Protein and Exercise: How Much Do You Need?

Eating the right amount of protein is a complex and controversial topic.  In this week’s post I’ll dive into the role of protein in sports nutrition.


1)      Do you need more protein if you exercise regularly?


The short answer is YES, but it depends on a number of factors including the type of exercise, intensity and duration.

Exercise increases your requirement for protein in order to build and repair muscle.  Your body also needs to replace the protein that is metabolized during exercise, which makes up about 1-5 % of total calories burned.

Athletes need about double the amount of protein compared to the average person.  The general recommendation is that the daily protein requirement for athletes ranges from 1.2 – 2.0 g per kg of body weight compared to the recommendation of 0.8 g/kg for the overall population1.


The sliding scale shows the recommended protein intake depending on the type of training:



*Multiply by 2.2 to get your weight in pounds


Strength training increases protein requirements more than endurance training.  Intermittent workouts such as soccer, basketball, and mixed martial arts require intermediate amounts2.  As the intensity and duration of the workout increases, the amount of protein that’s needed also goes up.


While strength training increases structural muscle proteins, endurance training increases mitochondrial proteins which are important for energy production3.  So don’t worry if you’re involved in endurance exercise and want to maintain a slim figure, you’re not going to suddenly bulk up by taking extra protein!


For a general fitness program with 30-40 min for 3 times a week, protein needs can be met by consuming 0.8 – 1.0 g of protein daily per kg of body weight4.


2)      What are the benefits of consuming adequate protein for active individuals?


Protein is needed to build and maintain muscle.


Consuming adequate protein has been shown to reduce muscle soreness after a tough workout5.


As an added benefit, eating protein after a workout supports the immune system2.


In summary, protein is essential for muscle growth, recovery and immune function and many studies have found that athletes require more protein.


Next week I will discuss the practical implications of these findings and how to incorporate dietary protein into your training program.


Photo: Tanya Goehring | Post Photography