Protein for Runners

Protein for Runners

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Often we are hearing in the media that we should be on ‘high protein, low carbohydrate’ diets, and whilst we have learnt before about the importance of including carbohydrates in your training/event schedule (find this here and here), we are yet to discuss protein.

So, how much protein do I actually need?
According to the AIS , recreational athletes requirements are actually the same as sedentary men and women, 0.8-1g/kg /day. Moderate intensity endurance athletes need 1.2g/kg/day, whilst elite athletes need 1.6g /kg /day.
So what does this mean in terms of food? Check out the table below, each of these options provides 10g of protein:

Animal Foods Plant Foods
2 small eggs
30 g (1.5 slices) reduced fat cheese
70 g cottage cheese
1 cup (250 ml) low-fat milk
35 g lean beef, lamb or pork (cooked weight)
40 g lean chicken (cooked weight)
50 g grilled fish
50 g canned tuna or salmon
200 g reduced fat yoghurt
150 g light fromage frais
4 slices (120 g) wholemeal bread
3 cups (90 g) wholegrain cereal
2 cups (330 g) cooked pasta
3 cups (400 g) cooked rice
3/4 cup (150 g) lentils or kidney beans
200 g baked beans
120 g tofu
60 g nuts or seeds
300 ml soy milk
100 g soy meat

(thanks to the AIS for this)

As you can see, it is actually incredibly easy for you to meet your protein requirements for the day, without adding in any protein supplements or shakes.

Thanks to Free Digital Photos for the picture Thanks to Free Digital Photos for the picture

But what about recovery?
Protein requirements for recovery should be aimed towards 0.2g/kg/hr for 2-4hrs after your workout. Alternatively, aiming for a maximum of 20g, minimum of 10g after your work out is also sufficient. It will depend on your own specific dietary goals which you choose to aim for (ie if you are trying to lose/gain/maintain weight) what you should ideally be aiming for.
Current research shows that consuming a combination of protein and carbohydrate assists with replenishing glycogen stores and assists with protein resynthesis more effectively than having just carbohydrate alone. Furthermore, when consumed together, you don’t need as much carbohydrate for recovery either (if no protein, need 1.2g/kg rather than 0.8g/kg).

Best choices for recovery?
Choose something that’s easily digestible, and preferably from an animal source, as the protein is more highly bioavailable this way. Low fat chocolate milk, Up and Go, eggs or salmon on toast are all great options, which supply readily available protein and carbohydrate to assist your recovery.

What’s your favourite post work out meal? How do you make sure you’re getting enough protein?

Chloe McLeod is a dietitian at BJC Health.
This blog focuses on diet & nutrition generally and diet & nutrition in relation to the treatment of arthritis and arthritis-related diseases. Contact us if you'd like our help in managing diet-related health issues.

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