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Perceived protein needs and measured protein intake in collegiate male athletes: an observational study

Author(s): Fox Elizabeth | McDaniel Jennifer | Breitbach Anthony | Weiss Edward

Journal: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
ISSN 1550-2783

Volume: 8;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 9;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Abstract Background Protein needs for athletes are likely higher than those for the general population. However, athletes may perceive their protein needs to be excessively high. The purpose of this research was to compare collegiate athletes' perceived protein needs and measured protein intake to the recommended protein intake (RDI) for healthy adults (i.e. 0.8 g/kg/d) and to the maximum beneficial level for strength-trained athletes (i.e. 2.0 g/kg/day). Methods Perceived protein needs were quantified in 42 strength-trained collegiate male athletes by using a survey that asked the athletes to provide their perception about protein needs in specific quantitative terms (i.e. g/kg/d). Perceived protein needs were also determined by having the athletes select a daylong menu that they perceived to have adequate protein content from a collection of 5 isoenergetic menus, which differed in terms of protein content. Actual protein intake was quantified using 3-day food records and nutrient analysis. Single sample t-tests were used to compare protein intake and perceived protein needs to 0.8 g/kg/day and 2.0 g/kg/day. Results When asked to provide, in quantitative terms, protein needs for athletes, 67% of the athletes indicated "do not know." Of the remaining 33% of athletes, all gave values greater than 2.0 g/kg/d (mean 21.5 ± 11.2 g/kg/d, p = 0.14 vs. 2.0 g/kg/d). Based on the menu selection method for determining perceived protein needs, the athletes indicated that their protein needs were 2.4 ± 0.2 g/kg/d, which was greater than the RDI for protein (p < 0.0001) and tended to be greater than the maximally beneficial protein intake of 2.0 g/kg/d (p = 0.13). Measured protein intake was 2.0 ± 0.1 g/kg/d, which was greater than the RDI (p < 0.0001) but not different from the maximally beneficial protein intake of 2.0 g/kg/d (p = 0.84). Conclusions Male collegiate athletes recognize that their protein needs are higher than that of the general population and consume significantly more protein than recommended in the RDI. However, it also appears that athletes are not aware of objective recommendations for protein intake and may perceive their needs to be excessively high. This study highlights the need for nutrition education in collegiate athletes, in particular nutrition education on macronutrient distribution and protein needs.
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