If you’re heading out to compete in a big race or log some serious miles recreationally. You might see other fellow running counterparts inhaling some big bowls of spaghetti or other carb-heavy meals. For a long time, we’ve been taught to think that carbohydrates are the master when it comes to energy levels, and they’re not completely wrong. However, there are two other macronutrients that are needed in the diet, and those are fat and protein the latter of which is crucial for runners.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
Based on guidelines from the USDA, the recommended daily amount of protein needed per day is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. Keep in mind that this recommendation is not for athletes; active people, especially endurance athletes, are needing upwards of 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For example, if an athlete is 165 pounds, then they are needing close to 120 grams of protein in their diet every day.
This protein can come from both animal and plant sources and can include food items such as poultry, beef, seafood, eggs, dairy products, nuts, beans, whole grains, and even some fruits and veggies like broccoli and artichokes.
Is Protein Good for Runners?
In one word – absolutely. Carbs are necessary to fuel you in the long run, but the protein will help to boost muscle recovery once you’ve stopped. Protein is also helpful in reducing the side effects of a stress hormone within the body that breaks down muscle, as well as aiding with increasing glycogen stores within the body, necessary for getting your muscles enough fuel for the next long run. And seeing as how runners have up to seven times his/her body weight on each strike of the foot while running, having a speedy recovery is crucial. Protein helps in rebuilding and repairing those muscles that were worked during your run, which in the long run, will help prevent injury and boost health.
You can choose to eat your protein, or you can consume it in a shake as well, with the use of protein powders. This might be a more convenient route to take, pending that you find the proper protein powder. The most popular ones today include whey protein, casein, soy protein, and egg protein, just to name a few. These shakes are a quick and easy way to help aid in hitting your protein targets each day, but shouldn’t be the sole way of obtaining your protein.
Should I Drink Protein Before or After Running?
There is much debate about whether you should have your protein before or after your run – and the overall consensus is that there has been no research suggesting one is better than the other, so you can choose which time is best for you! One particular study noted that after a span of ten weeks, there were no noticeable differences in muscle strength of participants, regardless if they had their protein before their workout vs. after their workout. All in all, protein intake each day is more important than the actual timing of your protein. With that being said, if it makes your stomach upset or hinders your performance if taking your protein before your run, then there is no harm in refueling after your run is completed.
The Bottom Line
All three macronutrients are important for a well-rounded diet as well as muscle growth and recovery, but don’t think that you need to load up on a ton of carbs while forgetting your protein! Between muscle repair and aiding in the recovery process, getting in enough protein throughout your day will not only have you on the path to meeting your goals but keeping you safe from injury as well!