Are you confused regarding how much protein should be in your diet? With conflict between the scientific bodies and sports practitioners it seems you are not alone.

A recent edition of the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism examined this issue, collating the research and coming up with some sensible recommendations for athletes.

Conclusions of the research

After looking at the available data in this area the authors concluded that a typical athlete?s requirements for protein are in excess of the recommended RDA of 0.8g, recognising that this RDA had been set to avoid deficiencies rather than to support performance.

The emerging dietary guidelines to support performance, that they present, range between 1.2 and 1.6grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. The authors state ?there is a large body of evidence showing that provision of protein supports increased rates of protein synthesis (repair) and positive protein balance (limiting muscle & strength loss) after both endurance and resistance exercise?.

They stress, however, how important timing of protein intake is in relation to the effect on performance. Simply, protein should be consumed as soon as possible after exercise and in the case of the endurance athlete should be accompanied by carbohydrate.

Data indicated that the quality of protein was also important with the authors stating ?athletes would do well to focus on high quality protein sources such as dairy, eggs and lean meat….more portable protein sources, particularly protein supplements, offer a practical alternative?.

With regards to the dose of protein after exercise they recommended 20 to 25 grams (approximately the amount of protein you would find in a typical breast of chicken).

Layman Lowdown

Getting enough protein essentially will assist repair and replacement of muscle tissue, support muscle, bone, tendons and ligaments, support optimal functioning of the immune system and assist with replacing amino acids (building blocks of protein) that are more rapidly used during exercise, to avoid deficiency.

This recommendation of 1.2 to 1.6g per kilogram of body weight in the daily diet equates to between 84 and 112g of protein for a 70kg cyclist. Ideally this should be achieved through a small protein portion (approx 22g) in each of the small regular meals of the day, with one of these meal times taking place immediately after your ride.

Look for lean sources of protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, Quorn and whey protein and carbohydrate bars and recovery drinks after exercise for quality and convenience.