Increased protein intake is well spread among to sportsmen. Based on research it has been approved that supplements are not useful if the everyday diet is not healthy and balanced. But is the increased level of protein important at all? 

Use of food supplements is quite massive, which is also improved by the existence of stores which have the focus to sell those. 

Here is a simple rule – if you exercise up to 5 hours per week than there is no need to change everyday diet.  We just need to take care of the body by implementing a healthy diet to everyday lifestyle and this would be enough. 

If more than 5 h/week than there is a need for increased energy and nutrition intake. But wait, it doesn’t mean that there is a need to start with supplements… 

I’m going to take part in Tridash traditional triathlon and therefore started to exercise around 5 hours per week. I didn’t change my everyday healthy diet and follow the balanced diet by having macronutrients in good balance. 

Most important when competing in ultra-endurance sports is to take care of:

* energy and fluid balance (water intake should be monitored). Fluid losses from sweat can reach up to 2 L/h due to increased metabolic work during prolonged exercise and exercise under hot environments that might result in hypohydration. To take up to 2l fluid per hour does not make sense and can disturb the training as it is not directly converted to sweat. Optimal fluid intake during the training is 300-600 ml per hour, based on some researches even 400-800 ml per hour. 

I don’t use any special sports drinks but just water (or add a bit of sodium/salt) amount of 500ml/h. This keeps me hydrated and helps to keep energy and fluid to be balanced while exercising. 

Second important thing is to manage nutritional issues.

Not only protein is important, but all the macronutrients are, these guys work together to have your body in balance to function the best way possible. If you don’t get enough through your diet, your health and body composition suffer.

Mainly the attention is on protein, but most people generally don’t need to track their protein intake. If you are an omnivore and your diet include quality animal products along with nutritious plant foods should bring your intake to an optimal range. Protein is also important as it keeps you feeling full much better than both fat and carbs.

What should be the main focus?

* balanced food based on healthy diet 

* to be hydrated – energy and liquid must be in balance. 

If your protein intake is too low, then it might unbalance the level of sodium. This can slow your recovery after training and cause a loss in muscle. 

Muscles are largely made of protein. As with most tissues in your body, muscles are dynamic and constantly being broken down and rebuilt. For this process, it is important to get all essential amino acids. These are in the right ratio in animal protein as animal tissues are similar to yours. 

Essential amino acids cannot be produced by your body and need to get from diet. 

Some plants are fairly high in protein as well, such as nuts, quinoa, and legumes, etc. but can’t be compared with animal protein due to different amino acids balance. How to get needed protein from plant-based food?  There are certain rules and one way is to combine pulse products with wholegrain ones – like wholegrain rice with legumes. Is the plant-based protein enough for training – for this, there is still not a solution and need to be more investigated. 

I’m an omnivore and prefer balanced food from different possible sources. I appreciate the variety of food and also try to eat seasonal food as it is very rich in nutrients.

How much is a normal level of protein to athletes? 

About this question, there have been numerous studies to determine the optimal amount of protein. Many of them reach different conclusions but 1.6-2.2 grams per kg of body weight or 30% of calories per day seems to be the best based on the results. You can calculate it by multiplying your calorie intake by 0.075. Perfect would be to use protein regularly after every 3 hours.  

Few people need an additional amount of protein from supplements, but these are useful only under surveillance and mainly for bodybuilders. Please be aware that in everyday use of protein supplements is not suggested and need special guidance. The right amount of protein is individual and depends on many factors like everyday diet, activity level, age, muscle mass, and physique goals.