Importance of Protein During Exercise

Written by Jamie, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

If you are in pursuit of becoming bikini ready for spring break or summer, you’ll want to begin looking into a plan now to help you get into great shape. What you might wonder when starting a new program tied to increasing your exercise routine is whether it is necessary to take in more protein and how it will make your bikini plan more effective. We laid out answers to the most frequently asked questions on protein and working out.

What are the benefits of protein?

Protein is found in nearly every other body part or tissue. It helps make up muscle, bone, skin, hair, as well as enzymes for various crucial chemical reactions in the body. Also, it is also a part of hemoglobin which carries oxygen in the blood. A lack of protein can put your body at risk for hair and muscle mass loss, decreased immunity, a weak heart, growth failure in children, and other problems.

How much protein do I need?

According to the Institute of Medicine, adults are encouraged to get 10% to 35% of their day’s worth of calories from protein, which is equivalent to two to three servings of protein-rich foods daily. More specifically, it is recommended to have 8 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight, which is approximately 46 grams of protein for women and 56 grams of protein for men.

How can protein help me with my diet or workout plan?

When you’re on a diet and workout plan that helps you cut calories, your body will naturally want to utilize your carbs and fat stores for energy. If your body does not receive enough nutrition, you can also run the risk of burning your protein stores, which can cause muscle mass loss and should be avoided. Eating foods high in protein is essential in protecting your muscles and keeping them intact. Besides, foods high in protein will help you feel full longer, making it easier for you to stick to your plan.


What are some high-protein food sources?

Examples of high-protein foods are meat (turkey and chicken breast, low fat, lean beef, and veal), fish (tuna, salmon, halibut), dairy (non-fat mozzarella, yogurt), legumes (soybeans, beans, lentils), nuts and seeds.


When is the best time to have protein?

It is recommended to have a protein-rich meal or meal replacement two hours before bedtime and upon waking up to help give your body proper nutrition for the six to eight hours of sleep when you won’t be eating.

When your muscles are recovering from a heavy workout session, it is recommended to have a protein shake half an hour before a workout to set your body up with adequate nutrition and within two hours after a work out for instant nutrition to help your muscles recover and build.


Is it possible to have too much protein?

Yes, it is possible. The body will utilize the amount of protein it needs for muscle maintenance or building, then move the rest to storage. Make sure to keep track of how much protein you’re taking in so as not to over supplement. Protein should take up one-third of your plate; servings of meat, poultry or fish should be the size and thickness of the palm of your hand.



Institute of Medicine, Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Macronutrients). 2005, National Academies Press: Washington, DC.

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