Why protein is important for exercise
By Mary du Heaume – Dietitian APD, HBF Member Health Coach
Most people associate protein and exercise with gym-junkies and mega protein shakes. But protein is essential for everyone – especially to get the best out of exercise routines.
The role of protein
Exercise requires healthy muscles and protein in your diet is important for providing the building blocks (called amino acids) to repair, maintain and build muscle.
Our bodies don’t have a storage form for extra dietary protein so when we eat adequate amounts of carbohydrate and protein the carbohydrate provides the energy for your body to use the protein for its structural (bone, muscle) and functional (enzymes, hormones, transport molecules) properties. This means if you enjoy plenty of activity the protein you eat is available to repair, maintain and build muscle.
You can help with muscle recovery by consuming a snack containing both protein and carbohydrate after exercise. This will help with muscle repair and glycogen replacement, and can be as simple and inexpensive as a ham and salad sandwich. There is no need to buy expensive protein bars or shakes.
Including protein in a meal can affect hormones that suppress your appetite and prolong your sense of fullness helping with appetite control. Along with a good quality carbohydrate this can mean feeling fuller for longer with a steady energy supply to work, rest and play.
The Australian diet is adequate in high quality protein from both animal and plant sources. The trick is to choose lean cuts of meat, and add a vegetarian meal once a week for variety.
So which foods contain a natural protein punch?
Protein is found in many different foods. We recommend including these options in your diet:
- Eggs – the ‘king’ of the proteins and full of healthy amino acids
- Milk, cheese & yoghurt – dairy foods are packed with protein
- Chicken, turkey & pork – great sources, but use lean meat to limit the extra saturated fat
- Nuts – a great alternative when on-the-go
- Fish & seafood – salmon is packed full of healthy omega 3 fatty acids which are good for the heart
For further information on recommended Australian healthy eating guides visit the Australian Government’s Eat for Health website.
The content of this article is not tailored for any particular individual’s circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.