As an athlete, you’re always looking for ways to improve your performance and become the best version of yourself possible. Whether that be implementing new training methods or studying the greats - or, most importantly, dialing in your diet.
You are what you eat - and if you want to be the best, you need to eat the best. Not just in terms of food quality - but more specifically, an athlete’s protein intake. But how much protein should an athlete eat a day? This is among the most common questions we get here at Carnivore Snax. And today, we’ll address is once and for all so you can ensure you’re meeting your daily protein needs.
The truth is, there isn’t a one size fits all answer to this question. Your protein needs vary based on activity level, goals, and body weight. With that said, a general rule of thumb is that you should shoot for 1-2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
We’ll help you narrow down a more specific answer below - and provide advice on meeting your protein goals with the help of our meat chips: the best healthy low-carb snack you can get your hands on. First - why is an athlete’s protein intake so important in the first place?
Why an Athlete’s Protein Intake is so Important
You are constantly pushing your body to the physical limits - in training and in your actual sport. Whether that be hockey, football, soccer, Olympic weightlifting, golf, basketball - or any sport in between - your intense activity level takes a toll on your body. You need to make sure you’re helping it recover - and that’s where protein comes in.
Protein plays a crucial role in an athlete's performance and recovery. During exercise, protein is broken down into amino acids, which are used by the muscles to repair and build new muscle fibers. This process helps to increase muscle strength, improve endurance, and speed up recovery time after a workout. Adequate protein intake for athletes is important to support their demanding training regimes and prevent muscle loss.
In addition, protein also helps to regulate the balance of fluids and minerals in the body, reducing the risk of injury and dehydration. It also helps to maintain and repair tissues, such as tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, which are constantly subjected to stress and strain during physical activity.
Moreover, protein provides energy to the body, especially during intense workouts. This energy can be especially beneficial for endurance athletes, such as marathon runners, who rely on a steady supply of energy over a long period of time.
In summary, protein is an essential nutrient for athletes, playing a vital role in performance, recovery, and overall health. That much is clear. But the question still remains: how much protein should an athlete eat per day? We’ll break it all down below.
How Much Protein Should an Athlete Eat a Day? Tips for Finding an Athlet’s Protein Intake Requirements
As we said at the start of this discussion, how much protein should an athlete eat a day isn’t a question with a definitive answer. An athlete’s protein intake recommendation will likely be different from those of your teammates - mainly because your body weight and activity level varies. And, depending on the specific type of athlete you are, protein needs vary further.
What Type of Athlete Are You?
This may come as no surprise to you, but the protein intake of an athlete competing in Olympic weightlifting is vastly different from those of a golfer. One of these sports involves constantly breaking down muscle mass and pushing the body to its physical limits. The other sport is much more of a mental grind - yet, protein needs still exist.
With Olympic weightlifting, the goal is to get as strong as possible within your weight class. These athletes work out daily and need to place a much greater focus on recovery so they’re ready for the next workout. And, giving the muscles the fuel necessary to recover reduces the risk of injury.
But, Olympic weightlifters also need more protein because they need to maintain their body weight - so they don’t risk gaining weight and leaving their weight class. Because protein encourages satiety, it is an invaluable part of dieting.
Golfers, on the other hand, need less protein as their sport primarily involves low-impact physical activity. However, they still need to consume adequate protein to support overall health and recovery from training. The daily protein recommendations are just lower.
This comparison of sports is just one example of how protein needs vary from sport to sport. And, we can now progress this conversation to talk about training frequency and intensity.
How Often Are You Training & How Intense Are Your Training Sessions?
The specific sport you play is just one consideration - your specific training frequency and intensity are actually a much better gauge of how much protein you should eat a day as an athlete. Even within the same sport, protein needs vary. For example, a quarterback’s training regimen will vary greatly from a linebacker's - and thus, their approach to recovery and nutrition should vary.
For athletes who engage in high-intensity and frequent training, their protein requirements are generally higher than those who have a more moderate training regimen. This is because high-intensity training can result in greater muscle damage, which requires more protein to support muscle repair and growth.
On the other hand, athletes who engage in low-intensity and infrequent training have lower protein needs. In these cases, sufficient protein intake for athletes is still necessary to support overall health and recovery, but the demands are not as great.
Beyond training frequency and intensity, there is one metric that can help you determine how much protein you should eat a day as an athlete - and that’s your body weight.
What’s Your Body Weight?
Body weight plays a significant role in determining an individual's protein needs. Generally, the more an individual weighs, the more protein they need to support their body's requirements. This is because a larger body requires more energy, which is supplied by protein, to maintain and repair tissues, as well as to build and maintain muscle mass.
This doesn’t just apply to protein - but to calories as well. It’s a sliding scale - the more you weigh, the more you need to eat, and the more protein you need.
Other Factors to Consider
It's important to note that protein needs are not solely based on body weight. Other factors such as age, sex, body composition, and physical activity levels can also impact protein requirements.
For example, athletes with a higher percentage of lean muscle mass typically require more protein compared to those with a higher body fat percentage. This is because lean muscle mass requires more energy to maintain and repair, compared to body fat.
So, How Much Protein Should I Eat as an Athlete? Here’s a Personalized Recommendation
So, you now know all the factors affecting an athlete’s protein intake recommendations. It’s time to find an answer to the question: how much protein should I eat as an athlete?
Our advice is that athletes who want to maximize their performance and recovery shoot for 1.5-1.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
You may see recommendations that fall under this spectrum, and you’ll also find people saying that 2g/pound of body weight is best. But, we believe this advice is the sweet spot. After all, your body can only utilize so much protein per day - at a certain point, you’re doing more harm than good.
Can an Athlete Eat Too Much Protein?
Yes - more is not necessarily better when it comes to protein. Beyond a certain intake, you’re wasting your efforts and potentially contributing to serious issues, such as:
- Kidney damage: The kidneys are responsible for filtering waste products from the blood, including excess nitrogen from protein. Consuming too much protein can place an excessive workload on the kidneys, which can lead to long-term damage. If you take in more than 2g of protein per pound of body weight over an extended period of time, your risk of issues like kidney stones increases.
- Dehydration: The breakdown of protein releases waste products, including nitrogen and sulfur, which can cause dehydration. You can offset this by also focusing on your daily water needs and ramping these up as you eat more protein.
- Weight gain: Consuming excessive amounts of protein can contribute to weight gain, as the body stores excess energy as fat.
- Imbalanced nutrient intake: Consuming too much protein can lead to an imbalance in nutrient intake, as individuals may consume less of other important nutrients, such as carbohydrates and healthy fats.
Now - in saying this, protein intake is a vital component in unlocking peak performance. So - we’re going to provide some advice on how to eat a high-protein diet below.
Advice for Meeting Recommended Protein Intake for Athletes
Ramping up an athlete’s protein intake can be daunting. If you’re used to eating around 100 grams a day and discover your needs are actually 150-200 grams a day, where is that extra protein supposed to come from? How are you going to get it all in before bed? Well, for starters, get some protein in first thing in the morning.
Start Eating Protein Early
If you’re not following a diet that involves fasting - like the keto diet - you should start your day with a serving of protein. Whether that be eggs, a protein shake, or a source of meat, your body has essentially been starving for the last 8 or so hours while you slept. It’s craving nutrients - specifically, protein.
By getting a good 20-40 grams in first thing in the morning, you’ll find it far easier to meet your protein goals. And, you’ll feel better too!
Have High Protein Snacks on Hand
Most of your protein should come from 2-3 big meals - breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But what if we told you that there was a way to supercharge your protein intake with snacks? It’s possible when you get your hands on the best carnivore diet snacks, like our meat snacks.
What are meat snacks, you ask? They’re exactly what they sound like. These snacks are made entirely from meat, with only the addition of salt. The end result is a delicious “meat pastry” that literally melts in your mouth. Packed with protein and low in carbs, you can keep these on hand to fill in the gaps between your meals.
You can choose from an assortment of meats: ribeye chips, steak chips, lamb chips, beef chips, brisket chips, chicken chips, or pork chips. No matter what cut is your favorite, you’ll get around 15-20g of protein per serving - with no carbs or sugar! Ditch the chips, pretzels, or other low-protein snacks for these melt-in-your-mouth meat snacks and you’ll have no problem meeting your minimum protein needs on a daily basis.
Use Supplements Only as Needed
Protein powder is branded as a convenient way to get your protein needs. And it’s true - these shakes are quick and easy. They’re tempting. But make no mistake, these are NOT a replacement for whole foods. In general, protein powder is less bioavailable than protein found in whole foods like meat, eggs, nuts, and seeds.
That’s not to say these have no place in your diet. You can use them sparingly - after workouts, upon waking, or anytime you’re in a time crunch. But just know that you’re selling yourself short if you get protein needs through shakes.
Make Sure You’re Hydrated
As an athlete’s protein intake increases, so too should their water intake. As mentioned earlier, this will help protect your kidneys and ensure your body is able to fully break down and use the protein. Shoot for a gallon or more a day.
Final Thoughts on How Much Protein an Athlete Should Eat a Day
So, how much protein should an athlete eat a day? While athlete protein intake recommendations will vary based on your specific training intensity and frequency along with your gender, body composition, and other factors, it’s generally agreed upon that 1.5-1.8g of protein per pound of body weight is a great goal to shoot for daily.
And, we’ve empowered you with advice for meeting your protein goals, there’s only one thing left to do. Head over to Carnivore Snax and make meeting your protein goals easy and delicious. Whether you’re simply looking to get enough protein in or you’re following a diet like carnivore vs paleo, these snacks will prove invaluable along your journey. See what you’ve been missing out on all this time by getting your carnivore crisps today!