You need protein to rebuild muscles, red blood cells, hair and finger nails and skin tissue. Moreover, it keeps hormones working and boosts your immune system to fight diseases. Proteins are made up of two kinds of building blocks called amino acids, non-essential and essential. The non-essential amino acids are made in your body, the essential amino acids have to be replenished from outside sources, primarily protein- rich food, like meat, eggs, some vegetables and dairy products. Without replenishing these essential amino acids, you will get sick or might even die.
Even a decade ago, nutritionists recommended that athletes, especially body builders, take in up to 4 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight in order to build muscles. That is why many athletes turned to protein supplements in form of pills, drinks or powder. However, that has turned out to be unnecessary. Today it is known that only 0.8 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight can be effectively used to build muscles, which is true for athletes and non-athletes alike.
Muscles consist of 70% water. Even top athletes can only build about 10 grams of pure muscle mass (per kilogram of body weight) over the course of a year. This can be achieved easily through a balanced diet of high quality beef, pork, chicken, fish, milk, eggs and dairy products. Recently, isotonic whey drinks have become popular in Europe (whey or milk plasma is derived from milk during cheese making). Carb-rich food like potatoes, breads, beans, or lentils also provide plenty of protein. So, there is no need for expensive powders, pills or shakes of concentrated protein or amino acid supplements.
Sports nutritionists use a formula to calculate the protein needs of athletes. They multiply a person's weight (in pounds) by one of the following:
So, a 180 pound athlete would need between 100 and 110 grams of protein per day. This would be equivalent to 3 ounces of meat (84 grams protein) 1 egg (7 grams protein) 1 cup of milk (8 grams protein) 1-2 slices of bread (8 grams protein) and 1 cup of vegetables (4 grams protein). An average sedentary adult only needs 30 -60 grams of protein to replenish the essential amino acids.
(Source: SportsMedWeb, Rice University, taken from Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook) http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/caryn/protein.html; Lee Knight Caffery, Vanderbilt University http://www.vanderbilt.edu/ans/psychology/health_psychology/Protein.htm