The Role of Protein Pacing in Athletic Performance
A common question I often get is about my daily nutrition intake; "what & when to eat". Being a full-time professional athlete and now training between 30-40 hours a week, sound nutrition has never been so crucial. One of the largest components to increase the ability to perform optimally for each training session and maximize muscle re-building & recovery is by putting superior nutrition into our bodies.
This leads me to the term "protein pacing". Protein pacing is defined as the scientifically proven combination of eating healthy, lean, protein foods at the right time of day to maximize health and performance. By incorporating high quality proteins into our diets throughout the day, this allows our bodies to maximize muscle maintenance and muscle repair throughout the day.
Whether professional, amateur, or weekend warrior athletes, each time we have a training session our muscles breakdown and our branch chain amino acids (BCAAs) deplete. In longer endurance sessions, our muscles and BCAAs are broken down even further. This is where nutrition becomes very important for recovery.
After each training session our bodies are screaming for BCAAs and our muscles are demanding to repair. Just think of your body after a training session and how depleted it can be. We have a window to refuel the body properly post workout to maximize nutrient absorption. In this window, we want our body to soak in the best possible nutrition. By replenishing the lost BCAAs with a high quality recovery drink full of key BCAAs right after the training session, this starts the body's recovery process. Followed up with a high quality protein meal replacement shake for protein intake to begin the muscle repair process, this is how the body starts to recover more efficiently.
Since athletes are constantly training, the body is in a state of constant recovery. Rather than the muscles struggling to repair throughout the day, protein pacing constantly feeds the muscles high quality proteins to not only repair, but maintain and re-fuel for the next training session. Thus allowing the body to perform better in training sessions. By performing better in training sessions, this leads to an increase in athletic performance.
Please note this strategy is based on my experience, my learnings from research & daily experimentation, and consulting with some of the world renowned nutritional scientists. I thoroughly believe in this strategy. It works and is utilized by many elite & olympic athletes. I have incorporated protein pacing into my diet for the past 2 years. Prior to incorporating this strategy I was struggling to recover from 20-25hr training weeks. I felt tired, low energy, not recovering properly for the next training session, and often felt defeated after some training weeks. By intaking very high quality proteins throughout the day and after each training session, my body now has the ability to recover more efficiently than ever before. Now I train upwards to 40 hours per week. My energy levels are more stable and not like a rollercoaster throughout the day. My performance in each training session has increased. And my body is building and maintaining lean muscle which is very important being a professional endurance athlete.
Here are some pointers on how to make protein pacing work for you:
- Spread your protein intake over 4-6 meals per day (this includes snacks)
- Each main meal should consist of 25-35% of your daily protein intake (or 20 - 30 grams of protein)
- After each training session consume a recovery drink full of BCAAs, followed by a hit of high quality protein (whether a protein shake, protein meal replacement shake, or protein bar)
- Keep the protein intake very nutrient dense & very high quality.
Pro Tip: Things to look for in a protein meal replacement and supplementation:
- No artificial ingredients, flavours, or comprised quality
- Clean and Informed Sports Certified
- Undenatured protein source
- Healthy fats, active digestive enzymes, and key vitamins & minerals
- Energy-fuelling carbohydrates
Upcoming articles related on Nutrition Performance: Daily Nutrition Structure & Calories Consumed, Nutrient Timing for Optimal Athletic Performance