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Oliver C. Witard, Ina Garthe, and Stuart M. Phillips

Dietary protein is widely regarded as a key nutrient for allowing optimal training adaptation ( Tipton, 2008 ) and optimizing body composition ( Hector & Phillips, 2018 ; Murphy et al., 2015 ) in athletes including track and field athletes. Track and field athletics encompasses a broad spectrum of

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Peter W.R. Lemon

This paper reviews the factors (exercise intensity, carbohydrate availability, exercise type, energy balance, gender, exercise training, age, and timing of nutrient intake or subsequent exercise sessions) thought to influence protein need. Although there remains some debate, recent evidence suggests that dietary protein need increases with rigorous physical exercise. Those involved in strength training might need to consume as much as 1.6 to 1.7 g protein ⋅ kg−1 day−1 (approximately twice the current RDA) while those undergoing endurance training might need about 1.2 to 1.4 g ⋅ kg−1 day−1 (approximately 1.5 times the current RDA). Future longitudinal studies are needed to confirm these recommendations and assess whether these protein intakes can enhance exercise performance. Despite the frequently expressed concern about adverse effects of high protein intake, there is no evidence that protein intakes in the range suggested will have adverse effects in healthy individuals.

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Paul J. Arciero, Christopher L. Gentile, Roger Martin-Pressman, Michael J. Ormsbee, Meghan Everett, Lauren Zwicky, and Christine A. Steele

We investigated the effectiveness of two lifestyle modification programs of exercise training and nutritional intake (ad libitum) on improving body composition and disease risk in overweight/obese men and women. Sixty-three subjects were weight matched and assigned to one of three groups for a 12 wk intervention: 1) high-intensity resistance and cardiovascular training and a balanced diet (RC+BD, 40% CHO: 40% PRO; n = 27, 16 female/11 male, age = 42 ± 9 y); 2) moderate-intensity cardiovascular training and a traditional food guide pyramid diet (C+TD, CHO 50 to 55%; PRO 15 to 20%; FAT < 30%; n =19, 10 female/9 male, age = 43 ± 10 y); and 3) an inactive control group (C, n = 17, 5 female/12 male, age 43 ± 11 y). RC+BD resulted in more favorable changes (P < 0.01) in percent body fat (−15.8% vs. −6.9%) and abdominal fat (−15.6% vs. −7.5%) compared to C+TD and C. Total cholesterol (−13.8%), LDL-cholesterol (−20.8%), and systolic blood pressure (−5.7%) declined (P > 0.05) in RC+BD, whereas C+TD and C remained unchanged. Our results suggest that RC+BD may be more effective than C+TD and C in enhancing body composition and lowering cardiovascular risk in obese individuals.

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Peter W. R. Lemon

The current recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is based primarily on data derived from subjects whose lifestyles were essentially sedentary. More recent well-designed studies that have employed either the classic nitrogen balance approach or the more technically difficult metabolic tracer technique indicate that overall protein needs (as well as needs for some specific individual amino acids) are probably increased for those who exercise regularly. Although the roles of the additionally required dietary protein and amino acids are likely to be quite different for those who engage in endurance exercise (protein required as an auxiliary fuel source) as opposed to strength exercise (amino acids required as building blocks for muscle development), it appears that both groups likely will benefit from diets containing more protein than the current RDA of 0.8 g · kg−1 · day 1 . Strength athletes probably need about 1.4-1.8 g · kg−1 · day 1 and endurance athletes about 1.2-1.4 g · kg−1 · day 1 .

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Shane Bilsborough and Neil Mann

Considerable debate has taken place over the safety and validity of increased protein intakes for both weight control and muscle synthesis. The advice to consume diets high in protein by some health professionals, media and popular diet books is given despite a lack of scientific data on the safety of increasing protein consumption. The key issues are the rate at which the gastrointestinal tract can absorb amino acids from dietary proteins (1.3 to 10 g/h) and the liver’s capacity to deaminate proteins and produce urea for excretion of excess nitrogen. The accepted level of protein requirement of 0.8g · kg−1 · d−1 is based on structural requirements and ignores the use of protein for energy metabolism. High protein diets on the other hand advocate excessive levels of protein intake on the order of 200 to 400 g/d, which can equate to levels of approximately 5 g · kg−1 · d−1, which may exceed the liver’s capacity to convert excess nitrogen to urea. Dangers of excessive protein, defined as when protein constitutes > 35% of total energy intake, include hyperaminoacidemia, hyperammonemia, hyperinsulinemia nausea, diarrhea, and even death (the “rabbit starvation syndrome”). The three different measures of defining protein intake, which should be viewed together are: absolute intake (g/d), intake related to body weight (g · kg−1 · d−1) and intake as a fraction of total energy (percent energy). A suggested maximum protein intake based on bodily needs, weight control evidence, and avoiding protein toxicity would be approximately of 25% of energy requirements at approximately 2 to 2.5 g · kg−1 · d−1, corresponding to 176 g protein per day for an 80 kg individual on a 12,000kJ/d diet. This is well below the theoretical maximum safe intake range for an 80 kg person (285 to 365 g/d).

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Stuart M. Phillips, Daniel R. Moore, and Jason E. Tang

There is likely no other dietary component that inspires as much debate, insofar as athletes are concerned, as protein. How much dietary protein is required, optimal, or excessive? Dietary guidelines from a variety of sources have settled on an adequate dietary protein intake for those over the age of 19 of ~0.8–0.9 g protein·kg body weight−1·d−1. According to U.S. and Canadian dietary reference intakes (33), the recommended allowance for protein of 0.8 g protein·kg−1·d−1 is “the average daily intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirement of nearly all [~98%] . . . healthy individuals” (p. 22). The panel also stated, “in view of the lack of compelling evidence to the contrary, no additional dietary protein is suggested for healthy adults undertaking resistance or endurance exercise” (33, p. 661). Currently, no group or groups of scientists involved in establishing dietary guidelines see a need for any statement that athletes or people engaging in regular physical activity require more protein than their sedentary counterparts. Popular magazines, numerous Web sites, trainers, and many athletes decry protein intakes even close to those recommended. Even joint position stands from policy-setting groups state that “protein recommendations for endurance athletes are 1.2 to 1.4 g/kg body weight per day, whereas those for resistance and strength-trained athletes may be as high as 1.6 to 1.7 g/kg body weight per day” (1, p. 1544). The divide between those setting dietary protein requirements and those who might be making practical recommendations for athletes appears substantial, but ultimately, most athletes indicate that they consume protein at levels beyond even the highest recommendations. Thus, one might conclude that any debate on protein “requirements” for athletes is inconsequential; however, a critical analysis of existing and new data reveals novel ideas and concepts that may represent some common ground between these apparently conflicted groups. The goal of this review was to provide a critical and thorough analysis of current data on protein requirements in an attempt to provide some guidance to athletes, trainers, coaches, and sport dietitians on athletes’ protein intake. In addition, an effort was made to clearly distinguish between “required” dietary protein, “optimal” intakes, and intakes that are likely “excessive,” perhaps not from the standpoint of health, but certainly from the standpoint of potentially compromised performance.

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Jenna B. Gillen, Jorn Trommelen, Floris C. Wardenaar, Naomi Y.J. Brinkmans, Joline J. Versteegen, Kristin L. Jonvik, Christoph Kapp, Jeanne de Vries, Joost J.G.C. van den Borne, Martin J. Gibala, and Luc J.C. van Loon

Dietary protein intake should be optimized in all athletes to ensure proper recovery and enhance the skeletal muscle adaptive response to exercise training. In addition to total protein intake, the use of specific proteincontaining food sources and the distribution of protein throughout the day are relevant for optimizing protein intake in athletes. In the present study, we examined the daily intake and distribution of various proteincontaining food sources in a large cohort of strength, endurance and team-sport athletes. Well-trained male (n=327) and female (n=226) athletes completed multiple web-based 24-hr dietary recalls over a 2-4 wk period. Total energy intake, the contribution of animal- and plant-based proteins to daily protein intake, and protein intake at six eating moments were determined. Daily protein intake averaged 108±33 and 90±24 g in men and women, respectively, which corresponded to relative intakes of 1.5±0.4 and 1.4±0.4 g/kg. Dietary protein intake was correlated with total energy intake in strength (r=0.71, p <.001), endurance (r=0.79, p <.001) and team-sport (r=0.77, p <.001) athletes. Animal and plant-based sources of protein intake was 57% and 43%, respectively. The distribution of protein intake was 19% (19±8 g) at breakfast, 24% (25±13 g) at lunch and 38% (38±15 g) at dinner. Protein intake was below the recommended 20 g for 58% of athletes at breakfast, 36% at lunch and 8% at dinner. In summary, this survey of athletes revealed they habitually consume > 1.2 g protein/kg/d, but the distribution throughout the day may be suboptimal to maximize the skeletal muscle adaptive response to training.

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Thomas M. Doering, Peter R. Reaburn, Stuart M. Phillips, and David G. Jenkins

Participation rates of masters athletes in endurance events such as long-distance triathlon and running continue to increase. Given the physical and metabolic demands of endurance training, recovery practices influence the quality of successive training sessions and, consequently, adaptations to training. Research has suggested that, after muscle-damaging endurance exercise, masters athletes experience slower recovery rates in comparison with younger, similarly trained athletes. Given that these discrepancies in recovery rates are not observed after non–muscle-damaging exercise, it is suggested that masters athletes have impairments of the protein remodeling mechanisms within skeletal muscle. The importance of postexercise protein feeding for endurance athletes is increasingly being acknowledged, and its role in creating a positive net muscle protein balance postexercise is well known. The potential benefits of postexercise protein feeding include elevating muscle protein synthesis and satellite cell activity for muscle repair and remodeling, as well as facilitating muscle glycogen resynthesis. Despite extensive investigation into age-related anabolic resistance in sedentary aging populations, little is known about how anabolic resistance affects postexercise muscle protein synthesis and thus muscle remodeling in aging athletes. Despite evidence suggesting that physical training can attenuate but not eliminate age-related anabolic resistance, masters athletes are currently recommended to consume the same postexercise dietary protein dose (approximately 20 g or 0.25 g/kg/meal) as younger athletes. Given the slower recovery rates of masters athletes after muscle-damaging exercise, which may be due to impaired muscle remodeling mechanisms, masters athletes may benefit from higher doses of postexercise dietary protein, with particular attention directed to the leucine content of the postexercise bolus.

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Eric R. Helms, Caryn Zinn, David S. Rowlands, and Scott R. Brown

Caloric restriction occurs when athletes attempt to reduce body fat or make weight. There is evidence that protein needs increase when athletes restrict calories or have low body fat.


The aims of this review were to evaluate the effects of dietary protein on body composition in energy-restricted resistance-trained athletes and to provide protein recommendations for these athletes.


Database searches were performed from earliest record to July 2013 using the terms protein, and intake, or diet, and weight, or train, or restrict, or energy, or strength, and athlete. Studies (N = 6) needed to use adult (≥ 18 yrs), energy-restricted, resistance-trained (> 6 months) humans of lower body fat (males ≤ 23% and females ≤ 35%) performing resistance training. Protein intake, fat free mass (FFM) and body fat had to be reported.


Body fat percentage decreased (0.5–6.6%) in all study groups (N = 13) and FFM decreased (0.3–2.7kg) in nine of 13. Six groups gained, did not lose, or lost nonsignificant amounts of FFM. Five out of these six groups were among the highest in body fat, lowest in caloric restriction, or underwent novel resistance training stimuli. However, the one group that was not high in body fat that underwent substantial caloric restriction, without novel training stimuli, consumed the highest protein intake out of all the groups in this review (2.5–2.6g/kg).


Protein needs for energy-restricted resistance-trained athletes are likely 2.3–3.1g/kg of FFM scaled upwards with severity of caloric restriction and leanness.

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Koichi Nakazato, Tatsuro Hirose, and Hongsun Song

More than 15% dietary protein has reportedly not led to significant muscle hypertrophy in normal growing rats. The aim of this study was to test whether a high protein (HP) diet affects myostatin (Mstn) synthesis in a rat gastrocnemius muscle. Twenty-four male Wistar rats (4-wk-old) were divided into three groups: 1) control diet (15% protein; 15P, n = 8), 2) the 25P group (25% protein, n = 8), and 3) the 35P group (35% protein, n = 8). After 3 wk of isoenergetic feedings, the Mstn level in skeletal muscles was determined using Northern and Western blotting analysis. After the experimental feeding, muscle masses were similar among groups. The 35P showed significant high expressions of Mstn both at mRNA and protein levels. Obtained results suggest that a high-protein diet leads to the high Mstn level to restrict muscle hypertrophy.