Protein is an essential macronutrient in our diet and critical for optimal performance on the field. Playing sports causes muscle breakdown. Protein is responsible for helping the body recover after an intense practice or game by rebuilding the muscle. This allows athletes to become a stronger, more powerful presence the next time they return to the field. Protein is also a component to hemoglobin which is responsible for carrying oxygen to the muscles during play. Proteins help maintain fluid balance and are a necessary nutrient for overall growth and development. Follow these 5 guidelines below to ensure adequate intake in your diet:
Choose proteins often throughout the day. The body responds better to consistent intake vs. all at one sitting. Aim to eat some form of protein at each meal.
Choose lean proteins such as eggs, poultry, fish, lean red meats, tofu, beans, low-fat dairy products, nuts/nut butters, and seeds.
Protein supplements are not necessary if choosing protein sources often throughout the day. A meal with a protein source can serve as your post-workout recovery food. If you do not plan on eating within an hour post workout, drink a glass of chocolate milk to begin the recovery process.
Eating a small amount of protein with carbs before a practice or game can help maintain blood sugars while you’re on the field leading to an increase in energy levels. Choose a handful of trail mix, half of a protein granola bar, or Greek yogurt if your workout is within an hour.
If looking to gain muscle and/or weight, seek out the help of a dietitian to determine your specific needs. Protein needs are based on the individual’s age, activity level, and goals.