Portein Needs for the Athlete by Bill Starr

“During the winter I have quite a few opportunities to talk with people interested in the sport of weightlifting and the broader field of weight training. At the Kodak Coach of the Year Clinics in Washington and Pittsburgh I got to talk with thousand of high school coaches on the subject of weight training. Barski, Bill March, Don Reed and I also spend considerable time putting on exhibitions and demonstrations in high schools and colleges in this immediate area. Then there are the civic groups which request speakers on physical fitness. It gives all of us here at the club the exposure to the needs of those interested in our field.

Just a few years ago when Tommy Suggs and I started going to the Washington version of the Coach of the Year Clinic, we spent the majority of our time convincing the coaches that weight training was a “must” if they were to keep pace with their competition. Two years ago things changed dramatically. We no longer had to convince anyone on the value of weights or weight training. At that point the coaches cornered us for an appropriate training program.

What is the best number of exercise? Sets? Reps? We became resource people on setting up schedules. This extent – but now another change is taking place. The greatest number of questions now center around nutrition rather than programs. It seems as if the coaches pretty well know of at least a workable program although they do attempt to adjust as more and more research comes in.

Alon with Strength and Health such journals as Coach and Athlete, Scholastic Coach and Letterman periodically run articles on weight programs.

But they are in the fog when it comes to nutrition. As are most people in the country, it should be added. factual nutritional data is very, very hard to come by.

On the one hand you have the companies that manufacture the products and suggest that perhaps one should take everything in their catalogs and on the other hand we have the medical people that recommend that a patient forsake all supplements. The true answer lies somewhere in between. The medical people do more to discourage proper nutrition than any other single group in this country. For the most part they are uninformed and really information that is not research based. And since few people actually have the time to read the research done on nutrition the public remains ignorant.

Weightlifters are also grossly uninformed. In talking to lifters at contests and clinics I discover that they are either taking way too much of one product or way too little of another.

Athletes and their coaches are actually cornering us at these clinics until they get their answers on supplements. It is my firm contention that the next major breakthrough in all sport will be due to better nutrition.

The athlete that moves ahead of the pack in football, wrestling, swimming, weightlifting, you name it, will be the athlete that understands nutritional needs for his body and is able to apply it.

I will try to give some helpful advice concerning the use of protein for the athlete in heavy training.

I am speaking directly to the weight lifter but any athlete who is engaged in heavy exercise will benefit from the advice. I will attempt to make this article as relevant as possible and keep the research on a plan of understanding so that the lifter can apply the information.

it should be noted, in passing, that the bulk of the research on nutritional needs for athletes is being done in foreign nations – notably Russia. We can find out more about basic nutritional needs by reading their research than by searching all the American journals. They have spent a great deal of time testing athletes on the playing field and on the lifting platform, whereas the majority of the date coming out of the United States is research done on “average” people and then conjecture is applied for the athletic group.

The first question we are asked by lifters, coaches, and other athletes is “what about protein?” They have been confused by the whirlwind of advertising and the AMA. I promised not to muddy the waters with too many terms and figures, but a little background is important on understanding the body’s need for protein.

The recommended dietary allowance is 65 grams of protein for an adult weighing 154 pounds. Less the water, fat, and bone 95% of your body is made up of proteins. Only 25% of body muscle is solid matter, but 80% of that solid matter is protein.

Proteins are made up of many simple nitrogenous compounds linked together, called amino acids. There are approximately 20 different amino acids that combine in various patterns and amount to make up the various proteins.

When the bonds that hold them together are broken down in digestion, the proteins fall apart into the various amino acids of which they were originally built. There are eight amino acids that the body must have but cannot manufacture from any material supplied in the diet. These are called complete proteins. Our food intake must supply the acids completely formed and ready to use. The foods which contain all the essential amino acids are the complete proteins; meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese and a few special legumes. Often the proteins in grains, nuts, fruits and vegetables are classed as incomplete protein because they are lacking in one of the essential amino acids necessary to build and repair tissue. These are the incomplete proteins. Such proteins are an important of the diet but they cannot be substituted for the complete proteins which contain the essential amino acids.

Using the data above that a 154 pounder would need 65 grams of protein per day as a basis I can now give some information that you can use as a rule of thumb. If you figure that the basics requirement is 42 grams for each pound of bodyweight you can figure your individual daily need – if you have an average need. Which brings up an important point. You, as a weightlifter, do not have an average need in any sense of the word. On the contrary, your need may be twice or three times that of the person who does no heavy exercising. We know, for example, that individuals vary a great deal in the amount of nitrogen (the basis of protein) in their feces, urine and sweat. We know that if an individual is in a growing stage his or her need would increase some 15%.

And most important to the lifter is the fact that heavy work output greatly increases the need for protein. So a 200-pound individual who is interested in meeting his daily protein requirement must take in, as a basic necessity at least 84 grams of protein. If he is in training, according to Soviet research, he should double this intake – just to say even. This is, of course, assuming that the lifter does not wish to gain weight.

Assuming that the athlete agrees and makes it a point to ingest the required number of grams of protein daily then the next question is, how is the best way to take the protein?

A most important question for those engaged in athletics and the one facet of protein advice that has been most neglected. Talk to almost any lifter and he will quickly agree that he needs more protein than the average, but then ask him when is the best time to take the protein and he’s stuck for an answer. Again, referring to the Russian research, we can give some helpful advice.

Protein should be taken as soon after heavy exercise as is possible. It has been found that if an athlete assimilates his protein within 20 minutes after a training session his rate of recovery will be improved tremendously. Common sense tells us that it is immediately after training that the body is most in need so that if we can flood the nutrients into the cells quickly then the deficiency will be short lived and the less time the body remains deficient the less time it has to be come fatigued.

An athlete could train much, much harder, many more hours per week if he would satisfy his protein requirements. But part of the trick is not just to take the protein, but to take it quickly.

How, becomes your own personal headache, but its not an impossible trick to take a milkshake to the gym or to hustle home quickly to make one or to carry a can of tablets to the locker room.

I have been doing this for a number of years after I learned of the research and it made a world of difference in my recovery rate. Here at the YBC we have an ideal setup during the day since our dairy bar is open and we can run right in after a shower and have a protein milkshake. It has been inferred throughout this article, but perhaps a definite point should be made. It is virtually impossible to obtain sufficient protein to maintain and build a body doing heavy exercise by just using the foods off the table. One would have to eat steak, cheeses, nuts, etc. nearly constantly to meet the nutritional demands.

Supplements are a must. They are a hundred times more convenient and considerably less expensive than buying foods that are high in protein off the shelves.

One final point on protein consumption that many coaches and lifters ask us about quite often concerns gaining weight. If you are interested in gaining weight you will, of course, have to increase your protein intake even more than was suggested above. This means that you may be drinking two or three milkshakes each day. It has been found that the body handles small dosages several times a day better than one large dose each day. In other words, it is far better to drink 6 glasses of protein milkshake throughout the day than to attempt to drink two quarts of milkshake at one sitting.

The long range point of this whole article is that the athlete who is able to squeeze in those extra hours in the gym and be recovered for the next workout is going to be the athlete who pulls  away from the pack. Some lifters are now training six days a week. They, generally speaking have a definite jump over those who work out only three times weekly.

By being aware of the system’s protein requirements, an athlete can get the most out of his physical equipment. There are certainly many other nutritional needs that the athlete in heavy training needs to be aware of, but that is form and substance of another article. All athletes would do well to take some time to learn more about nutritional needs. Such things as vitamin C requirements, the value of B-12, and so forth could play a major part in the success of your athletic career. Putting the knowledge on protein to practical use will unquestionably make a difference in your performance in the very near future.”

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