The timing and amount of protein are crucial when it comes to promoting muscle repair and growth. Depending on your training schedule and how strenuous your training is, you can determine your personal requirements:
As an athlete you should have 1.2 and 1.7g per kg of bodyweight per day. If you weigh 70kg your recommended protein intake is between 84-119g. It’s best to distribute protein intake throughout the day rather than consuming it in just one or two meals.
Experts recommend consuming no more than 20 to 25 grams of protein with each main meal as well as immediately after exercise. But make sure you got your calculations right: Some exercisers eat high protein diets in the belief that extra protein leads to increased strength and muscle mass, but this isn’t true – it is stimulation of muscle tissue through exercise not extra protein that leads to muscle growth! Consuming high amounts of protein over an extended period of time can lead to dehydration, kidney problems and weight gain as excess protein is converted to body fat!
When it comes to recovery there are several studies which have found that eating carbohydrate and protein together immediately after exercise enhances recovery and promotes muscle building.
The optimal post-workout meal or drink, it seems, should include 15– 25 g protein in order to maximise muscle repair and promote a more anabolic hormonal environment. It should also include protein: carbohydrate in a ratio of about 1 : 4. This is 1 gram of protein per every 4 grams of carbs.
Ideally, you should consume this amount of protein at each meal or snack, so the protein intake is distributed evenly throughout the day. In terms of types of protein, milk-based proteins (whey and casein) have been shown to promote greater protein uptake in the muscle as well as greater muscle building compared with soy protein.
Each of the following provides 60 to 90g carbohydrate and 15 to 25g protein:
- Two bananas; 500 ml of semi-skimmed milk
- A wholemeal tuna sandwich (two slices of bread, 50 g tuna); one pot (150 g) yogurt
- Recovery milkshake: mix 300 ml low fat milk, one pot (150 g) fruit yogurt, one banana, 100 g strawberries and two heaped teaspoons (30 g) honey in a blender
- A wholemeal cheese sandwich (two slices bread; 40 g cheese); 100 g dried apricots
- 200 g baked beans on two slices wholemeal toast
- Two cereal bars plus 500 ml skimmed milk
- 60 g raisins and 50 g nuts
- Two Weetabix; 300 ml low-fat milk; one pot (150 g) fruit yogurt; 30 g sultanas
- A jacket potato (200 g) with 200 g baked beans and 40 g cheese
- Cooked pasta (85 g uncooked weight) with 130 g chicken breast
- Three oatcakes; 60 g hummus; 500 g low-fat milk
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