If you enjoy sport and exercise in general, you will know that you need to manage your body's nutritional intake for optimised performance.
Protein has a vital role to play as part of this balancing act, because it repairs and rebuilds muscles and connective tissues which are broken down naturally during exercise.
But it's equally important to know what specific proteins are for so you get the balance right for your sporting activities.
Proteins are often called the building blocks of the body. Protein consists of structures that combine in various ways to make muscles, bone, tendons, skin, hair and other tissues. They serve other functions, including nutrient transportation and enzyme production.
The protein needs of athletes and sports enthusiasts are high in comparison to normal / inactive individuals; for example, an inactive person needs 0.75g of protein per day, whereas endurance athletes need up to 1.4g per day and strength athletes at up to 1.8g per day i.e. at least double the amount or more.
Adequate, regular protein intake is essential for athletes and sports enthusiasts because it can't be made or easily stored by the human body.
Various foods supply protein in varying amounts with higher concentrations found in animal products such as meat, fish and eggs and less in vegetables, fruit and nuts.
As a result it is difficult for athletes or sports enthusiasts to get enough protein during the day from the traditional three meals a day.
Therefore, it is necessary to supplement with additional sources of protein - often required while on the move and post workout. The key is to look for the most complete proteins as these will provide a higher level of muscle recovery.
You may choose to include additional sources of protein in your diet in the form of protein bars and drinks. These usually include the two types of protein found in milk: casein and whey. Casein is often referred to as 'time-release' protein because it is digested and absorbed much more slowly than other proteins.
Whey protein, or 'fast' protein, is a rich source of naturally complete and low fat protein that quickly nourishes muscles.
Whey proteins are a good choice for the morning and just before a workout as they are quickly digested. Whey, casein, egg, and simple carbohydrates will help recharge your body after a workout and dairy proteins are ideal for keep energy levels up between meals.
Nick Smith, Commercial Director for Glanbia Performance Nutrition, Europe's leading sports nutrition manufacturer comments: "A healthy balanced diet is an integral part of any exercise programme.
The three main nutrient groups required to maximise the ability to get fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle are protein, carbohydrate and fat. Proteins play a particularly important role for recovery after exercise, muscle repair and helping regulate the nervous system.
Athletes, bodybuilders and sports enthusiasts are liable to put a lot of strain on their muscles while exercising, so it's important that they get their nutritional intake balanced correct.