In order to build muscles, they need to be trained regularly – and the right diet can also help. Protein plays a special role in this. However, strength athletes in particular often overestimate the real need for protein.
To explain: Muscles only consist of 20 percent protein; their main component is water. As a result, if they are to grow, their protein requirement is not that high.
This is how high your daily protein requirement is
The German Society for Nutrition makes the following recommendations for protein intake: Healthy adults between the ages of 19 and under 65 who are physically active for a maximum of five hours per week do not have an increased protein requirement. They have a daily intake of 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of body weight.
The calculation: For a person weighing 70 kilograms, this corresponds to a protein amount of 56 grams per day. The consumer advice center makes it clear: “On average, these quantities are already exceeded with the usual mixed food.
The average intake for men is 85 grams and for women it is 64 grams.” This means: With what we consume every day in our latitudes, we more than adequately cover our body’s protein needs.
This applies to athletes
For athletes who train more than five hours per week, the German Society recommends a protein intake of 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight per day, depending on the training condition and the training goal.
However, the experts make it clear: It is not a fixed size, but should be adapted to the training goal, training intensity and scope of training. Increasing your protein intake can therefore be useful when building muscle or losing weight.
Which protein sources are better?
According to the experts, high-quality protein sources can be found both
- in animal products (such as meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese etc.) as well
- in plant products (such as spelt, quinoa, oats, millet, legumes, nuts or tofu).
Their conclusion: “There is currently no evidence that animal proteins offer a clear advantage over plant proteins.” But plant-based protein suppliers score points from another aspect: “A higher proportion of plant-based protein sources can also be viewed positively against the background of the higher fiber and vitamin intake as well as an increased intake of carbohydrates while at the same time reducing the intake of saturated fatty acids.”
How do athletes best cover their increased protein needs?
The consumer advice center makes it clear: protein-enriched foods or protein powders or bars are also unnecessary for athletes. Because of the additional energy requirements that training creates, they also eat more, which increases the absorption of all nutrients, including protein.
The site says: “Even in strength and endurance sports in competitive sports, you can cover your additional protein requirements with normal foods. An increase in protein-enriched foods is unnecessary.”
The consumer advocates make the following calculation: “A 75 kilogram athlete begins with intensive strength training. With a protein content of 15 energy percent, he consumes around 131 grams of protein per day with an energy intake of 3,500 kilocalories. Converted to body weight, that’s a good 1 .7 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.”
A value that covers the maximum amount of 1.7 grams required for strength athletes. The same applies to endurance athletes who need a maximum of 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Well-trained strength athletes who don’t want to build any more muscle actually have a much lower protein requirement.
Protein better before or after training?
Studies suggest that muscle building is best promoted when around 20 grams of protein is consumed shortly after training. According to the consumer advice center, this is already in 200 grams of quark with fruit. Since hunger usually increases automatically after training, protein-rich meals such as a slice of bread with cream cheese, potatoes with egg or pasta with salmon are recommended.
Can too much protein harm?
There is currently no sufficient scientific evidence on this. In people with impaired kidney function, the condition could worsen. There is a lack of sufficient data for healthy adults.The European Food Safety Authority considers a protein intake twice the reference value for adults to be safe. “If the protein intake is significantly higher than required, care should be taken to ensure adequate fluid intake, as the urea produced during breakdown must be excreted in the urine,” says the DGE.