As runners, we know that our body requires more nutrients than the average person who doesn’t run or exercise.
Most runners focus on getting an adequate amount of carbohydrate in their diet, which is beneficial, but protein is equally important. As a runner, or endurance athlete, protein is integral to our training.
Protein is a macronutrient that we need each day as it helps in tissue repair, immune function, injury prevention, and exercise recovery.
Side Effects of Not Consuming Enough Protein
Risk of bone fracture
Loss of muscle tissue
Weakness and fatigue
Skin, nail and hair problems
Loss of muscle strength
Lack of mental focus and weak cognition
If we notice some of these symptoms, then we should build up our protein intake.
Try adding an extra serving of protein per meal, and then see how you feel afterward.
What is Protein
Protein is the building block of muscle. It consists of the amino acids that make up muscle tissue. The macronutrient is also key for repairing damaged muscle tissue.
It helps in recovery and is a key macronutrient for human survival. If we skip on protein, our body may start eating itself.
Protein can also function as a fuel source, providing about 10 percent of the energy needed to sustain endurance training, like running.
For these reasons, as a runner, we need protein and we need it more than the average person.
That’s why if we want to perform our best, protect our muscles and stay healthy, we will need to add plenty of protein-rich foods into our diet.
If we perform any type of exercise that damages muscle tissue, our body will require some amount of protein to repair and recover itself.
Running breaks down our muscle tissue. The longer and or faster we run, the more muscle damage.
When our muscles aren’t getting enough protein, this can severally limit our ability to get faster and fitter. By consuming enough protein, it will help build that muscle back so we can keep on running our best.
Long-distance runners require more protein each day than recreational runners.
Although protein does provide some of the energy burnt during exercise, it shouldn’t be considered a fuel source. We should focus on protein as a muscle builder, repairer, and re-conditioner.
It helps to prevent muscle damage and reduces the impact of cortisol, the stress hormone which is behind the breaking down of muscles.
Proper Nutrition and Fueling
Enough nutrient dense foods to help the body repair
Enough calories to support our workouts
Enough protein to prevent muscle loss
Enough fat to keep our joints healthy
Enough carbs to give us energy to burn fat
Good Sports Nutrition Plan
Should support and maintain nutrition for higher and lower activity days
Helps to find foods that are most tasty for us immediately after a run or during long runs
Ensures we are getting enough food to support our training
Looks at our total intake to balance blood sugar
Plans out fueling during the run for sodium and other electrolytes
Pays attention to how our body responds to different types and volume of food
Benefits of Good Fueling
More energy for workouts
Avoiding crashing during a race or long run
Maintaining muscle mass as the distance increases
Stabilizing mood and energy all day long
Less chance of injuries like stress fractures
Benefits of Post-Run Fueling
Fasted runners need to eat a full meal sooner to ensure recovery isn’t hampered
Managing hunger for distance runners can also be improved by not delaying that refueling
Master runners will slow recovery and risk muscle loss by not refueling quickly and smartly
Nutrients Runners Need
One thing as runners we do need is a balanced diet that can give us all the nutrients we need to recover. Our nutrition needs as an endurance athlete are different from a sedentary person.
For runners, one of the most important things is to develop healthy eating habits so that we can recover after a run and get the nutrients our body needs.
Getting the right nutrition through a proper diet will not only lead to good health, but will also promote peak performance.
And a good balanced diet for runners to get all the nutrition we need will include all the essentials, such as carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals.
But there’s more to that than just knowing what we need. Not all carbs are the same, and there are definitely things runners should avoid.
Carbohydrates As a Primary Fuel Source
Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of fuel. When we eat carbs, our body turns them into glycogen by breaking them down. Glycogen is a form of glucose.
This glycogen is then stored in our muscles, liver, and bloodstream and used as a source of energy for your body.
When we go out for a run, these glycogen reserves are converted into energy, and this contracts the working muscles.
Understandably, we will need more glycogen the more time and effort we put into our run. After a 90 to 120 minutes run or workout, our glycogen stores would have drained and will need to be replenished.
But not all carbs are made the same, there is a big difference between simple and complex carbs.
In general, runners should consume more complex carbs than simple ones.
When picking carbs, we should choose whole grains foods since they are less processed, and they retain more of the nutrition. They also contain fibre which will help us feel fuller for longer.
Protein for Recovery
Protein needs vary between runners, largely depending on training goals, intensity, and time spent training.
In most cases, if we’re eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet with plenty of quality protein sources, we are getting enough protein.
Daily Consumption of Protein For Runners/Athletes
1.3-1.7 grams minimum of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight for long-distance run training or races.
2 -2.3 maximum grams for heavy muscle building.
Protein Benefits for Runners
Improved body composition
Improved recovery between workouts
Increases feeling of fullness so we aren’t overeating from RUNGER
Helps to decrease sugar cravings
Ideas to Increase Protein:
Vega Sport protein powder
Flax, hemp, chia seeds
Nuts and nut butters (with only nuts)
Tempeh-careful if gluten is an issue
Fish (a few times a week)
Lentils, black beans, chickpeas
Gluten free oats, quinoa
Veggies of all kinds
Organic chicken, turkey (a few times a week)
Eggs and quality dairy are great protein sources- if your body can tolerate dairy
Red meat maybe twice a month, will help sustain the iron level
Consuming 25-30 g of protein per meal maximally stimulates muscle protein synthesis in both young and older individuals.
Carbohydrates should make up to 50 to 60 percent of our daily calorie intake, and fat should make up about 15 to 20 percent.
Fats as a Secondary Fuel Source
Dietary fat is another essential micronutrient that our body needs to function properly. It’s important for transporting fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K throughout our bodies.
It also helps keep the immune system strong and functioning right at the cellular level. Our body’s secondary fuel source is the body’s stored fat.
However, the body’s fat conversion process is not very efficient and it prefers keeping fat stores in reserve for emergencies and isn’t as used to fueling exercise exclusively using fat reserves.
Once we’ve used all our available carbs for energy, the body realizes it has to burn fat to fuel our runs. But it’s not normally used to it and it starts off as an inefficient process.
Over time, runners’ bodies become more effective at burning fat for fuel which is also why most runners carry little body fat.
When picking sources of dietary fat, consume healthy fats that can be found is foods such as olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocados.
LIST OF HIGH-PROTEIN FOODS
Eat Enough Protein Daily and Other Nutrients, Support Your Body and Muscles, Avoid Injuries, And Perform Great Runs!
LIST OF HIGH-PROTEIN FOODS