Calculating the amount of protein and carbohydrates per day

Athletes, wondering how much protein per day is right for you? We tell you everything!

In the workout community, there’s a lot of focus on calculating the amount of protein and carbohydrates per day that we consume. There’s a lot of noise out there about low-carb or high-protein diets, but is that really the right road to take? Rather than going big on one or the other, most athletes, like you, find that it’s all about balance.

But wait – the right balance of protein and carbohydrates is different for everybody – finding what’s right for you can be a long journey. Wondering how to measure the amount of protein and carbohydrates you need? We’ve cut through the confusion to tell you everything you need to know!

Why do protein and carbohydrates matter?

To make it simple, Carbohydrates and proteins are macronutrients – essential nutrients that make up part of a balanced diet. Along with fats and hydration, they make up the four pillars of nutrition. Important stuff.

Carbohydrates give you energy throughout the day, while protein supports muscle growth, maintenance and recovery. And everybody needs them to perform at their best, especially if you’re training hard. As you lead an active lifestyle and take part in high-intensity sports, what you eat and drink can help your performance and recovery.

How your goals and lifestyle shape your needs

Exactly how much you should eat of both carbohydrates and protein depends on your activity level, bodyweight and goals. Whether you’re lifting heavy in the gym, or training for that half-marathon, you need to make sure your workouts and recovery time are fuelled appropriately.

What’s the right amount of protein per day for me?

Most guidelines talk about the amount of protein per kg of bodyweight. Health guidelines recommend that adults aim to eat around 0.8g of protein per kg of bodyweight, but for endurance athletes that’s closer to 1.2g, and up to 1.6g for you top-level pros [1]. But it’s not about just loading up on steak. For the maximum benefit, think about getting your protein from a mix of plant-based foods, eggs, fish, lean meat and dairy. Talking about dairy, at YoPro we’ve created an awesome range of rich-in-protein flavoured yoghurt, from blueberry to lemon, from spoonable to fresh drinkable, from 15g to 30g of protein per portion. Yes, we want to make sure we’re supporting you in a delicious and tasty way.

[1] CERIN – Protein and sport practices: why and when? -2016; International
Association of Athletics Federations Consensus Statement 2019, Why dietary
protein is important for endurance athletes -2014

When you’re training, your muscles are constantly breaking down and repairing themselves. Your body needs protein for this process – that’s how you maintain or increase your muscle mass. For this reason, people who are aiming to build muscle may want to look at slightly higher protein intake. It’s why some athletes use whey protein supplements to increase their daily intake [1].

There have been many different studies trying to pinpoint the very best intake recommendation, but the results vary. Most recommendations fall between 0.8g and 1.6g per kilo of bodyweight [2], depending on how often you train and how intensely. If you’re working towards an ambitious goal at the top of your field, you might have different protein requirements to someone who just works out occasionally, find out how much you need

Daily amount of carbohydrates – where to start

Low-carb diets have been in and out of popularity for several years, but the truth is
that, because they are a macronutrient, we need carbs to function at our best.

As part of a balanced diet, carbs are an essential energy source – your body breaks down the starches and sugars into glucose, which is taken up by your body’s cells to produce fuel molecules. So, let’s say you’re eating around 8,700kJ (2,078 calories) per day, that would be about 230-384 grams of carbs.

Generally speaking, athletes perform best on 3-12g carbohydrates per kg of bodyweight depending on the sport and on the period of time you’re working hard, like competition preparation, during and after competition [3].

But not all carbs play the same role. Most are a combination of sugars, starch, and fibre.
When you’re trying to decide on the right amount of carbohydrates per day, make sure you’re getting most of your carbs from fruits and vegetables, whole grains like oats, brown rice and wholewheat bread that release energy slowly over time, and minimize the amount of added sugars you eat.


[2] CERIN – Protein and sport practices: why and when? -2016; International Association of Athletics Federations Consensus Statement 2019, Why dietary protein is important for endurance athletes -2014

[3] Sources: FAO/WHO Scientific Update on carbohydrates in human nutrition: conclusions, Mann J. et al., European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007 Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance, 2016 Joint Position Statement: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 48:543-68, 2016

Getting the balance right

If you feel like your current intake of protein and carbohydrates could be holding you back from your workout goals, a good place to start is to keep a food diary before you make any changes.

Track your macros for a few days, just to see what your average intake is. From there, you
can look at adapting. Stay consistent with any changes – it takes time to find out how your body reacts and to see results.

If you’re considering making a big change to your diet, or just feel like you need a bit more help to optimise it, a qualified nutritionist or dietitian can help you put together a meal plan that is safe, manageable and balanced.

Written by: Green Park Content

Any medical advice and views expressed are those of the author; readers should obtain medical advice.

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