What Runners Need to Know about Protein
Protein is the building block of muscles, yet we gorge ourselves on pasta before a big event. Yes, we need to boost our glycogen stores, but we often forget that we also need to boost our protein intake as we train harder.
I’ve found that when I eat more protein, I recover faster and feel stronger the next time I run. This summer, I ended every run (workout, long or easy) with a power protein smoothie. It’s a great way to get a protein boost, good carbs, fluids, and other vitamins – quick.
Why You Need Protein
Your body needs protein to create new cells, manage tissues as well as build and repair muscles. Douglas Kalman, Ph.D., R.D., was quoted in Runner’s World saying, “With every footstrike, a runner carries two to seven times his or her body weight… Protein is what keeps your body healthy under all that strain.”
Without additional protein, your muscles can’t grow and repair. As your muscles break down after a tough workout, it’s protein (and other stuff of course), that rebuild them stronger for next time. Protein also helps your immune system, and even plays a role in fighting fatigue.
How Much Protein Do you Need
Ideally, you should eat protein with every meal or snack. If you’re increasing your calories to match your physical activity, you’re likely getting enough. However, too often runners fill their extra caloric needs instead with carb heavy foods like bread, pasta and cereal.
According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, endurance athletes need .45 – .72 grams of protein per body pound. A 165 pound runner needs roughly 75 – 120 grams a day. I kept track of my diet for a day, and found I was getting about 100 g, including a 20g protein shake.
Easy Ways to Get Protein
Without the ease of my morning shake, it would be tough to get enough protein. Meat is often the first thing people think of to increase their protein. While that’s easy, it’s not always best. For those who choose not to eat meat, you have to be a little more intentional about protein intake. Cheese, hard boiled eggs, nuts, and peanut butter are other forms of easy protein. Beans, grains, tofu, tempeh and seitan are some great plant strong forms as well.
A few years ago, I switched to a plant based diet. I added protein powder as a way to up my protein intake. I tried several varieties, and discovered RAW Protein from Garden of Life. Although I’m not exclusively plant based now, I continue to use it because it tastes good and is good for me.
Each serving contains 17 grams of protein, in addition to vitamins A, D, E, K and other nutrients. It also contains live probiotics and enzymes. Unlike other protein powders, it doesn’t contain fillers.
It’s also easy. There are plenty of elaborate smoothie recipes, but all you need is a shaker cup and 8 oz of juice for a quick post run refueling treat that will give you a boost of fantastic protein.