nutrition bite 016 - protein distribution
Athletes, particularly our growing and developing young athletes, have greater protein requirements than the general population. And typically, we find that whilst these athletes are acutely aware of the need to include high-quality protein sources in their diet and they have little difficulty in reaching their protein requirements, their protein intake is not properly spread across the day to reach this goal...
Firstly, let's consider the typical eating pattern of Australians, whether it be cereal, toast, fruit or juice, the most popular breakfast choices tend to be a carbohydrate-rich affair. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many do not consider dinner to be a truly satisfying meal if some form of protein does not star in the dish. Clearly then, while athletes may easily meet their daily protein requirements, this can be largely provided by the evening meal, with breakfast & snacks throughout the day are fairly devoid of high-quality protein.
But why does a lop-sided protein intake even matter, surely meeting our requirements overall should be enough?
Physical training has the effect of increasing the body's protein metabolism, meaning the body will break down and rebuild muscle proteins at an increased rate in order repair, recover and build stronger muscle. Previously, we have spoken about the importance of protein based foods post-exercise to facilitate muscle growth and recovery.
Now, here's the kicker, the effect of remodeling and rebuilding muscle proteins continues for upwards of 48 hours after exercise. Meaning that all meal occasions, even on non-training days, are an opportunity for athletes to maximise muscle growth and recovery.
Additionally, because the body has a limited capacity to use protein at any one time, any excess protein consumed at a single occasion will instead be converted into energy to fuel the body. Equally then, we could say that large protein intakes at the evening meal are ineffective in making up for the protein deficit incurred earlier in the day.
This is why it's too simplistic to say that protein intake is adequate based on the total intake for the day, as the timing of this intake is just as critical. To ensure a good distribution of protein across the day, at The Academy one of our core nutrition principles is for our young athletes to include a source of quality protein from meat, seafood, eggs or dairy at all eating occasions
And we highly recommend this nutrition principle to all young athletes...