HealthLifestyleMythbusters: Protein

Avatar Maddy WendtJuly 21, 20106

Protein is a very important component of any athlete’s caloric intake, but it can be difficult to sort myth from fact when judging how much protein to incorporate into your diet.   In the next few paragraphs, I hope to debunk some myths and provide you with a new pieces of information that might improve your diet and subsequently enhance your training.

As meaty as it gets.

Myth: You only get protein from meat.
Fact: While this is a bit exaggerated (I doubt that anyone reading FasterSkier actually believes that protein is only found in meat) there are a lot of misconceptions about how easy it is to get protein outside of a steak.  It is true that meat products contain lots of good protein, but plant-based foods can provide more than enough, and they have the additional benefit of being low in fat and cholesterol.  The chart at the end of this article provides a list of good protein sources, both animal and plant.

Myth: More protein means more muscle.
Fact: This myth is enthusiastically promoted by companies selling a vast array of protein bars, protein shakes, and protein powders with the claim that their products will enhance athletic performance.  The truth is that these kinds of products are really unnecessary if your diet already contains the right amount of protein, and an excess of protein is completely useless in terms of muscle-building capability.  An athlete training for aerobic events – like Nordic skiing – needs approximately 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, or about 0.6 grams per pound, every day.  That means, for instance, a 150-pound skier should be consuming somewhere around 90 grams of protein in a day.

Quinoa, a grain, is a full protein.

Myth: Protein is fattening.
Fact: This is only partially a mythical statement.  Protein itself is not fattening, but an excess of protein can be.  When there is too much protein in the system, amino acids that make up proteins are released into the bloodstream.  Other cells take up the amino acids from the blood and metabolize them to create excess pyruvate, which is stored in your body as fat.

The average American gets up to thirty percent of their daily calories from protein, which is far too much for a healthy diet.  Don’t be average.

Food                                           Serving            Protein Content
Boneless Chicken Breast             3 oz                27g
Roasted Turkey                             3 oz                25g
Soybeans                                        1 cup                22.3g
Lentils                                             1 cup                17.86g
Tempeh                                          4 oz.                17-21g
Split peas                                       1 cup                16.35g
Oat bran (raw)                              1 cup                16.3g
Baked Beans                                 1 cup                12.17g
Low-fat yourt                               1 cup                12g
Quinoa                                           1 cup                11.0g
Tofu                                                1/2 cup                10g
Spinach                                          1 cup                6.0g
Whole Wheat Bread                    2 slices                5.0g

Sources: (I apologize for not including these originally as I should have done.)

  • Steve Swoap, Professor of Biology, Williams College
  • The Nutrition Source, Harvard School of Public Health
  • Protein Requirements for Endurance Athletes, Mark Tarnopolsky, McMaster University
  • The China Study, T. Colin Campbell

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Maddy Wendt

Maddy is on the Nordic ski team at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where her majors are psychology, political science, skiing, and being an awesome JA.

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