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Deb on Protein needs for athletic performance :
All john west Tuna is farmed in Thailand. What cra... »
Sarah on Protein needs for athletic performance :
My husband loves canned fish but we've vetoed it due to... »
Toni on Protein needs for athletic performance :
Hello,I recently read the backs of all the Tuna cans at... »

Protein needs for athletic performance

By: Judy Davie - The Food Coach

Protein is in and carbs are out. That's not true of course but there are people who will tell you otherwise, especially those who drink litres of pea and whey protein drinks and spend every waking moment at the gym.

I thought this week that it would be worth clearing up a thing or two on the subject because there is some truth that athletes and body builders DO need more protein. It is also true that protein in a meal helps with satiety (the feeling of having eaten enough). How much protein you need does however depend on your level of activity and body size.

We asked Accredited Sports Dietician and Nutrition Consultant from the Victorian Institute of Sport, Kylie Andrew who is working with John West about how much protein we need, and having just disclosed my source it will come as no surprise that compared to pea and whey protein drinks and other plant proteins, sustainably sourced canned tuna is considered to be a great quality protein!

The best sources of protein are animal foods, like fish and seafood (including canned tuna & salmon), lean meats, poultry, eggs and dairy products. Plant foods like soy products, legumes, nuts, breads and cereals also provide protein, but not as high quality. These foods, all good sources of protein, could more accurately be called "protein rich foods" because they contain good amounts of protein but they are not constituted entirely of protein.

The table below is a guide to how much protein is found in a 100g serve of these protein rich foods.

Food ( per 100 g) Grams of protein
Canned Tuna (drained) 25
Canned Salmon (drained) 22
Grilled steak (lean) 27
Chicken breast 28
Eggs 13
Greek yoghurt 6
Low fat milk 5
Soy beans 14
Almonds 20
Healthybake spelt and rye bread12

How much protein do I need?

As a general guide, the protein requirements for athletes are higher than the average person. The average person needs around 0.8g per kg body weight while an athlete requires one and a half times what an average person has (1.2 - 1.8g per kg body weight), especially when they are trying to build muscle. The exact amount varies and depends on several factors but may be up to 150g per day.

Why do we need protein?

Protein is required for muscle growth and repair, as well as being used as an energy source.

When should we eat it?

Protein consumption should be spread throughout the day (I.e. With each meal and snack) to encourage muscle repair / recovery and hypertrophy gains, rather than large amounts being eaten in one meal only. There are also benefits to having protein after training (particular strength based training).
A combination of sufficient carbohydrates and a small amount of protein (I.e. 15-20 g) following training sessions enhance muscle recovery and assists with refuelling glycogen stores. A 100g can of tuna has 20g of protein which is the perfect amount to have in a meal or as a snack. Protein is best distributed evenly across the day for athletes.

What about those protein bars and drinks?

A well balanced, carefully tailored dietary plan should provide adequate dietary protein to meet an athlete's requirements without extra protein powders and supplements.

Much better with a small can of sustainable tuna!

A note on MSC and canned tuna (and an explanation for my blatant endorsement of one particular brand of tuna?

MSC is an international not-for-profit organisation set up to ascertain sustainability within the seafood industry. MSC runs the only certification and ecolabelling program for wild-capture fisheries, consistent with the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization Guidelines for the Eco-labelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries. These guidelines are based upon the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing and require that credible fishery certification and ecolabelling schemes include:

  • 1.Objective, third-party fishery assessment utilising scientific evidence

  • 2. Transparent processes with built-in stakeholder consultation and objection procedures

  • 3. Standards based on the sustainability of target species, ecosystems and management practices.

    MSC's vision is that seafood supplies are safeguarded for this and future generations. MSC aims to realise its vision by recognising and rewarding sustainable fishing practices, influencing the choices people make when buying seafood and working with its partners to transform the seafood market.

    MSC's standard for sustainable fishing is based on three core principles:
  • 1. Healthy populations of target stock;
  • 2. Reduced impact on the marine ecosystem (including bycatch and habitat impact)
  • 3. The effective management processes of the fishery

    More specifically, John West Australia recently announced that their canned tuna range is MSC certified, making it the most sustainable variety of tuna available in Australia. MSC certification means that you are eating a seafood product from a fishery where the environmental impacts are managed to ensure that the activity does not threaten the long-term survival of any species, including birds and marine mammals.


    Mar 31 2016 1:51PM
    Hello,I recently read the backs of all the Tuna cans at my local Coles Supermarket looking for an Australian product. I was surprised to say the least that they were all 'Made in Thailand'from the cheapest to most expensive. Your thoughts on this would be good. Thanks
    Comment by: Toni
    Mar 31 2016 4:39PM
    My husband loves canned fish but we've vetoed it due to worries about heavy metals. What is you opinion on the levels of heavy metals in canned fish? Also what do you think of canned fish vs fresh fish- is fresh fish going to give you benefits that canned won't?
    Comment by: Sarah
    Apr 2 2016 2:08AM
    All john west Tuna is farmed in Thailand.
    What crap do they feed farmed fish- isn't it just scrap offal and meat certainly not what they would eat in the wild. Are they given Antibiotics to increase rate of growth and prevent infection
    Comment by: Deb
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