If you are an active person, fatigue and the recovery cycle play a critical role in how well you will perform. You need to have the energy and ability to push your body to achieve new levels of cardiac and muscle growth. Conversely you also need to experience full recovery so you can repeat the process the next day.
This is an intricate cycle that involves sleep, hydration, stretching and diet. While carbs and fats play an important part in your nutrition strategy, protein plays an equally important role and is the glue that holds the delicate balance of protein, carbs and fats together to provide you optimal nutrition.
Research has shown that eating more protein can support weight loss and prevent weight gain by boosting metabolism, increasing feelings of fullness and helping the body retain muscle while losing fat. However, many Americans are not consuming enough protein in a balanced way to achieve these effects and athletes are at particular risk.
University of Missouri researcher Heather Leidy and her colleagues conducted a review of the current scientific literature on protein consumption and found that a moderate increase in protein consumption at each meal, balanced throughout the day, can lead to significant improvements.
To help individuals integrate more protein into their diets, Leidy, an assistant professor in the MU Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology, provides several recommendations based on her and others' research based:
"Breakfast, in general, provides benefits for appetite control and satiety, or feelings of fullness," Leidy said. "Eating a protein-rich breakfast containing about 30 grams of protein leads to even greater satiety throughout the day and can reduce unhealthy snacking by improving appetite control."
When looking at protein look for healthy protein like Greek yogurt and eggs and stay away from high saturate fat loaded protein found in sausage.
Leidy said individuals should aim for a diet that contains 1.2 -- 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For example, a 150-pound woman who wants to lose weight or prevent weight gain should eat approximately 90-100 grams of protein a day. For endurance athletes that number can go as high as 3 grams per kilogram of body weight. This will help promote lean (muscle) body mass.
In keeping with the Zone diet concept pioneered by Dr. Barry Sears, balancing protein, fats and carbs at every meal is idea. "We want people to know that they don't have to consume impractical amounts of protein," Leidy said. "Although most Americans don't consume the amount of protein necessary to achieve benefits, such as increased feelings of fullness, the research suggests that individuals only need to add an additional 10-15 grams of high-quality protein, such as eggs, lean beef, pork or dairy, at breakfast and lunch to achieve the recommended amount."
Not all proteins are created equal. High-quality, or "complete," proteins found in animal-based foods such as beef, pork, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products contain all the essential amino acids and are easily digestible. Most plant-based proteins found in vegetables and grains are considered lower quality, or "incomplete," proteins because they lack one or more essential amino acids and are less digestible.
Adding protein through “clean”, high quality protein powder like Designer Whey is also a good way to add valuable grams of protein. Two scoops to a smoothly can add as much as 36 grams in one serving. Be sure to look for protein powers that are low in sugar and the less ingredients they contain, it is more likely to be a quality and clean product.
HERE’S TO BEING FIT FOR LIFE! Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, Group Exercise Instructor, exercise and endurance enthusiast. He competes yearly in numerous running races, marathons, ultra-marathons, triathlons and other endurance events. He is a member of the 2015 QT2 Systems Advanced Team.