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Protein for Athletes: How Much, What Kind & When To Take It

Boxer receives a punch from his opponent whose diet includes the best protein for athletes


As an athlete, you need to ensure you get enough protein in your diet. Protein for athletes is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue while maintaining a healthy weight. But there are some forms of protein that perform better than others - so which have the most benefits?

In this article, we will discuss why protein is so important for athletes, what the best protein for athletes is, and the best way to take protein for optimal results. 

Why protein is important for athletes 

Protein is crucial for athletes as it supports the growth and formation of new tissue, aids in recovery post-exercise, and helps maintain overall muscle mass.

Consuming protein gives your body the essential amino acids necessary for protein synthesis, which can enhance strength and performance for athletes. Additionally, protein plays a role in immune function, reducing the risk of illness during intense training.

How much protein should you take for peak performance?

If you are wondering how many grams of protein to take after a workout, athletes need more protein than the average person.

Endurance athletes need about 1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight per day, while strength training athletes need about 1.4 to 2.0 grams per kilogram (2.2 lbs) of body weight per day.

So now that you know how much protein for athletes is ideal, let’s discuss which type of protein is best for you to take. 

What type of protein for athletes is best?

Here are some popular types of protein for athletes, and the pros and cons of each:

Whey protein

Whey protein is a type of protein for athletes that is derived from milk. It is one of the most popular types of protein for athletes on the market, and it is often used by bodybuilders and other athletes. 

Whey protein is a complete protein, which means that it contains all of the essential amino acids that your body needs. The downside to whey protein is that it is hard to digest, so you could be left with a whey protein upset stomach even if you aren’t lactose intolerant. 

Casein protein

Casein protein is another type of protein that comes from milk. Unlike whey protein, casein is not a complete protein, so it does not contain all of the essential amino acids. Casein is also slower to digest than whey protein.

This makes casein a good choice for people who are trying to lose weight or maintain their weight, because it may help you feel full for longer. Of course, you may run into the same digestive issues as with whey protein – especially if you are lactose intolerant. 

Egg protein

Egg protein is another popular type of protein powder. Egg protein is a complete protein that is easy to digest, making it a good choice for those who have trouble digesting other types of protein.

Pea protein

If you are vegan, you obviously don’t want to take any of the proteins above, but pea protein may be a good option for you. Pea protein comes from peas, as the name suggests. 

Pea protein is not a complete protein, but it is very easy to digest, just like egg protein. Of course, you won’t get as marked of results for muscle growth and recovery as you would with a complete protein, but it’s still a solid choice for vegan athletes. 

Collagen protein

The best protein for athletes is collagen protein, hands down. 

Collagen protein is the most abundant protein in the human body: found in the skin, bones, and connective tissues. 

Collagen is not a complete protein on its own, but it can be made complete by adding tryptophan. Collagen is also very easy to digest, which is something to consider when you are thinking about the benefits of collagen protein vs whey protein.

But there are so many other benefits of collagen protein for athletes that put it head and shoulders above other protein options. 

Studies show that collagen is fantastically effective for wound healing, bone strength, and joint pain. Making sure wounds heal quickly, bones stay robust, and joint pain is kept to a minimum are all vital for athletes.

Supplementing with collagen also protects the integrity of your ligaments and tendons and reduces the risk of musculoskeletal injury, making collagen ideal for sports injury prevention.

The best way to consume collagen

There are many sources of collagen that you can choose from, but not all of them are created equal. To get the most benefit from collagen protein for athletes, you want to choose a source that is high in quality.

One there are some easy protein sources that you can add to your diet to get more collagen, such as bone broth or organ meat of animals. But most people don’t eat a lot of either, and collagen in its whole form isn’t as easy to digest as a collagen supplement.  

Most collagen supplements are made from the skin and connective tissues of cows, pigs, or chickens. These types of collagen are rich in amino acids that are essential for gut health, skin health, and joint health.

You can also get marine collagen that is derived from the skin of fish, although this is less common.

If you’d prefer not to mix your collagen with anything, you can buy liquid collagen supplements, which are ready-mixed to allow refueling on the go.

When it comes to buying your collagen supplement, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Add tryptophan 

While collagen has heaps of great benefits, as a protein for athletes, it is unfortunately not a complete protein. Collagen lacks tryptophan, which has several important roles.

Tryptophan is essential for the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood and sleep. Serotonin is also involved in regulating appetite, digestion, and pain perception. 

Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression and anxiety. Adding tryptophan to collagen can help increase levels of this important neurotransmitter.

Tryptophan is also vital for the production of niacin (vitamin B3), which is crucial for energy metabolism and DNA production. Supplementing with tryptophan may improve niacin levels.

Take collagen with vitamin C 

It’s a great idea to take vitamin C alongside your collagen supplement. That’s because vitamin C plays a major role in collagen synthesis

Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons are a great source of vitamin C, but you can also get it from leafy green vegetables, bell peppers, and strawberries. If you're not getting enough vitamin C from your diet, consider taking a supplement to make sure you're getting enough of it.

Use caffeine for extra endurance

Some collagen protein for athletes comes with caffeine added in. Caffeine is an incredibly effective supplement for performance enhancement, which makes caffeine and collagen a winning combination.

Research shows that caffeine can enhance performance powerfully in high-intensity activities and endurance events. Caffeine has also been shown to be beneficial for athletes who lift weights, with the supplement shown to increase muscle strength after ingestion.

You should also be careful when taking caffeine with collagen, especially if you are taking other BCAAs or supplements that contain caffeine, or drink multiple cups of coffee a day. There CAN be too much of a good thing when it comes to caffeine.

But the same cannot be said about collagen. Collagen is already made naturally by your body, so it is safe to consume as a daily supplement. In fact, we encourage it! Because it really is the top protein for athletes. 

The absolute best protein for athletes

Each type of protein supplement comes with its own pros and cons, but when it comes to the best protein for athletes, there is one that comes in first place: hydrolyzed collagen protein.

When it comes to protein supplements for athletes, protein absorption rate is almost more important than timing or amount. 

Hydrolyzed collagen (also known as collagen peptides) has gone through the chemical process of hydrolysis to break it down into easier-to-digest pieces. This allows your body to fully absorb your collagen supplement and make use of all the incredible benefits of this protein for athletes.

Frog Fuel liquid collagen protein has gone through the process of hydrolysis more than once to help you achieve full digestion in just 15 minutes or less. It is also fortified with tryptophan to make it a complete protein, and comes in single-serve pouches, which makes it the perfect protein for athletes on the go. 

FAQs about protein for athletes 

Here are answers to commonly asked questions about protein supplementation for athletes:

When is the best time to drink a protein shake?

The best time to drink a protein shake depends on your workout goals. 

In general, you want to take your protein within two hours after your workout to make use of the anabolic window. But there are also benefits to drinking a protein shake before a workout as it provides you with energy and endurance. 

Are there any negative effects of using protein powder?

There are a few cons of protein powder. Protein powders can be difficult to digest, especially if you have any sort of digestive issues. There is also the issue of flavorings, additives, or sugar that can make protein powders unhealthy.

Is too much protein bad for your kidneys?

Although protein is generally considered safe, extremely high protein intake can lead to kidney damage. 

One study reported that athletes would need to consume 2.8g per kilo in protein to do any damage. This is just under 200g of protein for a 70 kg person! As such, it would be very difficult to take enough protein to damage your kidneys. Just make sure to follow the directions on your supplement label. 

What are the symptoms of too much protein?

Consuming more protein than you need can cause symptoms such as intestinal discomfort, dehydration, nausea, fatigue, headaches, and more. If you are consuming a lot of protein, and experience these symptoms, speak to your doctor about adjusting your supplement dosage.