How much Protein does an Athlete need? 2 minute read

Today’s post is looking at how athletes can best cannulate their protein intake to repair and build muscle. This process is called Muscle Protein Synthesis, (MPS), and is an essential daily function for many bodily functions other than just building or repairing muscle mass.


Although the intake of protein is essential to fully maximise muscle growth, there are important factors to consider. Firstly, and most importantly, you may well preserve you current muscle mass with the right intake of protein, but don’t expect to add to it without doing the required training.

You won’t stimulate new muscle growth without a stimulus. This stimulus is of course, resistance exercise. Even for athletes who don’t wish to build hypertrophy, (bulk), having a better muscle to fat ratio is a far preferable situation for everything from performance to injury prevention.


Protein Quality


The quality of your protein is important. Yes, many foods will contain some proportion of protein. However, to build muscle you need to take sources that contain the 9 Essential Amino Acids, (EAAs), that your body can’t produce itself. Foods containing a high concentration of the branch chain amino acid, (BCAA), leucine have been seen to achieve the best results.

Food choices that include the 9 EAAs and are high in leucine include;

  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Whey protein
  • Dairy products

Meal Planning


Ok, so now you know the why and the what, here’s the how. MPS is maximally stimulated at 0.3g of protein per kg of body weight, (bw), per meal.


An ideal strategy is to include four feeding portions of 0.3g/kg bw and one of 0.6g/kg bw before you go to bed. A pre bed higher dose of protein may be needed due to the duration you are sleeping without any nutritional input. Athletes should be sleeping minimum 8 hours therefore a dose of 0.6g/kg bw will lead to a favourable increase in MPS while sleeping.


Older Athletes


A greater intake of protein may well be essential for older athletes. This is particularly for over 50s when a process called anabolic resistance begins to set in. This makes muscle less sensitive to protein intake. Therefore older athletes should shoot for 0.4g/kg of bw to maximise MPS.


Although not quite so important for recreational athletes and indeed, recreational drinkers, but be mindful that alcohol has been seen to inhibit MPS. Therefore if after size, limit the boozing as much as you can.

Further Considerations


Quite a lot has been made about meal timing and especially protein timing. Minimal evidence exists however that protein timing is essential for muscle growth.


After exercise the muscle is sensitised to protein intake for up to 72 hours. While it may do no harm and may have benefits such as muscle soreness management, it is not essential for muscle growth.


However, at the elite end of sport, the 1%s can make the difference. There is good evidence that 4 doses of 20g of whey protein was mildly superior to one bolus dose of 80g. It is also clearly an easy option to digest!


Thanks for reading, please hit me up with any questions or queries!

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