Protein Info

The Importance of Protein

One function of protein is that it helps to build and repair muscles. In the sporting world today, hundreds of athletes develop injuries ranging from hamstring problems, to dead legs. A large percentage of injuries were found to be muscle injuries (MedLine Plus, US National Library of Medicine) and as protein is vital for the body to repair, replenish and rebuild muscle, it is very important that the injured athlete take enough protein in their diet to ensure a quicker recovery. Higher levels of protein in the diet have also been linked with athletes receiving fewer injuries, although this has not been fully tested yet, there is definetly some truth behind it as more muscle is built when there is a good level of protein in your diet and more muscle will mean that you have more protection against knocks and bangs. This does not neccessarily mean that less muscle injuries would be recieved with a higher level of muscle mass.

It goes without saying that if an athlete does not eat the required amount of protein in relation to his/her needs, then he/she will unfortunately encounter problems in maintaining a high level of performance due to the fact that recovery from injuries or aches and pains will take longer and the muscle development will not only be slower, but limited ( Deficiencies can lead to anxiety, weight loss and stubborn wounds that do not heal. Proteins are made of Amino Acids which can be split into three groups; Essential, Non-Essential and Conditional. The conditional proteins are non-essential but become essential at times of illness or sickness when protein is needed in the body to repair cells and help fight infection.

Protein Supplements vs Balanced Diet

The Irish Rugby Federation Union (IRFU) has recently warned against the dangers of supplements for young players (Sports Supplements and The Young Rugby Player, 2013) which means that adolescents should not be taking supplements. It is important that such an influential body as the IRFU is taking a stance on this matter as in recent times, the number of young people taking supplements has increased dramatically. A large excess of protein is a bad thing as excess protein is excreted in urine and for an adolescent more urine puts strain on their undeveloped kidneys which could lead to further problems and this is why the IRFU are against the use of supplements in adolescents.

It is important that a balanced diet with different food sources is used to get your required protein each day as if it is not balanced, a person could be having a diet high in meat which can contribute to high cholesterol levels or other diseases such as gout. A study from New Zealand by Sarah Burkhart reported a real lack of knowledge in the role of protein in the body, with 47% of males agreeing that “protein was the main energy for the muscle” (Assessment of nutritional knowledge and food skills in talented adolescent athletes, 2010).

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