Consumption of protein rich foods and drinks is common place in our athletes and recreational gym participants due to its’ association with lean muscle tissue, recovery from strenuous workouts, and strength gains. In addition to muscle and bone benefits, plant or animal sources of protein are essential to other body systems for optimal health. At a minimum, most healthy individuals should aim to consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight for basic bodily function, but this number would adjust based on many personal and activity factors including exercise. A recent systematic review of the evidence highlights the benefits of protein supplementation when combined with strength training.
A systematic review of 1863 individuals from 49 studies was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (Morton et al. 2018). Large ranges of protein supplementation were noted ranging from 4-106 grams per day, but averages included 36-42 g/day in young participants and 20 g/day in older participants. In addition, authors in these included studies included 5-44 grams of protein following strength training workouts. Significant differences in protein sources were including casein, whey, egg, soy, pea, and milk proteins, as well as, whole food supplementation. On average, protein groups consumed 1.8 grams/kg of body weight while control groups consumed 1.4 grams/kg of body weight.
Authors reported significant improvements in fat free mass, muscle size or cross sectional area, and strength in the concurrent groups compared to the control groups who only lifted. Benefits were higher among younger participants with prior weight training experience. Importantly, no further benefits were noted in protein amounts greater than 1.6 grams/kg of body weight. Participants are encouraged to speak with their physician and/or nutritionist before making any changes to their dietary intake.