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High Nutrition Diet and Its Harm to Athletes


Sports nutritional supplements are essential in augmenting the energy reserves of sportspeople. However, research on the purpose of these foods, particularly a high nutrition diet, is non-conclusive. This study employs a systematic literature review to assess the role and harm of a high protein diet among athletes. The research incorporates recent, peer-reviewed, and relevant articles for analysis. The literature review supports the importance of high protein diets in enhancing energy and bone component that are vital for intensive physical exercise. However, more analysis is required to personalize dietary advice for athletes, sportspeople, and lifestyle customers about high-protein supplement intake, given the nuanced interactions within protein digestion and absorption. The current review will offer a detailed appraisal of the empirical evidence surrounding diet and physical exercise for valid recommendations. Sports enthusiasts must consider the vector criteria of protein consumption and customized protein nutrition for better health outcomes of athletes.

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Protein is an important element of human nutrition. The constituents, amino acids of animal protein, are processed to create body tissues; hence, protein intake has a strong effect on muscle mass accretion (Campbell et al., 2018). Recent research has progressively clarified that protein needs exceed the prescribed dietary intake of 0.8 g/kg per day. These increased protein requirements can be linked to fitness-induced mitochondrial function, protein production, and immune and endocrine processes.

The existing body of research recommends dietary protein requirements 1.5- to 2.0-fold greater than the recommended dietary amount of 0.8 g/kg/d for people who exercise daily (Antonio, 2019). These increased dietary protein needs and suggestions are for people engaging in regular exercise for over three months. Research on dietary requirements for exercise dates back to Gontzea et al., who demonstrated an improved protein demand dependent on a negative change in whole-body nitrogen equilibrium in subjects beginning an exercise training regimen and consuming a steady protein diet of 1.0 g/kg/d (Gontzea et al., as cited in Antonio et al., 2020). As such, the primary emphasis of this study will be to assess the effect of a high nutrition diet on athletes.

High-protein intakes may aid in body fat loss in various ways, including increased resting and sleeping, increased activity-related energy consumption, increased non-exercise movement thermogenesis, and a stronger thermic impact of feeding compared to other carbohydrates. Moreover, protein ingestion rapidly increases muscle protein production after exercise, which contributes to higher muscle protein accumulation over time. However, caution is necessary when interpreting these ‘snap-shot’ results to whole-body adjustments (Antonio et al., 2020). Furthermore, although these acute feeding trials are intensively monitored to improve validity, the generalization of these experiments in free-living people eating mixed meals several times a day could be restricted. An extensive literature assessment on empirical researches will offer insight into the effects of such dietary practices on the physical activity of athletes.

Literature Review

Conceptualization of High Diet Intake

Athletes can eat protein in quantities well above the prescribed daily amounts for a variety of purposes. Protein, for example, is required to increase the muscle protein synthetic reaction, facilitate muscle tissue repair and regeneration, and improve body structure. However, appropriate protein dosage per day is a hotly debated subject, particularly among nutrition and physical exercise experts. Numerous articles in the scientific literature purport to investigate the results of “high” protein consumption while, in reality, these diets are very poor in protein. Researchers often make a mistake by defining “high” protein diets based on the number of calories it contains (Antonio et al., 2018). “High” diets will be classified as more than 2.2 g/kg/d in this analysis. A “low” intake is classified as 1.5 g/kg/d, while a “medium” intake is between these two values.

High-protein Researches (2.2 g/kg/d)

Research on the impact of high protein diets on exercise has recently gained increasing attention from both nutrition and physical exercise experts. For instance, Antonio et al. (2020) conducted a narrative review on high protein diet intake above the recommended amounts in comparison to body composition and regular exercise. The findings illustrate that a high-protein intake increased fat loss and muscle accumulation, making it beneficial for the bones when integrated with physical exercise. Indeed, high protein intake can benefit muscle performance and muscle mass. The reason is that protein contains about 30 to 50 percent of bone volume and mass hence vital for bone strengths and accretion over time (Antonio et al., 2020). In particular, protein contributes to muscle mass, growth hormones, and factors, as well as calcium kinetics. Thus, increased protein intake augments calcium excretion because of enhanced intestinal calcium absorption with no adverse impact on calcium homeostasis.

Increased calcium absorption will potentially inhibit parathyroid hormone production, raising blood calcium amounts and favoring net bone accumulation by minimizing bone resorption. Moreover, enhancing amino acid absorption boosts collagen production and osteocalcin secretion, resulting in improved osteoblast polarity. In relation to calcium catalysis, protein enhances the production of incretin hormones that have an androgenic impact on bone density and microarchitecture and enhances insulin-like growth element 1, a growth element implicated in bone development in strength (Antonio et al., 2020). Moreover, research confirms that dietary protein consumption improves the levels of muscle growth, which may result in greater muscle accumulation over time. Higher muscle mass can exert more mechanical pressure on the bone at tendon adhesion sites, resulting in total bone accretion with time.

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The blurred evidence for the recommendation on high protein diets among female physique athletes has necessitated research for this purpose. For instance, Campbell et al. (2018) examine the impact of higher versus lower protein consumption among female athletes. The study incorporated 17 females of ages 21.2 ± 2.1, weighing 61 ± 6.1 kgs, and 165.1 ± 5.1 cm in height. The study subjects were randomly allotted a high protein diet for the test group and a low protein diet to the control group. The two study groups were examined for maximal strength and body composition before and after an eight-week protein intake period accompanied by exercise intervention. The findings illustrated no distinctions in strengths enhancement between the study subjects, although the maximal strength increased significantly in the two teams (Campbell et al., 2018). The findings confirmed the importance of a higher protein diet for prospective female physique athletes to increase fat-free mass in combination with resistance training. The findings match those of Antonio et al. (2020), who also confirms the importance of high protein intake on enhancing bone composition and strength.

Protein supplementation is essential in recovery and performance for athletes during endurance and resistance training. To confirm this hypothesis, Contineo et al. (2018) conducted a systematic review to assess the role of high protein intake on athletes’ physical training. The authors conjectured that over time, cumulative daily calorie and protein consumption perform the most important nutritional roles in promoting fitness adaptations. In a review, the authors found out that once these aspects are considered, it indicates that peri-exercise protein consumption, especially in the post-training phase, can play a particularly important role in improving athletic performance and promoting positive corresponding recovery processes for both intensity and resistance activity (Contineo et al. 2018). Training status, such as beginner vs. intermediate, or casual vs. elite athlete, period of training, amount of training hours a day, and quantity of competitive activities per day, are all factors that influence the effectiveness of pre- or post-workout nutrition—consuming protein after an exercise offers an incentive to feed; which, in essence, leads to one’s overall daily protein and energy consumption. Moreover, amid recent recommendations that one may not “need” to eat protein within 1 hour or less after the training time period, it should be stressed that eating nothing after exercise can even be detrimental to a person’s health. Thus, based on success and healing outcomes in the reviewed articles, the authors suggest a high protein diet after training to enhance muscle mass and body adaptation. The findings match those of the previous reviews of Antonio et al. (2020) and Campbell et al. (2018) that support a protein diet for athletes.

A high protein diet facilitates weight loss among superior athletes because of its role in body composition. In recent research, Hector and Philips (2018) investigated the role of a high protein diet among elite athletes. The authors employed scientific evidence to back protein recommendations for improved performance and enhanced weight loss among athletes. The findings supported their hypothesis on the function of high protein on performance and weight loss among sportspersons. Indeed, during exercise sessions, professional athletes routinely expend a large amount of energy. Weight reduction among professional athletes is usually accomplished by introducing a calorie deficiency that consists of nutritional calorie deprivation combined with exercise. Elite athletes observe a calorie-restricted diet to lose body fat, which can be beneficial in numerous activities, including physical and weight control exercise, to increase energy ratios and cumulative athletic efficiency. However, the calorie restriction can lead to a decrease in lean body composition, accounting for up to 25% of overall weight loss. Muscle tissue, which accounts for a large portion of lean body mass, is vital for better metabolic activity, and for professional athletes, muscle tissue is essential for mobility and athletic success. As a result, techniques to encourage high-quality fat loss, including weight loss while retaining lean body mass, are essential for professional athletes to minimize the detrimental effects of skeletal, muscular loss, and success that can follow caloric restriction.

More researchers have further investigated the function of protein for sportspeople. Recently, Kårlund et al. (2019) investigated the role of protein supplementation in nutrition, health, and microbiota structure. The authors employed a literature review methodology, whose findings confirm the importance of protein among sportspeople. Sports nutritional supplements are designed and marketed primarily to athletes to enhance nutritional absorption, efficiency, and muscle development. Recreational athletes and lifestyle consumers are the fastest rising customer segments for these food supplements. While athletes’ physical protein needs may be higher, and they may gain from such food additives, the research on the function of protein intake and supplements among recreational athletes and sedentary communities is nuanced and inconsistent Kårlund et al. (2019). As opposed to medium or low-protein foods, more indigestible protein-derived metabolites end up as waste, resulting in more microbial amino acid holometabolism in the colon, which has both beneficial and harmful physiological and metabolic impacts on the host.


To assess the research question and hypothesis, this study will employ a systematic literature review methodology. A detailed review is more suitable because of the nature of this study and available time. For instance, an empirical study may require rigorous procedures such as study subjects taking a high protein diet for some time to record valid results. However, the duration and resources of the current study may not be sufficient for that design. In comparison, a systematic literature review builds on already conducted empirical researches and compares them with each other to arrive at a supported conclusion.

Selection Criteria and Key Words

The research will use recently peer-reviewed articles published within the last five years (2017 to 2021). The articles must also be within the study topic; high diet and athletic ability. Equally, only researches published in academic databases will be included in the study. The search keywords will include “high diet and athletes,” “high protein intake,” and “lean body mass.” The phrases as selected to enhance recovery of the most relevant article for analysis.


Proper nutrition is essential to enhance muscle recovery and the efficiency of physical exercise. The reason is that physical exertion on bodyweight requires more energy. Proteins are the main sources of energy, and research confirms their purpose in augmenting skeletal muscle and bone mass composition, which are vital elements in physical exercise. Insufficient energy may have negative impacts on the health of a sports person. Thus, this study is avital in augmenting literature in this area to enhance physical exercise efficiency.

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Collectively, athletes could have increased physiological protein needs to sustain sufficient protein metabolism and energy supply and optimal immune function and digestive integrity under the multi-stress pressures of goal-directed, regular, intense, and/or sustained workout routines. Protein requirements escalate as the length and extent of an athletic activity increases; thus, protein must be included in diets prior to and after the specific workout. Equally, protein supplementation is also vital on a regular basis during the day to ensure an adequate supply of necessary, or imperative, amino acids. Various foods and nutrients have been produced to fulfill these basic dietary needs. The literature above avers protein supplements seem to have a beneficial effect on bone retention and regional bone nutrient in certain athletes.


Antonio, J. (2019). High-protein diets in trained individuals. Research in Sports Medicine, 27(2), 195-203. Web.

Antonio, J., Candow, D. G., Forbes, S. C., Ormsbee, M. J., Saracino, P. G., & Roberts, J. (2020). Effects of dietary protein on body composition in exercising individuals. Nutrients, 12(6), 1890. Web.

Antonio, J., Ellerbroek, A., Evans, C., Silver, T., & Peacock, C. (2018). High protein consumption in trained women: Bad to the bone? Journal of The International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15(1). Web.

Campbell, B. I., Aguilar, D., Conlin, L., Vargas, A., Schoenfeld, B. J., Corson, A.,… & Couvillion, K. (2018). Effects of high versus low protein intake on body composition and maximal strength in aspiring female physique athletes engaging in an 8-week resistance training program. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 28(6), 580-585. Web.

Hector, A. J., & Phillips, S. M. (2018). Protein recommendations for weight loss in elite athletes: A focus on body composition and performance. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 28(2), 170-177. Web.

Kårlund, A., Gómez-Gallego, C., Turpeinen, A. M., Palo-Oja, O. M., El-Nezami, H., & Kolehmainen, M. (2019). Protein supplements and their relation with nutrition, microbiota composition and health: Is more protein always better for sportspeople?. Nutrients, 11(4), 829. Web.

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