The debate regarding optimal protein/amino acid needs of strength athletes is an old one. Recent evidence indicates that actual requirements are higher than those of more sedentaty individuals, although this is not widely recognized. Some data even suggest that high protein/amino acid diets can enhance the development of muscle mass and strength when combined with heavy resistance exercise training. Novices may have higher needs than experienced strength athletes, and substantial interindividual variability exists. Perhaps the most important single factor determining absolute protein/amino acid need is the adequacy of energy intake. Present data indicate that strength athletes should consume approximately 12-15% of their daily total energy intake as protein, or about 1.5-2.0 g protein/ (approximately 188-250% of the U.S. recommended dietary allowance). Although routinely consumed by many strength athletes, higher protein intakes have not been shown to be consistency effective and may even be associated with some health risks.
Peter W.R. Lemon is with the Applied Physiology Research Laboratory, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242.