since you’re unable to burn calories, you’ll have less energy to use, compromising your performance. However, if you have a fast metabolism, you’ll have more energy, lose extra pounds, and gain more muscles.
Protein can help improve your metabolism temporarily. When you consume adequate amounts of protein, your body is forced to digest food faster, boosting your metabolism. You can also reduce your carbs and fats to focus on building strength and stronger muscles.
Protein Helps Muscle Recover
After an intense physical activity or workout, the next thing to do is to allow your muscle to recover. But the question is how long? Ideally, your muscles should recover in two to three days as long as you eat a healthy and protein-rich diet.
Protein can help your muscle recover effectively and efficiently by preventing further muscle breakdown. You may consider drinking protein shakes because it contains high-quality protein and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs).
BCAAs play a crucial role in muscle growth and recovery. They reduce muscle soreness and decrease the level of enzymes responsible for muscle damage, including lactate dehydrogenase and creatine kinase, improving muscle recovery and preventing further damage.
Protein Reduces Appetite
If you’re on a high-protein diet, you’ll notice that you don’t have the appetite to eat more after a few hours until your next meal session. That’s because protein promotes the feeling of fullness, helping you manage your weight before your next athletic performance.
Unlike carbohydrates, protein can suppress appetite because it takes longer to digest and controls ghrelin levels, a hunger hormone. If you need to lose weight, consuming protein is a good idea. Also, it can help you fight your afternoon and late-night cravings that contribute to weight gain.
Protein Promotes Injury Recovery
Athletes are prone to injuries because they’re always exposed to intense physical activities. That’s why consuming protein is even more important.
As mentioned earlier, protein helps build new and damaged cells, tissues, and organs. If you want your injury to recover as fast as possible, you need to increase your protein consumption to repair damaged body parts.
However, injuries may not heal properly by relying on protein alone. Eating protein to treat injuries should be complemented with enough rest and other nutrients, which can be found in a wide selection of healthy foods.
What Are the Best Sources of Protein?
Here are the foods rich in high-quality protein:
- Eggs: Eggs are one of the cheapest yet most nutritious sources of protein that’s easy to absorb. Aside from protein, eggs are also a good source of vitamins, healthy fats, and minerals. One egg (50 grams) contains approximately six grams of protein.
- Almonds: Almonds are rich not only in protein but also in fiber, manganese, and magnesium. Also, this tree nut may help reduce the risk of developing heart disease by lowering bad cholesterol levels and high blood pressure.
- Chicken Breast: You should consider chicken breast if you want to boost your daily protein intake significantly. Aside from protein, chicken breast is also a good source of B vitamins, selenium, and zinc.
- Greek Yogurt: This fermented dessert is rich in protein (approximately 20 grams for every 200 grams). In addition to protein, Greek yogurt is an excellent source of zinc, selenium, vitamin A, and vitamin B12.
- Milk: This dairy product is one of the best high-quality protein sources. Also, it’s high in vitamins, calcium, vitamin B2, and phosphorus. But if you’re lactose intolerant, consider lactose-free substitutes such as soy, macadamia, and almond milk.
- Fish: Fish such as salmon and tuna is a great source of high-quality protein as well as other essential vitamins and minerals (e.g., vitamin B12, selenium, and iodine).
Other great sources of protein include lean beef, quinoa, lentils, turkey breast, pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, and, last but certainly not least, protein shakes.
Athletes are always engaged in intense physical activities. That’s why protein is crucial to their diet because it can help manage weight, repair injuries, build more muscles, and boost metabolism. If you’re looking for good protein sources, consider adding chicken breast, eggs, milk, almonds, fatty fish, beef, quinoa, and Greek yogurt to your diet.
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