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.