Eating protein helps to keep our energy levels up, lower our cravings, build up muscles and burn more fat. Protein is a very common nutrient that runners don’t get enough of. Ultra-runners or endurance athletes have to make sure they consume enough protein per meal and per day to look after their body, energy, and muscles. Especially with the more popular vegan diets, runners need to make sure they include enough protein in each meal according to their training intensity, gender and bodyweight. Eating enough protein in a runner’s diet plays an important role; it helps rebuild muscles after a hard or long training session, it also builds and maintains muscle mass, which helps boost performance levels. Protein intake varies depending on the intensity and distance of your runs, but for runners and athletes it is important to consume protein based on your bodyweight not the recommended daily percentage. If your diet is not well-balanced and you lack some protein, you will feel some side effects that will affect your performance, energy and well-being.
Signs of lack of protein:
Loss of muscle tissue
Lack of clear cognitive thought process
Fatigue and that feeling of “laziness”
Brittle nails, dry hair and skin
Recommended protein intake:
Light Exercise (30-60 mins per day)- Female 1.0g- Male 1.2g/ kg of body weight Moderate Exercise (1-2 hours per day)- Female 1.21g- Male 1.65g/kg of body weight Heavy or Long-Distance Training (more than 2 hours per day) Female 1.75g- Male 1.98g/kg of body weight.
How to consume the right amount of protein per meal
Regular diet: Include some fresh fish (salmon, tuna), seafood, lean meat (chicken, grass-fed beef), nuts and seeds. For vegetarian diets include beans, lentils, tempeh, tofu, nuts, seeds.
Every meal: Try to add some protein in every meal, including breakfast. You can add some plant-based or whey protein in your breakfast smoothie, oats, yogurt. Have some eggs with veggies. For lunch or dinner, eat some beans, fish or meat. For mid-day snacks enjoy a handful of nuts and fruits or nut butter and fruits, Greek yoghurt and fruits. Adding some healthy fats in your meal (avocado, olive oil, nuts or seeds) helps the body absorb and process nutrients, especially protein. That’s why focusing on a balanced meal that includes lots of vegetables, protein, some healthy grains and a bit of healthy fat will help refuel your body with all the essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. The golden rule for a healthy diet is to make sure you have a 3-hour window between eating if you include some snacks. To give your body a break from eating, helps to set the key hormones, Ghrelin and Leptin. Also avoid processed foods and sugar, this affects the HGH and testosterone production, which helps regulate hormones, recovery and protein synthesis. You increase your risk of muscle loss by consuming higher levels of sugary foods. Muscle loss and hormone imbalance will affect a runner’s and athlete’s performance, and risk of injury.
Train Hard, Eat Right, Feel Great!