Protein Supplements
in Your Sports Nutrition Plan

The sports nutrition goal of protein supplements is to build and repair tissue, not to provide energy. Forms of protein supplements include bars, shakes/drinks, and powders.

  • Do I need a protein or amino acid supplement?

  • Most women eat plenty of protein from foods. For example, the RDI for protein for women ages 14-70 is 46 grams per day. You would get this much protein by drinking 2 glasses of nonfat milk and eating 4½ ounces of protein daily. Even if your needs were doubled (which is more typical of some ultra-competitive athletes) your daily protein needs would only be 92 grams per day. Meeting the basic food pyramid servings on a 2000 calorie diet would give you at least 80 grams of protein. A highly competitive person is eating even more calories (so probably even more protein). If you are having trouble eating enough calories or if you don’t eat many meat proteins, a protein bar may be useful. On the other hand, don’t choose protein at the expense of carbohydrate. Make sure you are eating enough carbs for fuel.

  • How do the protein amounts in protein bars compare to food?

  • One ounce of nonfat milk provides 1 gram of protein, so 20 ounces of nonfat milk provides 20 grams of protein. One ounce of meat protein (like chicken) provides 7 grams of protein. A normal-sized half breast of chicken is 3 ounces cooked and 21 grams of protein. Some protein bars contain as much as 20-24 grams of protein per bar and are supplemented with various vitamins and minerals. Consider your calorie needs, too. Some protein bars provide almost 300 calories, triple the calories of the chicken breast. Excess calories ( from protein supplements ) can lead to weight gain.

  • Are protein shakes and drinks useful in my everyday sports nutrition plan?

  • Pre-mixed protein shakes and drinks are like protein bars in liquid form. Some are low to no carb with as much as 40 grams of protein. Active women need carbs and usually eat enough protein. Some protein shakes and drinks are like meal replacements, with many calories and proteins. Gatorade shakes (only available online), for example provide 370 calories and 20 grams of protein per serving. Also remember that a packaged product may not provide all the nutrition of a whole food. Go for whole foods first, and supplement only when needed.

    Making your own shake with a protein powder is one way to get the benefit of whole foods and a protein boost. For example, make a smoothie by blending cold milk with fresh fruit and a whey or soy-based protein powder.

    Learn more about protein in your sports nutrition plan.