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Protein and the impact on recovery - by Elaine Lowden

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The refuelling by the athlete post exercise can sometimes be compromised compared to a pre-nutrition regime. It is essential for an athlete to practice a balanced diet, one which specifically includes: carbohydrate and protein. In addition, practicing a diet which offers protein after training and competition will help the body to recover from intense physical exertion and ultimately, allowing another bout of exercise to occur, if required, the following day. During and after exercise the muscles can become tired and fatigue is likely to occur. Rest is essential but it is also important to highlight that protein is key to reduce these symptoms and allow the athlete to achieve optimum sporting performance.  
 
The body requires 10-15% protein from the diet as a general rule. However, a greater amount of protein is needed by an athlete and protein needs vary depending on the athlete’s weight. The recommended amount is 1.2-1.5g/kg which is easier to monitor than calculating the percentage of protein that should be consumed daily.
 
The reasons for athletes requiring more protein than non-athletes is due to the muscle damage that occurs during exercise and for increased strength required for optimum performance, particularly while performing power bursts. As the body naturally tears the muscle fibres through exercise, however by consuming protein in the diet will reduce the symptoms of tiredness and delay the onset of muscle soreness. It is highly beneficial to refuel within the first 30 minutes post exercise to prevent a delay in the recovery process..  
 
Non-vegetarians tend to consume a higher proportion of protein from animal sources rather than from plant sources. A sample of post exercise meal could include a small chicken breast (containing 26g protein) on wholemeal bread (7g of protein) and a large glass of semi skimmed milk (containing 16g protein).
 
For those who are vegetarians, there are a wide range of products on the market which are rich sources of protein including; quorn, tofu, eggs, dairy produce, beans (eg kidney beans, baked beans). Vegans will obtain their protein from beans and tofu, these can be added to vegetables and sauces for curries and stir fries.  If a meal cannot be tolerated after exercise examples of snacks could be; natural yoghurt and a small handful of almonds or walnuts (8-10) or a fruit smoothie made with natural yoghurt and a wide variety of berries. 
 
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