Calculating Carbohydrate and Protein Needs for Athletes – From Our SportsCare Trainers

You see the advertising on TV for protein bars, shakes and supplements, and you know that carbohydrates are good sources of energy, but how do you accurately determine how much you need in your diet to perform the activities you desire?

Carbohydrates are the main energy source of the body and come from fruits, vegetables, pastas, rice, breads and other grains. Protein is the main nutrient for building and repairing tissue in the body and is made up of 20 amino acids, 11 of which the body can make; however, nine of these the body cannot. It is important that you eat foods with these nine amino acids.

The main sources of protein come from eating beef and milk products, chicken and eggs, turkey, fish, pork, nuts and beans. Eating a variety of protein sources ensures that you get the nine essential amino acids and have the ability to make any of the 11 if they were not in a food source.

Knowing that carbohydrates provide energy and protein repairs and builds tissue will help determine how much of each is needed. If you are participating in an activity that lasts more than 90 minutes, you will need more carbohydrates and less protein. If your activity level lasts less than 90 minutes, you will need fewer carbohydrates. If you are involved in activities that cause a lot of tissue breakdown, then increased protein is needed. 

To calculate your carbohydrate requirements, use the following guidelines:

  • High demand:  Your weight in pounds x 3.5 to 4.5 = number of grams of carbohydrates per day
  • Average:  Weight in pounds x 2.25 to 3.5 = number of grams of carbohydrates per day

Protein requirements use the following guidelines:

  • High demand:  Weight in pounds x 0.7 to 1 = number of grams of protein per day
  • Average demand:  Weight in pounds x 0.5 to 0.7 = number to proteins per day

Let’s say you are a middle-aged male training for a triathlon and weigh 150 pounds. The event and training are going to last more than 90 minutes, so tissue breakdown will be slightly high while training for this event. So if you follow the high-demand equation for carbohydrates, your goal for the day will be about 600 grams (150 x 4 = 600). Protein requirements would be about 105 grams for the day (150 x 0.7 = 105). 

Or let’s say you are a high school basketball player who weighs 125 pounds. The event is less than 90 minutes and tissue break down is minimal. Carbohydrates would be 375 grams per day (125 x 3 = 375) and protein would be at 75 grams per day (125 x 0.6 = 75).

Based on the foods you eat, you can count your grams or plan your eating to meet your needs. If you have more questions or would like to talk with someone about your needs, contact SportsCare at 862-0444 and a staff member would be glad to help.