Why is there the need for high protein meals and snacks?
In recent years, protein has become the focus of many nutrition messages for general health, but for over 20 years, intake of protein of about 50% higher than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) has been recommended for athletes. The reasons are many but mainly explained by protein use during exercise sessions, and increased protein turnover as part of the natural growth and repair processes associated with training. Increasingly, protein is seen as the key nutrient influencing recovery from and adaptation to training especially in terms of how much muscle is gained or fat is lost.
For athletes in-season, maintaining a lean body mass (muscle) during a long intense season is key to performance and reducing injury risk, therefore making quality protein intake and timing a daily focus for athletes.
The richest sources of protein in the diet are food like fish, meat, dairy, and eggs, whereas nuts, seeds, pulses and lentils score well although in smaller amounts.
How much protein do I need?
The most recent guidelines for protein intake for athletes range from 1.2 grams of protein per kg of body mass up to 2.0 grams of protein per kg of body mass per day, although there have been recent studies of as much as 2.4 and 3.4 grams of protein per kg body mass for effects on fat loss and muscle gain. For an 80 kg individual, the current guidelines mean a range of 96 to 160 g of protein per day. The large range reflects the sport and the training phase or goal for active individuals per day. A 110 kg rugby player will need as much as 220 g of protein daily, which is a fair whack! For example, an egg contains roughly 8 g of protein whereas a medium-sized chicken breast contains on average 30 g of protein.
Below are a couple of simple and delicious recipes that you can use to help meet your protein needs throughout the day, based on meat and dairy options. You can also check out more high protein recipes in our meals section.
To find out more about how nutrition can support your training and performance, and how this can be achieved using practical strategies, why not attend our upcoming one-day seminar on Performance Nutrition for Team Sport Athletes
Beef (or Lamb) Burgers
- 500 g mince, beef or lamb
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- ½ onion, chopped
- 1 chilli, seeds removed, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds, roasted and ground
- 1 tsp. coriander leaves, chopped
- 20 g cashew nuts
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 egg
- Olive oil for cooking
- Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
- Mix all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
- Form into four patties (each is approximately a quarter pounder).
- On a pan on medium-high heat, sear the patties for a couple of minutes on each side, before transferring to a baking tray and placing in oven for 20 minutes.
- Serving suggestions: guacamole, salsa, sweet potato wedges or mash, green salad, potato wedges.
Cottage Cheese Mess
Cottage cheese is rich in casein protein, which is a slow-digesting protein source and the main source of protein in dairy foods. The slow-digesting properties make cottage cheese excellent as a snack to keep you satisfied during the day or as an evening snack provided a slow-release of amino acids during the night.
- 150 g cottage cheese
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. peanut butter
- 120 g frozen mixed berries
- 4 red grapes
- 1 Tbsp. flaked almonds
- 1 tsp. honey
Blend all ingredients until smooth.