Protein - and the many, small specialties

Alongsidecarbohydrates and fats, proteins are the third food component that can provide the body with energy. However, proteins are primarily used as building material for muscles, bones or tendons, for example, if the energy supply is secure. A kilogram of muscle, for example, consists of around 20% protein, 70% water and 10% fat. So we quickly become aware of how important proteins / amino acids are.

But protein is also enormously important for other processes in the body. Enzymes, like many hormones, consist largely of protein. Of particular interest to endurance athletes are the antibodies, which are also made up of proteins and are important for immune defense. If there is an insufficient energy supply during long or intensive exercise, antibodies are partly used for energy metabolism. This leads to a worsened immune defense and thus to an increased susceptibility to infections ( see article on the "open window effect").

Amino acids - the structure

Proteins are made up of chains of amino acids. All amino acids have an identical basic structure, consisting of an amino and an acid residue - hence the name.

However, amino acids differ in their remaining molecular part, which is structured differently depending on the amino acid. Known here, for example, are the branched chain amino acids (BCAA), whose remaining molecular part is branched (L-leucine, L-isoleucine and L-valine) and which are preferentially absorbed by the muscles.

For human nutrition, it is important to know that only about half of the approximately 20 proteinogenic amino acids can be produced by the body itself. The other amino acids must be supplied to the body with food. They are therefore also referred to as essential amino acids.

These essential amino acids include: Histidine*

  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine

*Histidine is essential for the infant, but not for adults later.

Determine the individual protein requirement

The need for protein depends on the type of sport and the load:

Load Quantity
With casual endurance training and a normal diet 0.8 - 1.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per day
For moderate intensity training 1.0 - 1.5 grams per kilogram body weight u. day
For high intensity training 1.5 - 1.7 grams per kilogram body weight u. Day

The increased protein requirement is primarily a consequence of regenerative processes, e.g. the repair of muscles, ligaments and tendons.

In order to cover the widest possible spectrum of the amino acids contained in protein, it is advisable to use a variety of protein sources when consuming protein.

Important note: A long-term intake of more than 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day puts a great strain on our excretory organs, especially the kidneys!

How do I meet my protein needs as an athlete?

From my point of view there is a quite simple solution to ensure an optimal supply for us athletes.

On the one hand, a natural, varied basic diet with as little denatured food as possible (so often swing the wooden spoon) and for times of high stress, whether in training or during the competition phase, the supplementation of essential amino acids.

These do not have to be extensively metabolized first, as is the case with protein, and therefore also enter the bloodstream much more quickly. In addition, even very small amounts are sufficient. It has been proven in several studies with athletes that already 5g of the essential amino acids cover the daily requirement.

In my opinion, the research work of Prof. Dr. M. Luca-Moretti , who researched and patented an optimal composition of the various amino acids with the MAP (Master Amino Acid Pattern), takes an outstanding position here. After the patent expired a few years ago, there are now also numerous, cheaper products available that are based on this work and also allow vegetarians and vegans an optimal and simple supply.