Why protein is essential for recovery?

Eating well is an essential part of any athlete’s diet and having played professional rugby for over 15 years, I know this more than anyone.

The physicality of rugby and the intensive training regime I go through with both England and Wasps means that I need a nutrition plan which compliments and supports such a demanding schedule.

Staying well hydrated and ensuring I consume enough carbs – on average I need to eat around 4,500 calories a day - are essential to maintain my energy levels, but getting the right amount of protein I is my number one priority. When I look down at my plate, the biggest portion of each meal should come from a protein-rich source.

James Haskell on protein

I train in order to be a better player, but for every work out I do, my body reacts and this results in fatigue and some muscle damage. And over time as I repeatedly break down muscle tissue through exercise, my body must then consume enough dietary protein in order to repair and rebuild these tissues – if I don’t, I know that my performance won’t improve. Worse than that, if you don’t focus on muscle recovery, the compromised tissue puts you at greater risk of injury.

When you ingest protein, it is broken down into amino acids. These amino acids are then absorbed to replenish the muscle. Sources of protein such as lean meats, nuts, eggs and fish are all rich in essential amino acids which stimulate muscle growth and allow your body to recover more quickly.

This is why I make sure I have a protein based meal or drink within 30 minutes of every training session. I add Meridian nut butters to my porridge oats every 

morning, as by combining these two food groups my body gets the complete protein hit that it needs before training. Post training, I usually smear Meridian nut butters on wholegrain bread as a snack, creating a rich source of natural protein, which stimulates muscle growth and helps my body recover. 

As long as I’ve had an adequate amount of protein throughout the day, but particularly immediately after exercise, I know that I’m looking after my body, giving it the right nutrition to make it stronger, faster, better.