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  • Great Sources of Protein and How Much to Consume

    Setting The Stage: A Brief Overview Of Nutrition Density

    Nutrition density is one of the most important considerations when assessing foods. Nutrition density is a measure of how much nutrient value you’re getting for the calories you’re consuming. As a general rule, foods that provide more nutrients per calorie are better selections. They are more nutrient dense.

    You may recall from The Power of Protein – What Every Athlete Should Know, that amino acids are the building blocks of protein, our bodies can synthesize vital proteins only when all 20 amino acids are available and that “essential” amino acids can only be obtained from food. To select good food sources of protein with high nutrient density, we must consider the food’s amino acid content.

    Complete and Incomplete Sources Of Protein

    Nutrition professionals often refer to “complete” or “incomplete” food sources of protein. Foods that provide all of the essential amino acids are complete sources of protein while foods that provide some or none of the essential amino acids are incomplete sources. Complete proteins are obtained from animal sources (i.e. meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy foods). If you are a vegetarian, you have to eat a variety of beans, grains, nuts, seeds and vegetables to ensure you obtain all of the essential amino acids as your diet excludes sources of complete protein.

    Whole Food Sources Of Protein

    The chart1 below groups whole food sources of protein based on the nutrition density of each selection.

    Great Very Good Good
    Turkey Halibut Crimini muschroom
    Tuna Salmon Eggs
    Shrimp Scallops Summer squash
    Cod fish Sardines Collard greens
    Pasture-raised chicken Cauliflower
    Lamb Legumes
    Grass-fed beef
    Calf’s liver
    Mustard greens

    How Much Protein Do We Need?

    The amount of protein we need depends on our daily activities as well as the adaptations we want to achieve in our exercise training programs. Following the general daily guide below can help ensure enough protein to support daily activities, reinforce exercise training and enhance recovery.

    Recreational and competitive athletes must make good food choices and fuel their bodies at regular intervals throughout the day to best recover from workouts so the adaptations expected from training can take place. 

    Grams per kg of bodyweight/day
    Adults2 0.8*
    Recreational athletes3 1 - 1.8
    Endurance or resistance trained athletes2 1.5 - 2.0
    Athletes consuming a vegan or restricted caloric diet2 2.0

    * Assumes that caloric intake is adequate and two-thirds or more of the protein is from animal sources.

    Individuals with a kidney concern or disease should carefully monitor their protein intake under the advice of a physician because the kidneys play a primary role in protein metabolism.

    How Managing Macronutrients Can Help You Control Body Weight, Composition explores an effective, contemporary approach to nutrition.
    Stay tuned for upcoming articles sharing specific nutrients and foods sources that are great for enhanced sports training and recovery and the best times to consume them.

    Edited by Dr. Yetsa Tuakli

    1Wikipedia. (2014, July 23). Glycemic index . Retrieved August 5, 2014, from Wikipedia: Wikipedia
    2Reimers, K. (2008). Nutritional factors in health and performance. In National Strength and Conditioning Association, T. R. Baechle, & R. W. Earle (Eds.), NSCA Essentials of strength training and conditioning (3rd ed., pp. 201-233). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
    3National Academy of Sports Medicine. (2008). NASM Essentials of personal fitness training (3rd ed.). (M. A. Clark, S. C. Lucett, & R. J. Corn, Eds.) Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


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