ACTIONETIX | Protein Performance for Optimal Conditioning

Some of the most common questions we get at ACTIONETIX from athletes revolve around protein. Most athletes know that things like steak and chicken are protein, but they are not sure how much is needed and when to take it. As a follow up to an article we wrote discussing how long your strength-training workouts should be in order for you to achieve maximum results by controlling Testosterone and Cortisol, we wanted to explain more about protein in general and it’s role in recovery and performance.

Protein 101

Protein takes on many roles in your body. It is responsible for growth and maintenance of your body (in particular your muscle); enzymatic and hormonal functions; creating antibodies (fighting infection), as well as balancing and regulating fluids and electrolytes. Proteins are also used to help maintain an acid-base balance within your body while having the potential to be used as energy if and when your body requires it.

All proteins are made up of smaller building blocks called Amino Acids. There are 20 different amino acids, that when combined will form the structure of a protein. In order for a protein to be used in muscle recovery or other functions, it must contain all nine Amino Acids that are classified as essential. Essential Amino Acids are Amino Acids that the body cannot make or produce itself. They must come from external food sources or supplements. Foods that contain all 9 Essential Amino Acids are called complete proteins. Foods that do not include all 9 Essential Amino Acids are called incomplete proteins. Foods that are complete in Essential Amino Acids are listed below. Eating any of these foods, will guarantee that you are getting all 9 essential amino acids.

1. Meat (beef, poultry, fish, pork, lamb, shell fish, etc.) 
2. Dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt etc.) 
3. Eggs 
4. Supplemental protein from dairy and egg sources (whey protein, casein protein, egg protein)

Some common foods that contain incomplete Amino Acid profiles include: 

1. Vegetables 
2. Grains 
3. Tofu 
4. Nuts

These incomplete proteins must be combined with one another or with a complete protein if they are to be used effectively and efficiently within your body. For instance, bread is an incomplete protein when eaten alone, however when combined with peanut butter the two create a complete protein. The same would hold true for a stir fry that contained vegetables and tofu.

Protein Requirements

A strong rule of thumb for hard-training athletes should be eating approximately 1 gram or protein per pound of body weight per day. This can go up or down depending on the person’s exact metabolism. I have worked with athletes that have responded very well to 1.5 grams of protein per pound and as low as.8 grams during high-intensity training phases. Individual tolerance to eating a high amount of protein however does need to be assessed in the early phases of adjusting any diet. Protein is one of the harder macronutrients for the body to digest, so some experimentation needs to be done to settle on exact levels for each individual.

So if you are looking to gain some functional muscle, like many younger athletes that are graduating to bigger bikes, you will need to eat enough protein to satisfy your target weight. If you are 135 pound, but need to increase to 150 pounds, you will need to eat enough protein to achieve the 150 pounds. In essence you will need to consume at least 150 grams of protein each day (1 gram per pound), with an upper limit of 225 grams per day (1.5 grams per pound). Conversely, if you are looking to lose some weight to be lighter on the bike you will need to adjust your protein intake down. If you weigh 175 pounds but want to be 155 pounds, you will need to drop your protein accordingly to 155 grams to 230 grams per day (again this depends on many factors including metabolism, ability to digest, and lactose tolerance).

How to Use Protein Supplements to Increase Your Protein

There are a number of protein supplements on the market today that can make it easier to get the protein you need. Each type of protein has specific properties and can be used for various functions in your diet. Below is a protein supplement chart to help you select proteins that are perfect for you:

Type of Protein Description Digestion Properties Uses
Whey Protein Concentrate A strong all-around protein extracted from milk Fast absorption

Not suitable for people allergic to dairy

Daily protein shake
Whey Protein Isolate A more refined form of Whey Protein, where more of the carbs and fats have been removed Fast absorption

Suitable for most people with dairy sensitivities

Daily protein shake

Post workout or riding recovery

Whey Protein Hydrolysate The most pure form of whey protein, that also uses hydrolysis to break down lager protein into smaller pieces Very fast absorption

Suitable for most people with dairy sensitivities

Post workout or riding recovery
Casein Protein Milk based protein Slow absorption

Satisfies hunger

Not suitable for people with dairy sensitivities

Excellent for between meal and before bedtime use
Egg Protein Non-dairy protein alternative Fast to medium absorption

Suitable for all people with dairy sensitivities

Daily protein shake and post workout
Soy Protein Complete plant protein derived from the soy bean Well digested

Suitable for all people with dairy sensitivities

Not recommended for men

General protein supplement for vegetarian athletes
Rice and Pea When combined these plant proteins form a useable complete protein Fairly well digested

Suitable for vegetarians

Suitable for all people with dairy sensitivities

General protein supplement for vegetarian athletes

When constructing a performance based meal plan, make sure you first have the correct amount of protein in your diet, and second chose the correct protein supplements for your needs. If you have a topic you would like discussed, or if you would like a custom designed nutrition plan from ACTIONETIX, just contact us at Until next time, “Train hard, race easy, and win with attitude!”