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Protein Requirements for College Swimmers


Hi all,

One of my sons is a swimmer at a university. His coach is telling him he only needs 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. I?ve been telling him it?s more like 1 to 1.5 grams and probably more for elite athletes.

It?s a good program, very competitive, and I do respect the coach. He?s done rather well for years. However, his recommendations on this seem old and out of date.

My son weighs 190 lbs. His coach is telling him to take no more than ½ scoop of protein powder per day. I was telling him to take 2 to 4 scoops at various times during the day (spread it out).

What do you all think? Does anyone know any links to formal studies that show protein requirements? I'd like to send them to the coach. That seems better than just telling him he's wrong. Or maybe I'm wrong. Any suggestions are welcomed.

Thanks in advance for your help.



Check out stuff by the ISSN (International Sports Nutrition Society). They reccomend 1.6-2.0 g/kg of body weight.

Honestly though, just tell him to eat his face off. The only point of diminishing returns for athletes I would imagine would be over 2.5g/kg. More protein will NOT kill him.


Thanks for the reply dreads989. I will check it out.

The good news is that eating is not a problem with him. He told me that he's eating 3 dinners a night. Each time with a different set of friends. His workouts (swim plus weights) average well over 20+ hours a week. He's never worried about weight. When he lived at home he'd eat twice what I did and 3 times what his non-swimmer friends did.

As for the protein intake, I agree with the recommendation. And I also think the only downside of getting too much protein is possibly a little gas and some wasted money.

EDIT: I meant to write that I felt that 1.6 to 2.0 grams per pound was about right for athletes. I just re-read your post. ISSN recommends 1.6 to 2.0 grams per kg. He's 190 lbs (or 86 kg). ISSN then would recommend somewhere between 136 to 172 grams. That seems low but I don't really know.

Take care,


i'm a swimmer @ the Division 1 level too. I eat a ton (5,000-7,000cal per day). WAY more than .5g per pound of bodyweight. Probably closer to 1.5g per pound on average.

When you're eating that many calories per day, you've got to take in greater than .5g per pound of bodyweight. Even a swimmer can't live on bread & pasta alone. A full scoop of protein powder after his lifting sessions would be advisable.


Thanks for responding mikepop878.

I'm going to pass along your response when I talk with him next. I recommended he take a full scoop before and a full scoop after his lifting sessions. Thanks again for your input. I appreciate it.



Here's my quick take, without any studies.

If he's getting only .5g/lb, thats 90g of protein = 360cals per day from protein.

say, hypothetically he gets 40g fat per day, that's another 360 cals.

Now, if he's only getting 90g protein and assuming not a lot of fat, he'd have to ingest a HUGE amount of carbs in order to ingest the thousands of calories that competitive swimmers require, to the point that it comprises probably around 85% of his diet. This seems to me to be totally out of whack.

I put some hypothetical numbers down and I got this: 90g protein, 40g fat, 500g carbs. That's only 2720 cals a day.

If he's swimming 20+ hours a week i'm sure he needs MUCH MORE per day.

By grossly limiting one macro, you have to make up for it with the others. And i'm just guessing he isn't getting a ton of fat; therefore he'd have to ingest a ridiculous amount of carbs each day.


his coach is only telling him to eat less protein because he prob doesnt want your son to gain muscle, more muscle does not equal better swimmers


"more muscle does not equal better swimmers"

Why then do swimmers at the highest level of competition lift 2 to 3 times per week during the season & 3 to 5 times per week in the off-season? I doubt that there is a single Div. I or Olympic team that does not lift regularly.

Maybe "more muscle does not equal better swimmers" could be applied to long distance swimmers, but the top 50/100/200 swimmers are all muscularly well developed.


I've been friends with two swimmers for years now, one was top in about 4 events in his division and placed in the top 3 at NCAA championships his Sr. year.

they both ate a TON.

the one who won all the metals lifted weights 5x a week all season long. he was very strong and that (he tells me) gave him an edge.

they both had shitty diets; but still ate a lot.


Hi all,

Thanks for the insights everyone. I really appreciate your thoughts.

He came home for Christmas break. Only gets 7 days off due to swim practice. He's put on considerable weight. I think he was about 175 lbs in Sept, he's now 190 lbs. He never really lifted weights until college. So that's 3 months of 3 times a week in the gym that he didn't have before. I think a lot of that added weight is not muscle but he's looking good.

The good news is that he passed his classes. :slight_smile: His major is Electrical Engineering. He's a freshman and I know things will change during the next four years for him. My advice to him is that he's in school to get an education. If he can do that and swim then that's really good. I look at swimming as an experience while I look at his education as an investment in his future.

Take care,


What kind of build does the coach have? case closed.