Health & Fitness, Fitness & diet

Protein and performance: Boost your nutritional programme

Firstly, proteins play an essential role in health, they are essential to many functions involved in metabolism, in particular in the building of muscle mass. In which foods will you find protein, when should you consider taking dietary supplements and how can they affect your sporting performance?

Proteins: Definition, role and function


Proteins are macro-nutrients that are made up of chains of amino acids. They are present in every cell of the human body. Of the 20 basic amino acids that compose this group, 9 can only be gained through food. During digestion, proteins are broken down by enzymes into amino acids, which are useful for many metabolic processes, including building muscle fibres. The role of proteins is multifaceted:

  • They are involved in the growth and renewal of cells.
  • They are essential for wound healing and for tissue repair.
  • They help to produce digestive enzymes.
  • They participate in the synthesis of hormones, such as insulin, one that is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels.

The different sources of protein in dietary intake


Proteins can be in animal or plant form. The two sources complement one another: Whether you are omnivorous or a vegetarian, you ought to vary your daily protein intake as much as possible.

Sources of animal protein

Animal proteins are found in meat, eggs, dairy products or fish. More complete than plant proteins, they contain more essential amino acids that the body is unable to synthesise. For example, the foods richest in animal protein are:

  • Tuna
  • Red meat
  • Sardines
  • Chicken breasts
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • White cheese

Vegetable protein sources

Vegetable proteins are contained in significant quantities in most legumes, green vegetables and aromatic herbs, as well as in certain oilseeds or starchy foods:

  • Spirulina
  • Soya beans
  • Parsley
  • Pumpkin or hemp seeds
  • Red beans
  • Almonds
  • Tofu
  • Lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Pasta

When and how should you consume protein?


To combine nutrition with good health, find the amount of protein suited to your lifestyle and take stock of your sporting goals. Divide protein sources into your menus according to your diet, the time of day and the rhythm of your activities.

The right amount of protein according to your sporting activity

Not all athletes have the same protein requirements:

  • If you are a novice athlete, then, first of all, stick to the amounts recommended for a healthy adult: According to the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, this is 0.8 g per kg for women and 0.85 g per kg for men.
  • If you are an endurance athlete or an amateur athlete with several sessions per week, then aim for between 1.2 and 1.5 g per kg per day.
  • For achieving a goal of weight gain or when taking part in a strength-based sport, the amount of protein absorbed daily must be greater. This can be as much as 2 g per kg per day. Part of the intake can sometimes be provided by food supplements, such as spirulina, whey or other types of protein powder, as well as amino acid powder.

Protein and diet

Whatever your diet, make sure that protein makes up about 10 to 15% of your nutritional intake:

  • If you are omnivorous, then combine as many vegetable and animal proteins as possible into your diet, while respecting the recommended dosages according to your level of physical activity.
  • For a vegetarian or a vegan, paradoxically, an excess of protein consumption is only possible by eating excessive numbers of vegetables, since some provide a very high level of protein intake. Be sure to distribute the number of fats, carbohydrates and proteins in a balanced way. Sticking to something in the region of 1 g per kg per day is the safest option for an amateur athlete.
  • A high-protein diet, which consists of eating only protein-based foods (lean meats, eggs, fish, and suchlike), is sometimes used for rapid weight loss. Nevertheless, doing so carries many risks for the body and general health. Indeed, its results are frequently fleeting. This approach is not recommended for athletes who need carbohydrates to replenish their energy stores.

The best way to reach your goals and to stay healthy is to include all 3 macronutrients in a balanced way in your dietary intake: Fat, carbohydrates and protein.

Spread out protein intake according to the times of the day

Choosing when to eat protein during the day is also essential. With these few guidelines, you will be able to make the best decisions:

  • Protein has a slight appetite suppressing effect, which can reduce your desire to eat. As a snack, therefore, it can help you consume fewer calories in the hours that follow or to limit ongoing snacking.
  • To promote muscle recovery, proteins are very effective after a workout session.
  • Your chosen rest days are good for protein absorption.
  • The digestion of proteins requires quite a bit of work on the part of the body, so it is best to avoid consuming it just before exercise or in the evening, shortly before going to bed.

Check out our Health & Fitness page for more advice.