Protein Needs For Female Athletes
Today’s guest post is by Brooke Blue Schantz, RD, LDN, CSSD. Brooke received her B.S. in Dietetics from Purdue University and M.S. in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She also is a board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and works with athletes in the Chicagoland area. Brooke is the Founder and CEO of Bitchin’ Nutrition and current the President of the Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (CAND). She believes in the power of food, practices what she preaches, and loves protesting inaccurate nutrition information.
Protein is an important nutrient for tissue and muscle building and repair. Females wanting to gain muscle mass, while still keeping a lean physique will need to make sure that they are consuming a sufficient amount of energy for both their training and general daily physical activities. If basic daily energy needs are not met muscle mass can and will be used as an energy source. The goal is to consume the right amount of fuel (both carbohydrates and protein) during training sessions to aid in muscle contraction, spare protein from being used as an energy source, and supply enough amino acids to assist with muscle building and repair.
Here are the current Protein Recommendations:
- Daily Reference Intake (DRI) for protein is 0.8 g/kg/day (0.36 g/lb/day)
- For endurance athletes it is 1.2 to 1.4 g/kg/day
- For resistance athletes it is around 1.6 to 1.7 g/kg/day
- For athletes in rehabilitation or trying to increase lean muscle mass consume up to 2.0 g/kg/d
Protein Needs Based On Weight
Use the above chart to help determine the minimum and the maximum amount of protein needed for building muscle mass. It is not recommended to consume more than two grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Consuming more protein than our bodies can handle could decrease kidney and liver function.
For example, if a female athlete weighing 150 pounds was trying to build muscle mass, she would need to consume between 109-136 grams of protein a day. However, if a female athlete just wanted to tone her muscles she may only need .8 grams of protein per kilogram of muscle mass. For those athletes, looking to get specific recommendations on all nutrients I would recommend contacting the a registered dietitian that is a board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD).
Time to Consume Protein
The amount of protein we consume and time we consume it are both important factors for building muscle. Within 15-30 minutes after a workout, snacks with a mixture of both carbohydrate and protein are beneficial for replacing energy stores and aiding in recovery. A recovery snack or small meal containing 10-20 grams of protein should be sufficient enough for most normal weight athletes. Consuming balanced meals rich in both carbohydrate and lean protein every three to four hours will also help to supply your body with enough energy and nutrient to build muscle mass.
There are numerous animal and plant-derived protein sources that athletes can choose from. Below is a quick table that can be used to determine the amount of protein found in both animal and plant-based protein sources.
Protein Snack Ideas
- Nut butter (peanut, almond) and whole fruit
- Cheese stick and whole wheat crackers
- Cottage cheese and sliced fruit
- Protein bar or granola bar: Choose one with less than 10 grams of sugar
- Greek yogurt with granola
- Homemade Trail Mix: ½ cup unsalted almonds and ¼ cup of dried fruit
• Whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter and sliced bananas on top
• Three egg white and vegetable scramble with whole wheat toast and a glass of low-fat milk
• Homemade oatmeal made with low-fat milk and top with almonds and raisins
• Grilled chicken with broccoli and sweet potato
• Mixed greens salad topped with chickpeas, cheddar cheese, tomatoes, corn, carrots and served with sliced pineapple, and low-sodium soup
• Chicken/tofu and vegetable stirfry with brown rice and an orange
• Fish tacos served with brown rice and black beans
• Whole wheat wrap with turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and hummus served with whole wheat pita chips
This article also appears on Brooke’s food blog, Bitchin Nutrition, where you can find more nutritional information.