Key #4: Eat Healthy Protein
Protein intake is crucial for both resistance and endurance type athletes. As a baseline, you should be consuming approximately 1.2-1.8g of protein per kilogram of your body weight per day in order to maintain lean muscle mass and build new muscle.
However, in periods of very high intensity or high volume of training, especially when calorically restricted, it may be necessary for you to consume as much at 2.0g per kilogram of body weight per day in order to maintain lean muscle mass and promote fat loss.
If you are a resistance type athlete, you should consume 4-6 smaller high protein meals per day in order to maximize protein synthesis in your muscles. About 20g of protein is enough to stimulate maximal protein synthesis, which happens about 2 hours after a meal. Having protein in each meal throughout the day will help keep your body in positive muscle protein synthesis.
Consuming adequate protein throughout the day is not only recognized as a method for promoting muscle protein synthesis and hypertrophy, it is also crucial for maintaining your immune system. And getting sick during periods of high intensity training is the last thing you want!
Many researchers have suggested whey protein as being the preferred protein over casein and soy, which are much slower to absorb. Whey is likely the most accessible protein because it is present in dairy products and is a major component of commercially available powders. If you are a vegetarian or vegan you have to look a little bit harder to find another option that agrees with your body, but it is possible! Yellow pea and brown rice protein are excellent alternatives for vegetarians, vegans and plant-powered athletes. If you consume sufficient quantities, you can achieve similar muscle protein synthesis rates as athletes consuming whey.
Make sure to have protein at every meal to prevent the energy crash between meals. Not to mention, high protein foods can help you to maintain better attention, concentration and focus throughout the day.
Today's POWER-UP: Here are some great examples of high quality protein
1 cup of quinoa gives 18g of protein, to get the full spectrum of amino acids, combine with rice. Quinoa is complete on its own and rice has a complementary profile to lentils.
2 hardboiled eggs give you 12g of complete protein.
½ boneless skinless chicken breast can give you over 25g of protein. Aim to get pasture-raised chicken as it will provide you with a more favorable fatty acid profile.
2 tbsp. of hemp seeds will provide you with 10g of protein. You can add hemp seeds to your salads or add them to a smoothie in the morning. Don’t heat them up too much as they are also a great source of polyunsaturated fatty acids and these can be altered with heat.
Non-GMO Tofu can provide 20g of protein per ½ cup and is also a rich vegetarian source of calcium. Although there is conflicting evidence surrounding the estrogenic effects of soy, having tofu a few times a week may be a great way for vegetarian and vegan athletes to add in some quality protein. It is important to check the source of your tofu and to always buy organic. Soy is one of the most GMO foods in North America, and while the effects of GMO are not fully known, buying organic will help reduce the pesticide chemicals you ingest.
Dive Deeper: Looking for a protein supplement?
If you're looking for a protein supplement, make sure it contains a broad profile of amino acids, especially L-glutamine, L-lysine and L-taurine.
L-glutamine, a nonessential amino acid that appears to be conditionally essential during periods of physiological stress, plays important physiological roles in the immune system.
L-lysine plays a major role in calcium absorption, muscle building, recovery from injuries, and the body's production of hormones, enzymes and antibodies. L-lysine is metabolized in mammals to provide Acetyl-CoA - a critical substrate for energy production in the body.
Studies suggest that L-taurine may be a pertinent candidate for use as a nutritional supplement to protect against oxidative stress, neurodegenerative diseases and atherosclerosis.