If you want to be able to skate as long as possible, eat quality foods and fuel your body with the nutrients in fruits, veggies and quality protein sources.
– Nick Dompierre
protein & skateboarding.
What do you think of when you think of protein? A steak? Maybe Brandon Biebel? Do you ever think about how it can affect your skating?
The truth is, getting enough protein is absolutely essential for skating and life in general, and if you skate regularly you probably need more protein than the average person.
In this article and video I’m going to go over why we need protein, how much you need, where you can get it from, and an easy way to make sure you’re getting enough.
why do we need protein?
So why do we need protein? Well the answer most of us would give is probably something related to muscles, which is totally correct. Our muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other tissues are made up primarily of a load of different proteins. It isn’t just about muscles though; it also provides us with a small amount of energy, even though this is something we want to minimise as much as we can. But more importantly it plays a role in pretty much all bodily processes, as it's a fundamental building block of a load of different enzymes, neurotransmitters and other chemicals - things that keep your body running smoothly.
Throughout the day proteins are constantly being broken down and rebuilt, or converted from one type into another - something called protein turnover. Breaking your muscles down might seem bad, but it’s this rebuilding process that actually allows you to grow back stronger and even if you aren’t wanting to put on muscle like Nick Dompierre, you still need a regular supply of protein to maintain your muscle, to recover from your sessions, and just to keep your body working optimally, on and off your board.
So, not only would a protein-free diet leave you looking like a muscleless sack; somewhat like a human-scrotum, but it would also be a very lifeless sack, as proteins keep so many of your bodily processes functioning.
how much protein do skaters need?
Alright so now we know why protein is so essential, but how much do skateboarders actually need? Well, like with everything - it depends.
Your individual protein needs are influenced by a lot of different things - like your goals, age, body size, how you skate, your activity level off your board, your lifestyle, and more. To make things even more complicated, how much protein someone can actually get out of a food is influenced by what else is in that food, along with who's actually eating it, meaning two people eating the same food can get different amounts of protein from it.
Considering the huge variety in things that can affect how much protein you need, the fact that these things are constantly changing, along with our bodies and the type of foods we eat affecting how much protein we can actually get from what we eat, an exact measure that works for everyone just doesn't exist.
Even though each of us have different needs, a lot of research has been on roughly how much protein is optimal for different types of people and situations. The research and recommendations take into account your bodyweight, giving you a recommended amount for every kilogram or pound of bodyweight. The amounts are also how much you should get each day.
For example, the minimum amount of protein to cover the basic needs of a sedentary adult is about 0.8 grams for every kg of bodyweight (or 0.8 grams for every 2.2 pounds of bodyweight), this is really the bare minimum to keep your body functioning and nowhere near what the average skater needs. The optimal amount for a healthy sedentary adult is closer to about 1.2 grams per kg (or 2.2lb) of bodyweight.
If that sounds like a lot it's still not enough for the average skater. If you skate regularly, the optimal amount is going to fall roughly somewhere between 1.6 – 2.2 grams per kg (or 2.2lb) of bodyweight.
for someone who weighs
for someone who weighs
- 0.8g = 48g per day
- 1.2g = 72g per day
- 1.6-2.2g = 96-132grams per day
- 0.8g = 60g per day
- 1.2g = 90g per day
- 1.6-2.2g = 120-165grams per day
If there’s a horrible feeling in your stomach and you’re thinking the only way to get enough protein is to measure each gram for each meal for the rest of your life, don’t worry, delete that thought from your brain as there’s a much easier hack which we'll get to soon.
* growing evidence shows 1.2g/kg may be more appropriate, especially for older adults
when do you need more protein?
Remember I said your muscles and other tissues are constantly being broken down and rebuilt, along with proteins constantly being converted from one type into another? Well there are certain situations that are going to accelerate this process and require more protein than normal to function and rebuild, many being related to the way you skate.
Some examples are:
Heavy or long sessions
Sessions where you slam a lot
Sessions where you’re skating something you’re not used to – for example gaps if you normally skate ledges
Recovering from an injury or surgery is also going to increase how much protein you need,
If you want to build muscle
If you’re losing weight - upping your protein intake might be a good idea here as well as protein can increase how full you feel, along with reducing muscle loss that can occur with weightloss
Vegans might also need to up there protein needs as well if they aren't regularly eating a lot of high quality protein sources
how to make sure you're getting enough.
Alright the time has come to go over that protein hack I mentioned earlier to make sure you're getting enough protein daily. I told you that you don't need to count each gram of protein, and this is true for the vast majority of people, but why?
The quick answer is just that you'll never know exactly how much you need, even with super-expensive science-bod lab equipment. As I already mentioned your protein needs are influenced by many different things, we digest food differently depending on what else is in that food and even on your genetics, meaning we don’t always get the same amount of protein or any nutrient from all the foods we eat. And on top of this the actual amounts of nutrients listed on food labels can be off by as much as 25%!
So weighing grams is like using a super precise tool for a really non-precise system, it’s like trying to find a tree in a forest with a magnifying glass, or a scooter kid in a skatepark on Sunday with some binoculars.
Luckily, a nutrition company called Precision Nutrition developed a device called a hand and installed two of them on every human body 1000s of years ago. They did this after doing some research where they compared how much protein two different groups of people were getting daily. Group one measured their protein by grams, and group two measured their protein using "palm-size" portions - meaning portions of high-quality protein that were relative to the size of the person's palm. They found that regardless of which method was used, each group was getting pretty much the same amount. This works because your palm size is usually relative to your body size so as bigger people usually have bigger palms, they'd end up eating more protein. On top of that measuring your needs by palm size is obviously a million times easier than going gram by gram.
To make it super simple, the average male should try and get around 1-2 palm size portions of high-quality protein at each meal (including breakfast), and every female about 1. One palm gets you about 20-30 grams of protein.
Image owned by Precision Nutrition ©
where to get your protein from.
Maybe you noticed that I mentioned "high-quality protein" a couple of times throughout this article and you're thinking "what the vadge is a high-quality protein"?
Well, the building blocks of proteins are amino acids, some we can make in our bodies, but others we can only get from our diet, called "essential amino acids". A high-quality protein gives us a large amount of protein and a wide variety of these essential amino acids we can only get from our diet.
high-quality protein sources.
- lean cuts of pork
- wild game
- chicken, turkey, duck
- shrimp, squid, octopus, lobster, crab
- mussels, snails, clams
- dairy: cottage cheese, greek yoghurt
- beans & legumes*
- protein powder
* These have more carbs than protein so only count as your protein source if another high-quality protein isn't in your meal. Also palm size method doesn't work for legumes.
Even though not all foods can be considered high-quality protein sources, almost all foods do have some protein and will contribute to our daily protein needs. So the secret, as always, is to eat a well balanced diet made up of a wide variety of foods, including one - two high-quality protein portions at each meal.
For plant-based eaters a good way to go about meeting your daily needs is just to add in as much higher protein foods as you can, so things like rice over refined bread, or legumes. Getting in regular legumes might be a good idea for plant-based eaters anyway, as they’re not only high in protein but they’re also high in an amino acid called lysine, that plant-based eaters are sometimes low in.
Whether you're plant-based or not, it can be useful to create a list of high-protein foods that you like, so you won't struggle to get a constant supply of protein throughout the day to keep your skating on point.
When you get your protein in is sometimes important as well, but for most people just making sure you get enough evenly spaced throughout the day is all that matters. There are certain times when you might benefit from planning when you'll get some protein in.