Protein and sport: what is there to know?

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Louise Hay
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That of the protein is a group of large biomolecules (macromolecules) made up of one or more amino acid chains.

Le protein they are not all the same and differ from each other precisely in their amino acid sequence. Within living organisms, this confers on them specific biological functions, among which the plastic and support function stand out: in fact, we find them present in large quantities in the muscle fibers and collagen, or in the supporting scaffolding of numerous organs and tissues ( cartilage, bones and skin).



Protein production

In order to synthesize proteins, the body must have a certain amount of amino acids. These are substantially obtained from the digestion of food proteins, even if in different quantities and proportions depending on the food in question.

It is important to point out, however, that in the event that the protein quota is insufficient in the long term, the organism would end up undergoing protein malnutrition, functioning in an inadequate way.

Nutritional requirements for proteins

But how many protein we should hire in one balanced diet? It depends, the protein fraction is not the same for everyone. They need it most: children and young people, pregnant and breastfeeding women, very busy athletes, those suffering from malabsorption or other conditions that determine a greater need.



Either way, the minimum protein requirement for a sedentary male adult it is equal to 55 g per day, while for a female sex it is equal to 44 g; this should be sufficient to maintain protein supplies in 95% of the general adult population.

However, as also indicated by the Reference Levels of Nutrient and Energy intakes for the population of the country (LARN), to obtain a more precise estimate of the daily protein requirement in a sedentary subject, the factor of 0,8 g can also be used. multiplied by kilograms (kg) of physiological body weight (not the real one). For children and adolescents, the factor increases significantly to 1,5 g; in case of gestation "a few grams" (6 g / day) is added.

Protein and physical activity

According to what many research institutes have suggested, an adequate protein intake in athletes would be indispensable for:

  • Gain a higher level of muscle hypertrophy (mass). Specifically, with training increases the protein requirement, a need that should be satisfied by adjusting the diet in order to properly support muscle growth.
  • Maximize recoveries between training sessions. Physical activity, in fact, causes an increase in "muscle catabolism", that is, the wear and tear of the tissue due to exercise: to restore the catabolic losses it is therefore necessary take protein, since in case of lack of intake, the recovery between one session and the other would be lost, jeopardizing the final goal of the training.

Protein-rich foods

It is known that the more protein foods and with the best biological value are, in general, those of animal origin: eggs, milk and derivatives, meat and fish.



In recent years, however, it has been discovered that even foods of plant origin can satisfy a large part of the protein requirement. Especially the legumes are rich in these nutrients, as long as they are correctly associated: the proteins of vegetable origin in fact they are lacking in certain amino acids, but if consumed in combination with foods that complete their profile in this respect, they give rise to a pool of amino acids comparable to that of meat and fish.


Thanks to the association of legumes and cereals, such as wheat and red lentils or chickpeas or peas, it is therefore not essential to consume foods of animal origin to reach the daily quota of high biological value proteins. This applies to sedentary subjects but also to sportsmen. In fact, wellness lovers are constantly growing, associating the practice of various sports with a diet based on a limited presence of ingredients of animal origin.

By combining cereals and vegetableBy continuously varying them, there is also the great advantage of improving the intake of many other nutrients, such as iron, calcium, zinc, selenium, B vitamins, and at the same time also satisfying the need for complex carbohydrates (starch). In addition to the classic combination of rice and peas or pasta and beans, it is also possible to try the combination of wheat and red lentils or chickpeas, which can also be consumed using the pasta made from flour of these legumes.


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