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Power Up on Protein for Muscle Health

rebecca-teal-150x150Today’s post is the second of a series of blogs from our friend Rebecca Scritchfield MA, RD, ACSM HFS.

Twitter: @ScritchfieldRD

Disclosure from Rebecca Scritchfield MA, RD, ACSM HFS: I was compensated by Egg Nutrition Center for my time in writing this blog post.

As a personal trainer and fitness expert, you know dietary protein intake directly influences muscle mass, strength and function in people of all ages. You do what you can in your client sessions to make sure they are eating right because you know the workout is only half the equation. How do you help your clients fuel well? You need to give them accurate advice they can implement quickly.

In this blog, my goal is to make it easy for you to bring the protein message to your clients by providing tips, resources, and research evidence. This way, you can get on with your job of motivating and coaching them through their workouts.

How much protein should I be eating?


The amount of protein a person needs depends on their activity level and goals. Newer research is showing that the average healthy adult should consume 25-30 grams of high-quality protein with each meal.(1) Protein helps maintain healthy bones and muscles, so it’s especially important that physically active people are getting adequate amounts throughout the day.(2)  Keep in mind that not all proteins are built alike and be sure to stress the importance of high-quality protein to your clients. High-quality proteins are easier for the body to utilize, they help you feel full and energized, they provide all the essential amino acids our bodies need to function optimally, and they may aid in weight loss. Animal products contain high-quality proteins and when combined with plant-based proteins, there is an overall boost in protein. Some foods that contain protein are eggs, Greek yogurt, milk, meat, fish as well as others such as quinoa, tofu and hemp seeds.


For most people, breakfasts are quick and on-the-go, which can make it difficult to hit the protein target. Whole eggs, which have 6 grams of quality protein (13% of the recommended Daily Value), are a great choice for breakfast. Research shows that eating eggs for breakfast, in comparison to higher carbohydrate alternatives, such as bagels, have helped overweight dieters lose 65% more weight and reduce their BMI by 61% more than those who chose the bagel.(3) Adequate protein intake at breakfast has also been shown to increase satiety throughout the day.  If your clients don’t have a few minutes to make eggs in the morning, encourage them to take hard boiled eggs on-the-go or even make scrambled eggs the night before and reheat for a few minutes the next morning.

better-breakfast-150x150 Download the “better breakfast protein” infographic for more facts and breakfast comparisons. Feel free to share this with your clients or post it to your website.

Besides protein, emphasize balance to your clients. Carbohydrates and fats are also important nutrients to fuel our lives. These main dish recipesfrom Incredible Eggs are delicious, easy, and balanced in nutrients.

Should I be eating protein before and/or after a workout?

High-quality protein is not only important in each meal, but it’s also an essential part of fueling before and recovering from a workout. (2) Let your clients know that high-quality proteins should be incorporated into their pre-fuel and recovery meals and snacks.

I recommend whole eggs plus a source of carbohydrates. For morning workouts, eggs with an English muffin or corn tortilla will do the trick. For evening workouts, I’d suggest a burrito with eggs, beans, and veggies. These options work for both pre-fuel and recovery. Other food ideas include homemade cinnamon French toast sticks, oatmeal with Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese with fruit.

Clients always want to know “how much should I eat?” The volume of food depends on

the person’s total daily energy needs. In general, bigger portions for more active people with more muscle mass. A good “rule of thumb” is that your clients should eat their three balanced meals, pre-fuel and recovery. If they get hungry outside of those meals, they may need an additional snack, or they may need to increase the portion size of meals.

Aren’t egg whites a good source of protein?


It’s a common myth that eating just the egg white is the best way to get all of an eggs protein and none of its fat. Actually, about half of an eggs high-quality protein is found in the yolk – in fact, whole eggs offer such high-quality protein that they are the “gold standard” to which scientists compare other quality proteins. Yolks also have other nutrients like choline, Vitamin D, and antioxidants. And each one adds only 55 calories and 4.5 grams of fats, over half of which are heart-healthy unsaturated fats. Encourage your clients to eat the whole egg, including the yolk.

What about protein powders and shakes — do those provide quality protein to fuel my workouts?

I’m sure that a lot of your clients have questions about protein supplements. Whenever one of my clients wants to know about the different options available, I make it a point to educate them on the pros and cons. It’s a common curiosity among my clients if the supplements offer an “edge”. First, I always tell them that whole foods are better. Choose food first. Second, it’s important that any supplement have a specific beneficial purpose and nutrition need. Convenience is one of the big alluring factors of protein supplements. Try working with them to emphasize convenient, portable real foods that deliver protein and carbohydrates and minimize the use of protein supplements. Remind them that whole foods have additional nutritional benefits such as fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that supplements lack.

The downfall of supplements is that they are not regulated by the government for quality, purity, and safety. I always recommend choosing a producer that you can really trust – look for a company with a long history of good products and provides the nutrients in the most natural form possible. Avoid any “funny business” ingredients.


(1)  Layman D, Rodriquez N. Egg protein as a source of power, strength, and energy. Food Science. 2009; 44(1):43-48.

(2)  Layman D and Rodriquez N. Egg Protein as a source of power, strength and energy. Nutrition Today 2009; 44(1):  43-7.

(3)  Ratliff, J., Leite, J.O., de Ogburn, R., Puglisi, M.J., VanHeest, J., Fernandez, M.L. (2010) Consuming eggs for breakfast influences plasma glucose and ghrelin, while reducing energy intake during the next 24 hours in adult men. Nutrition Research, 30, 96-103.

Fueling Your Workouts with Breakfast

Today’s post is written by one of ENC’s Health Professional Advisors, Dr. Jason Karp. Dr. Karp is a nationally recognized running coach, 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and owner of He holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology. He writes for international running, coaching, and fitness magazines, is the author of five books, including Running an Marathon for Dummies, and is a frequent speaker at national fitness and coaching conferences.


Every day when I get out of bed, I’m hungry. I can’t wait to eat breakfast. Although a recent study questions the research around breakfast consumption, it is still one of the most important meals to me as a runner and as a personal trainer who trains others to run at their full potential. Clients ask me all the time, “If I exercise first thing in the morning before I eat breakfast, will I burn more fat?” While it’s true that muscles are forced to rely on fat when blood glucose is low, as it is when you first get out of bed, exercising when blood glucose is low decreases exercise intensity, resulting in less calories burned. I do recommend that my clients eat before they run in the morning, so that they can have a more productive workout.

To wrap up National Better Breakfast Month, here are my tips on what to eat to help fuel your morning workouts:

  • Eat 200 to 300 calories 1½ to 2 hours before exercise.
  • Pre-workout meal should include carbohydrates and protein, like a half bagel with peanut butter. A hard-boiled egg is a great source of easily-digestible protein.
  • If you exercise soon after getting out of bed and don’t have two hours before your workout, consume just 100 to 200 calories, like a nutrition bar, a banana, and a sports drink.
  • Limit the fat content of your breakfast. Fat takes longer to digest, so the carbohydrates and protein in your meal take longer to be absorbed into your blood, where it’s used for energy.
  • Avoid fiber. Fiber makes you go to the bathroom, which can make your workout very uncomfortable if you have no place to stop.

Importance of Protein for Post-Exercise Snacks


Today’s post is written by one of ENC’s Health Professional Advisors, Dr. Jason Karp. Dr. Karp is a nationally recognized running coach, 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and owner of He holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology. He writes for international running, coaching, and fitness magazines, is the author of five books, including 101 Winning Racing Strategies for Runners and Running for Women, and is a frequent speaker at national fitness and coaching conferences.

The most important aspect of optimal recovery from hard workouts is refueling nutrient-depleted muscles. Refueling after workouts is important for several reasons, including the replenishment of fuel stores and the repair of cellular damage.

Following a hard or long workout, protein is used to repair the cellular damage that is a normal consequence of the workout and to synthesize new protein that subsequently improves cellular function. Repeated workouts lead to a concerted accumulation of structural and functional proteins. With endurance training, this accumulation of proteins is manifested as an increase in the number of mitochondria and aerobic enzymes, which enhances your aerobic fitness. With strength training, the accumulation of proteins is manifested as an increase in the number of contractile proteins that make the muscle stronger.


Consuming 20 to 30 grams of complete protein that contain all of the essential amino acids after workouts can be an effective strategy for achieving this. Good sources of protein are eggs, tuna, milk, cheese and lean meats. Some studies have found that consuming protein and carbohydrates together also maximizes muscle glycogen storage (which is also needed for recovery), although this doesn’t seem to be the case when an adequate amount of carbohydrates is ingested. The total amount of calories consumed seems to be more important for glycogen resynthesis than the carbohydrate-protein mix. Because the body absorbs nutrients from fluids more quickly than from solid foods, one strategy is to consume protein from fluids  after first finishing a workout, then eating a meal later. Chocolate milk, which is high in protein (as well as carbohydrate), is a great post-workout recovery drink!

National Nutrition Month & the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist: a Sports RD’s Perspective

dave-ellis-150x150Today’s post comes from Dave Ellis, RD, CSCS.   Ellis is a sports dietitian, who counsels athletic programs on nutrition and teaches athletes how to eat the right foods on a sensible schedule to fuel performance, prevent muscle cramps, finish strong and recover well. He is also a member of ENC’s Health Professional Advisor panel.

Being a veteran Sports RD means being able to cut through the nonsense we see on the front lines of athletics and keep coaches and athletes grounded in reality vs. the misinformation they’re constantly being exposed to. Recently, I accepted a dinner invitation with representatives of a company that works in the sport nutrition field and, during the meal, I watched these folks spend an extraordinary amount of energy sorting through the menu trying to find something that they could order in an establishment with a very up-to-date menu.

It seems these folks suffered from a new dilemma that, for lack of a better term, could be called “food elimination attention syndrome” or “FEAS.” It’s a condition whereby eliminating select categories of food from their diet, and choosing others, they can speak of themselves more delicately, as if describing their favorite clothing designer. “Who are you wearing? What are you eating?”

At one point, I must have had my jaw hanging open as the waiter made his third attempt to take the order, because one of the FEAS victims looked at me and asked, “Don’t you eliminate anything?” My mind raced momentarily, trying to find something that I routinely eliminate from my diet. Short of not eating sushi at a gas station, I struggled to find a category of food that could make a fashion statement, and I suddenly felt as if I had just pulled up to the prom on a moped!

How could I lived 50 years and not managed to eliminate anything with a healthy dose of religious fervor? Sure I’m concerned about the food supply that low income families are exposed to and, I certainly try not to eat fried food routinely or reheat my nachos in a Styrofoam box, but that was not enough to register with anyone at this table. Choosing not to avoid soy, eggs, gluten and lactose, made me a non-starter with this crew. As I took a slug of my non-organic cabernet, it hit me: this is why credentialed Registered Dietitians are so crucial to the field of nutrition.

I run across this scenario with some regularity. Dietary assessments conducted by non-credentialed “nutritionists” might falsely identify a previously-unknown allergy or food sensitivity, requiring elimination of something that athletes love to eat and don’t really have problems with.

In fact MDs and credentialed medical professionals like RDs seem to be a favorite target for those who prescribe to the FEAS mindset. However, these are old plays from a tired, dusty playbook that leverages distrust, often to make the case for those with something to sell. Personally, this kind of  manipulation inspires me all the more to promote the value of true-to-form Sports RDs, which has been the focal point of our campaign for several years now at the Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association (

Being a Sports RD features, in no small way, the task of helping athletes separate fact from fiction. It’s all about helping the next generation of young athlete realize the importance of a healthy diet and that illegal practices, like doping are NOT the norm. We have much work to do and little time to waste if we are to protect this generation of young athletes. Rigid rules that ensure fairness and a level playing field have never been more important to all of us who work in sports, not to mention the athletes themselves.

Here’s to fighting the good fight!

Make Those Workouts Count – Post-Exercise Protein Is Important to Replenish Muscles Make Those Workouts Count – Post-Exercise Protein Is Important to Replenish Muscles

More than half-way through the first month of the year, your patients and clients are hopefully established into new healthy eating habits and exercise routines or doing well maintaining those practices. Logging more workouts is a great step toward better health, but paying closer attention to protein content of meals and post-exercise snacks could potentially enhance those efforts.


Research on the effects of diet composition during exercise indicates that dietary protein intakes up to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily may have benefits on body composition and may enhance response to resistance exercise, especially for aging adults and athletes. Several studies have shown that 25-30 grams of high-quality protein consumed at each meal may be most favorable to maintain healthy muscles and bones for adults.

Timing of protein intake around workouts can be of particular importance as well. Research has shown that consuming up to 20 grams of protein after resistance exercise can aid in optimal muscle protein synthesis. Furthermore, pairing post-exercise protein with simple carbohydrate in a ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 (carbohydrate to protein) is recommended within 30 minutes of exercise, which translates to 1.2 – 1.5 g/kg of simple carbohydrate with 0.3 – 0.5 g/kg of a high-quality protein. Post-workout snacks could include a hard-boiled egg and piece of fruit, cup of chocolate milk, or banana and 1 Tbsp. of peanut butter.

What snacks do you use or recommend to replenish muscles after a workout?


  • Evans WJ. Protein Nutrition, Exercise and Aging. J Am Coll Nutr 2004:23(6):601S–609S.
  • Paddon-Jones D, Rasmussen BB. Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2009;12:86-90.
  • Rasmussen BB, Tipton KD, Miller SL, Wolf SE, Wolfe RR: An oral essential amino acid-carbohydrate supplement enhances muscle protein anabolism after resistance exercise. J Appl Physiol 2000;88:386-392
  • Krieger JW, Sitren HS, Daniels MJ, Langkamp-Henken B: Effects of variation in protein and carbohydrate intake on body mass and composition during energy restriction: a meta-regression. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:260-274.
  • Moore DR, Robinson MJ, Fry JL, Tang JE, Glover EI, Wilkinson SB, Prior T, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Am J Clin Nutr 2009;89:161–8.
  • Kerksick C, Harvey T, Stout J, Campbell B, Wilborn C, Kreider R, Kalman D, Ziegenfuss T, Lopez H, Landis J, Ivy JL, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: Nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2008;5:17.Layman DK. Dietary Guidelines should reflect new understandings about adult protein needs. Nutr & Metab 2009;6:12.