Dietary Protein Intake and Distribution Patterns of Well-Trained Dutch Athletes

Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2017 Apr;27(2):105-114. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.2016-0154. Epub 2016 Oct 6.


Dietary protein intake should be optimized in all athletes to ensure proper recovery and enhance the skeletal muscle adaptive response to exercise training. In addition to total protein intake, the use of specific proteincontaining food sources and the distribution of protein throughout the day are relevant for optimizing protein intake in athletes. In the present study, we examined the daily intake and distribution of various proteincontaining food sources in a large cohort of strength, endurance and team-sport athletes. Well-trained male (n=327) and female (n=226) athletes completed multiple web-based 24-hr dietary recalls over a 2-4 wk period. Total energy intake, the contribution of animal- and plant-based proteins to daily protein intake, and protein intake at six eating moments were determined. Daily protein intake averaged 108±33 and 90±24 g in men and women, respectively, which corresponded to relative intakes of 1.5±0.4 and 1.4±0.4 g/kg. Dietary protein intake was correlated with total energy intake in strength (r=0.71, p <.001), endurance (r=0.79, p <.001) and team-sport (r=0.77, p <.001) athletes. Animal and plant-based sources of protein intake was 57% and 43%, respectively. The distribution of protein intake was 19% (19±8 g) at breakfast, 24% (25±13 g) at lunch and 38% (38±15 g) at dinner. Protein intake was below the recommended 20 g for 58% of athletes at breakfast, 36% at lunch and 8% at dinner. In summary, this survey of athletes revealed they habitually consume > 1.2 g protein/kg/d, but the distribution throughout the day may be suboptimal to maximize the skeletal muscle adaptive response to training.

Keywords: exercise training; plant-based proteins; protein distribution.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletes*
  • Athletic Performance*
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Exercise*
  • Feeding Behavior* / ethnology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Milk Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Muscle Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Muscle Strength
  • Netherlands
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Physical Endurance
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Plant Proteins, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Sports Nutritional Physiological Phenomena* / ethnology
  • Young Adult


  • Dietary Proteins
  • Milk Proteins
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Plant Proteins, Dietary