Pro­tein for run­ners


Back i n 2016, Cana­dian Run­ning re­ported on re­sea rch f rom t he Univer­sit y of Toronto t hat found that run­ners may need more pro­tein than pre­vi­ously thought. Sure, most run­ners aren’t try­ing to pack on pounds of mus­cle, but pro­tein also sup­plies the build­ing blocks that help re­build and re­pair the mi­nor da­m­age and wearand-tear caused by reg­u­lar train­ing. By some es­ti­mates, it also sup­plies five to 10 per cent of the en­ergy burned dur­ing long runs. Us­ing a new mea­sure­ment tech­nique, the Toronto re­searchers es­ti­mated that run­ners should aim for about 1.8 grams of pro­tein per kilo­gram of body weight per day, sig­nif­i­cantly higher than the typ­i­cal rec­om­men­da­tions of 1.2 to 1. 4 g/kg for en­durance ath­letes.

The same re­searchers have tested their ideas dur­ing sim­u­lated four-day train­ing blocks, with 10 vol­un­teers run­ning 20, 5, 10, and 20 kilo­me­tres on con­sec­u­tive days. The run­ners re­peated this pro­to­col three times, eat­ing ei­ther 0.9, 1.2, or 1.8 g/kg of pro­tein. Dur­ing the high-pro­tein trial, they had a pos­i­tive “net bal­ance,” mean­ing that they were syn­the­siz­ing more new mus­cle pro­tein than was be­ing bro­ken down in their bod­ies. Dur­ing the low-pro­tein trial, it was the other way around. The run­ners also per­formed bet­ter in a 5k time trial af­ter the four-day train­ing block.

These re­sults, which were pre­sented at the acsm con­fer­ence in Min­neapo­lis last June, re­main pre­lim­i­nary. Still, they of­fer sup­port for the no­tion that pro­tein isn’t just for strength ath­letes. It’s worth not­ing that 1.8 g/ kg of pro­tein doesn’t re­quire down­ing tubs of pro­tein pow­der – in fact, it cor­re­sponds pretty closely to the av­er­age daily pro­tein i ntake i n the typ­i­cal Cana­dian diet. To get the most from the pro­tein in your diet, spread it through­out the day rather than hav­ing pro­tein-def ic ient break­fast s and lunches fol­lowed by a mas­sive hunk of meat at din­ner.

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