When we’re working out

Most of us already consume more than enough protein to support working out in the gym for an hour, doing an exercise class such as Zumba, or going for a 45 minute swim or jog – on average, we need around 0.8-1g protein per kg of body weight each day18A, so for example, someone who weighs 62kg needs between 48-62kg protein a day, an amount that’s easily met. However, athletes and people who are training hard may need more protein to build and maintain healthy muscles – endurance athletes need 1.2-1.4g protein per kg of body weight each day, while strength athletes should aim for 1.2-1.7g protein per kg of body weight each day18A. It’s a myth though that eating large amounts of protein alone results in huge muscles – muscle is gained through a combo of resistance exercises together with enough protein and carbohydrate in the diet. If you skip the carbs, then protein is used to provide energy instead of being used to build muscle!

It’s also a good idea to have a high-quality protein snack or meal within one to two hours of completing a work out. During exercise, muscle is usually broken down – having a protein-rich snack or meal post workout helps to repair any damage to the muscles, reduced soreness and enables us to go on to build stronger muscles. But for the best benefits, we should eat carb-rich foods at the same time. Great choices include a prawn stir fry with wholewheat noodles, seafood risotto, sardines on wholemeal toast, grilled fish with a jacket potato and salad, and fish curry with brown rice. There’s generally no need to invest in specialist products like bars or shakes. Eating slightly more protein-rich foods like fish, can provide a tasty solution – and comes with a whole host of other nutritional benefits that are often lacking in specially formulated sports’ shakes, powders and supplements.

18A BDA Food Fact Sheet: Sport. https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/sportsfoodfacts.pdf