Published in Applied Research
The Mediterranean athlete's nutrition: are protein supplements necessary?


It is recommended that an athlete, in order to ensure correct nutrition and performance, should consume between 1.2 and 2.0 g/kg/day of protein, while the daily recommended protein intake for a non-athlete is 0.8and 0.9 mg/kg/day. It is unclear if athletes living in Mediterranean countries are able to meet protein requirements without supplementation, since Mediterranean diet de-emphasizes meat and meat products. 

Italian Researchers have published in Nutrients journal the results of a study involving 166 athletes (125 males) enrolled between 2017 and 2019 were required to keep a dietary journal for three consecutive days (2 workdays and 1 weekend day). Athletes had to be >18 years old, train in a particular sport activity more than 3 h a week and compete at least at an amateur level. Journal data were collected and then translated into macro-nutrient content (grams of protein, carbohydrates, and lipids) by a nutritionist.

Results showed that the protein intake reported by this specific population vary slightly from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), Dietitians of Canada (DC), and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) joint statement recommendation level. Average protein levels without protein supplementation fell within the protein guidelines. Counterintuitively, the intake among those who supplemented their diet with protein was higher compared with those who did not, even when excluding the contribution of supplements. Although the majority of subjects participating in the study were able to meet protein intake recommended for athletes without protein supplementation, 27% of athletes were below the guideline range.

In conclusions, these data suggest that athletes' nutrition should be more often evaluated by a nutritionist and that they will benefit from increasing their nutritional knowledge in order to make better food choices, resorting to protein supplementation only when effectively needed

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