Individual approaches to nutrition present in a number of different forms, with moves towards plant-based and vegan diets evident. While there are various reasons behind these choices, supporting the training, competition and injury phases of an athlete’s macrocycle remains a fundamental component of performance nutrition and protein is a central nutrient to that.
Diets that eliminate certain foods or whole food groups may result in various nutrient deficiencies. Following a plant-based or vegan diet may challenge some micronutrients (iron, zinc, vitamin B12, calcium and omega 3s) and complete protein sources. That’s not to say that deficiencies are a guaranteed, more so that careful consideration is required when planning such approaches.
Proteins are made up of 20 amino acids and complete protein sources are those that contain all 9 essential amino acids - the amino acids that can’t be made by the body and must be taken in through the diet. Meat, dairy and fish are the obvious complete protein sources in the diet, but some plant-based options are complete too; soy, quinoa, hempseed and chia. Most other plant proteins provide some essential amino acids, so it is important to mix sources in each meal and eat a varied diet.
Protein is often considered essential for active populations involved in weight training, gym classes high-intensity training or endurance sports, in order to promote muscle remodelling. Indeed, our muscles contain hundreds of proteins that all perform a variety of functions that are essential to everyday life and of course, exercise performance. For example, the contractile proteins are responsible for making our muscles produce force, the structural proteins provide structure to our muscles and the enzymatic proteins help provide the action molecules that can break down carbohydrate and fat to produce energy.
Protein ingestion in the post-exercise window and day-to-day can support muscle recovery and facilitate training adaptations. Training provides a stimulus that stresses and damages the muscle, known as muscle protein breakdown. The combined effects of exercise and protein feeding results in the formation of new proteins, referred to as protein synthesis. It is these repeated changes in muscle breakdown and rebuild, in response to every single training session, which forms the basis of how our muscles adapt, remodel and grow.
With protein being a key nutrient for active populations and not all plant protein sources delivering a complete amino acid profile, protein supplements are often considered to meet the performance demands of certain situations. PLANT20 powders are formulated with a blend of pea, pumpkin and soy proteins to deliver 20 g of protein per serve and a complete amino acid profile, while minimising fats and carbohydrate. Post-training our muscle are in a state of breakdown, and feeding high-quality, complete protein is required to stimulate the repair and rebuild process. PLANT20 powders are a convenient way to meet these needs at this time.
We typically need in the region of 1.4-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram body weight per day. As such, a 75 kg individual would need between 105 and 135 grams of protein per day. Even if you train just 2-3 times per week, your protein intake needed is likely to increase towards the upper end of this range. Perhaps more important than total daily protein, however, is the pattern of ingestion throughout the day, where it is advised that protein is consumed as 20-40 g feedings every 3-4 hours. In addition to high quality whole foods, protein supplements and snacks such as PLANT20 bars are a convenient option to meet needs and ensure daily protein intake is not compromised.
Ben is a Performance Nutritionist at Science in Sport