PROTEIN FOR RECOVERY
HOW IMPORTANT IS PROTEIN FOR RUNNERS?
It’s essential. Recovering effectively between runs and after races is as important as the exercise itself, something runners often forget. Rest and recovery ensure your body gets the maximum rewards for your hard work – and protein is the key macronutrient in this process. ‘ Every type of running causes microtears in your muscles,’ says Easton. ‘ The higher the intensity, the more damage is likely.’ Protein helps repair your muscles, knitting together damaged fibres to make them stronger. It also plays a key role in building mitochondria, which act like furnaces inside muscle cells. The harder you train, the more mitochondria you need in order to burn fuel efficiently. What’s more, high protein intake has been shown to help maintain a strong immune system.
WHAT’S A GOOD POSTWORKOUT PROTEIN PLAN?
The 30 minutes after exercise are crucial for accelerating recovery – during this ‘golden window’ your body is more receptive to nutrients to begin the rebuilding process. A 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein is optimum for post-workout recovery, as the protein increases your body’s ability to store and use the carbs. Research published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found this blend promoted recovery and performance in subsequent sessions. Post-workout protein comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, including shakes, powders, water, gels and good old chocolate milk.
IN GENERAL, HOW MUCH PROTEIN DO I NEED?
Runners need a lot more protein than sedentary people do. The International Society of Sports Nutrition says endurance athletes such as runners need 1.0 to 1.6 grams per kilogram a day (or 0.45 to 0.72 grams per pound). That translates to 64-102 grams of protein daily for a 10-stone runner.
AT WHAT OTHER TIMES SHOULD I EAT PROTEIN?
Research shows spreading your intake throughout the day is the best way to match your body’s needs. After the golden window has slammed shut, having a healthy main meal containing at least 20g of protein, along with carbs, within the few hours that follow your run will continue the vital rebuilding process. Starting your day with protein will ensure you’re properly fuelling your training. The goal is to keep pace with your energy demands and never letting your body go into deficit. And eating a protein-rich snack before hitting the pillow will do your training a favour – sleep is a big recovery period, during which more nutrients are delivered to your hungry muscles. Opt for a dairy source: skimmed milk mixed with some protein powder is the perfect combination of dairy and protein to aid restoration. And even on rest days, protein consumption is important to support recovery and repair.
WHAT ARE THE BEST FOOD SOURCES OF PROTEIN?
Runners need quality protein that contains branched-chain amino acids (BCAAS), which are key in supporting muscle recovery. The amino acid leucine, in particular, helps stimulate protein building after exercise. Eggs, chicken, pork and lean beef are some of the richest sources of leucine. You can also get it from fish, soy and whey, a type of protein found in dairy products that the body can quickly digest and use to rebuild muscle after a workout. Legumes, nuts and wholegrains also supply protein, though, in smaller amounts.