Proteins are the building blocks of our body. This makes proteins an essential component for growth and development, maintenance of body tissues, and the generation of new proteins. Proteins also contribute to various physiological functions such as improved immunity, maintaining nitrogen balance, and support for healthy bones, muscles and skin. These functions of proteins are especially important for athletes. As a matter of fact, proteins are the most important macronutrients for athletes.
This article will introduce you to the key properties of proteins, their advantages for a balanced diet, and how athletes can use them for sports nutrition.
Proteins and athletes with a high training load
Proteins have a direct impact on how quickly you can recover from a workout. That’s why protein supplements are one of the most popular sports nutrition supplements available today. Proteins help reduce muscle breakdown during exercise. They are also necessary for growth, regeneration of blood cells, production of enzymes and hormones, digestion and immunity. They also help in keeping you fuller for longer by reducing the rate at which carbohydrates are converted into glucose.
Proteins reduce the risk of injury in athletes with a high training load. This is achieved by strengthening the muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. It has been proven by research that high-quality protein intake in the form of meat, eggs, fish, dairy or soy within two hours of exercise, with or without a carbohydrate, improves muscle repair and growth.
The protein intake among athletes should be guided by their training requirements or competition requirements. There is a vast difference in the requirements of an athlete involved in high frequency intensity training versus someone involved in a new training schedule.
Recommended protein intake among athletes
Protein requirements for athletes are not too different from that of a non-athlete, albeit, a bit higher. Depending on the training requirements, an athlete is recommended 1.2 to 2.0 gm of proteins per kilogram of body weight per day by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dieticians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine.
Milk Proteins in Sports Nutrition
Numerous studies have demonstrated that milk-based proteins help to alleviate strength reduction and helps in recovery among athletes. More recent studies suggest the superiority of whey proteins as compared to carbohydrate drinks in improving rate of recovery among young resistance-trained athletes suggesting a beneficial role of milk-based proteins compared to carbohydrate drinks or supplements. This is particularly true in athletes engaged in high-intensity, explosive sports.
Post-exercise administration of milk-based proteins combined with a carbohydrate drink was equally effective as compared to a meat-based protein administration in resistance-training studies. It is of note that several studies have proven that the addition of carbohydrate and creatine monohydrate to a protein supplement, especially whey protein, results in greater strength and hypertrophy improvements from resistance training programmes.
The recovery of muscle function due to myofibrillar protein remodelling is known to occur with milk protein supplementation. Besides, muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is well supplemented by casein protein which significantly enhanced MPS following moderate intensity endurance exercise.
Summing up the role of proteins
While most athletes manage to fulfill their protein requirements through a balanced diet alone, dietary protein supplements are a convenient alternative for immediate protein requirements.
Milk-based proteins such as whey proteins, and casein provide readily accessible sources of proteins that can be used to supplement your diet, especially if you are into high-intensity training schedules.
Milk proteins provide the release of fast amino acids which are readily available and are reasonably priced.