Protein

protein-powder

Runners share some common goals. We want to train as hard as possible in order to see the most adaptation but it is important to remain healthy and injury-free. We also want to perform our best on race day. Nutrition and diet can help us reach these goals. Although we may have goals in common, we have unique bodies and individual dietary needs.

WHAT is protein? Protein is one of the three macronutrients (along with fat and carbohydrates). If amino acids are the building blocks of protein, then proteins are the building blocks for our muscles. Because we can’t store amino acids, our bodies need to either make them from scratch or modify others. The amino acids our bodies can’t make are referred to as the essential amino acids (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine) and these must be eaten daily.

WHY do we need it? Most athletes know that protein aids recovery. Protein is also needed for regulation, blood clotting, fluid balance, hormone and enzyme production, and cell repair. Runners need a greater amount because the act of running breaks down muscle proteins and damages muscle fibers.

HOW much protein do we need? This is a heavily debated topic. I read a recent article Dietary Protein for Athletes that answered many of my questions.

WHY do we need it? Most athletes know that protein aids recovery. Protein is also needed for regulation, blood clotting, fluid balance, hormone and enzyme production, and cell repair. Runners need a greater amount because the act of running breaks down muscle proteins and damages muscle fibers.

HOW much protein do we need? Some people find it helpful to aim for a percentage of calories consumed, I prefer to calculate my needs. These needs fluctuate depending on where I am in my training cycle and mileage. First, convert weight in pounds to kg (divide by 2.2).  Then, I multiply my weight in kg by the following: 1.2 kg (easy or recovery days, light training), 1.4 kg (harder effort or increased mileage days), and 1.7 kg if I am feeling fatigued or have lingering soreness.

EXAMPLE: I weigh 108 lbs. During light training periods, I aim for about 58.8 g of protein per day (49 kg x 1.2).  During heavier periods of training, I increase my protein to 68.6 g (49 x 1.4). Got it?

WHEN should we consume protein? I try to have protein at every meal because it is difficult for me to hit these numbers.  For breakfast, I focus on consuming carbohydrates in order to fuel my body for a run and because our livers are glycogen depleted in the morning. Immediately following a workout, I consume a protein drink.  For lunch, I aim to have a balanced meal.  Our bodies do much of the muscle repair at night while we sleep so it makes sense to have a protein focused meal for dinner.

HOW can we consume enough protein?  I will admit it. I have four kids and I don’t have time to eat perfectly AND I enjoy sweet things.  My diet has improved greatly, but there is always room for improvement.  In the photo, I have four of my favorite protein sources (the other being sockeye salmon!). Fairlife milk is an incredible product. Each cup has 13 g of protein.  It is also has calcium, which I believe runners often overlook this.  Another great source of calcium and protein is Greek Yogurt. This brand has 18 g of protein per 1 cup (although I typically eat ½ cup in a serving).  My favorite protein powder, EAS Vanilla, has 13 g per scoop.  After a long run or hard effort, I often mix the protein powder with the milk and consume about 1/3 of my protein needs for the day.  Another easy source of protein is tuna.  I always have this in my pantry. It is an inexpensive protein source, and it has a long shelf life. 4 oz of Albacore Tuna contains 24 g of protein.

I hope this helps!

Published by fastmaster262

A nationally ranked master marathoner focusing on a holistic approach to training and coaching. Marathon PR 2:53:13 in 2018.

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