Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Power of Protein!

As a runner you probably hear a lot about the importance of carbohydrates, especially complex carbohydrates for a good energy source. Protein is another essential that plays an important role for runners, but it's often overlooked. Protein is found in muscles, bone, blood, hormones, antibodies, and enzymes. Protein helps build and repair body tissues. Protein also helps regulate the water balance in the body, helps transport nutrients, is used in brain function, and helps make muscles contract. Protein also helps keep the body healthy by fighting off diseases. Important for runners, protein helps produce stamina and energy which can keep fatigue at bay.

Where do proteins come from? Well there are two kinds of protein—complete and incomplete. Complete proteins such as beef, chicken, fish, eggs, milk (just about animal food source) contain all of the essential amino acids. Incomplete proteins come from food sources that do not have all of the essential amino acids—vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds and nuts. Vegetarians can get complete proteins from their foods by combining various incomplete proteins.

Complete Proteins Include:
chicken breast
turkey breast
egg (whole and the whites)
egg substitutes
fish (flounder, tuna, salmon, trout, cod, halibut, haddock, etc.)
steaks (round, sirloin, flank)
roast beef (the lean deli variety)
ground round or sirloin (buy the leanest available and/or drain the fat after cooking)
Canadian bacon
ham (trim fat)
pork tenderloin (trim fat)
pork chop (trim fat)
cheese (choose the 2% milk fat, lowfat or nonfat varieties)
cottage cheese (lowfat or nonfat)
milk (2% or skim)
yogurt (lowfat or nonfat; )
Incomplete Proteins Include:
grains (barley, oats, rice, etc.)
corn meal
whole grain breads
soy products
seeds (sesame, sunflower)
nuts (walnuts, peanuts, cashews)
green leafy veggies

The recommended daily allowance of protein is 0.8 grams of protein for every 1 kilogram body weight. To calculate your daily protein needs multiply your body weight in kilograms by 0.8-1.8 g/kg. (To convert your weight from pounds to kilograms, multiply your weight in pounds by 2.2) There's a lot of debate over what's the exact number between 0.8 and 1.8 to multiply by to determine your daily allowance. What I could gleam from the debate was that basically if you're a sedentary person you'll probably multiply by 0.8. The average active person would probably multiply by 1-1.2 and if you're exercising at intense levels for long periods of time, then you'd probably multiply by 1.2-1.8. Most of the sources agreed that you didn't need to go over the 1.8 unless you were a super competitive bodybuilder.

Protein is a key ingredient in recovery for runners. Most research says that a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein shortly after a workout is optimal in speeding-up recovery and getting your tired, broken-down muscles the nourishment they need to rebuild and repair. Nonfat or lowfat chocolate milk actually has this 4:1 ratio and makes a great post run recovery snack. Be careful to keep the protein to 4:1 ratio after a run because too much protein can slow rehydration and glycogen replenishment.

There are lots of "canned" varieties of protein available at your local grocery store, gym, or vitamin/supplement shop. Some brands are made from soy others made from whey. As always there's some debate over which is better for you. Some research shows that 100% whey protein may be better for muscle growth and repair, but soy is still an excellent source of protein especially if you're a vegetarian or lactose intolerant.
The bigger thing to consider than whether you use should buy whey or soy is what else has been added to the one you are buying. Be sure to check the ingredients. Some varieties really pack in the sugar and fat. Find a brand that has the amount of protein you're seeking, but also is low in sugar and fat (especially saturated fat). I've used several brands and found a few that I prefer. Pure Protein made by Worldwide Sport Nutritional Supplements, Inc. is good and contains 23g of protein per serving, only 2 grams of fat and only 1 gram of sugar. The sodium content is pretty low as well. Body Fortress 100% Whey Protein is also good, containing 23g of protein per serving, 1.5g of fat and only 2g of sugar. Body Fortress also makes Super Advanced Whey Protein which contains 26g of protein (the 52g on the bottle refers to a double serving), 2g of fat, and 3g of sugar.

Muscle maintenance is crucial to endurance athletes who depend on muscle mass to train for long distance events, so be sure you're eating your daily required needs of protein as well as using protein in the right proportions for recovery after your workouts.


B.o.B. said...

thanks for talking about protein. i feel like carbs get all the attention. give me a steak over pasta any day. while necessary, carbs just aren't as sexy to me as a nice medium rare steak. ;)

Anonymous said...

some protein powders like the one you pictured have creatine monohydrate in it which runners don't need or want. creatine just adds extra water weight so be careful to look at the ingredients.

RunnerDude said...

Hey B.o.B! Welcome to the blog! Yep, a good steak does, sound good!

RunnerDude said...

Hey Anonymous! Good point! Glad you mentioned that. The Pure Protein and the regular Body Fortress 100% Whey Protein powders that I recommended do not have creatin monohydrate in their ingredients so they should be fine to use. I should have checked the SuperAdvanced version of Body Fortress, it does have the creatin. Thanks for the reminder!

Patrick said...

Good job bringing up a topic runners talk rarely about.

Protein is very important-- not only for recovery but for those interested in maintaining or building muscle definition as well.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Patrick! Where you been man? LOL! You're exactly right. And as runners that's important cause we tend to be so lean anyway. And as we age we start to lose muscle, so if we can help increase muscle or at least maintain, that's a good thing. Hope all is well. Like the new profile pic. You look like you're 22!

Jo Lynn said...

You're right about this one - protein is very important. As a person that doesn't eat red meat AT ALL, I never have a problem finding good protein sources though. I'd rather eat protein than carbs any day of the week. (Unless it's donut day!) ;)

RunnerDude said...

Hey Jo Lynn! So have I been wrong about all the others? LOL!! Yep, lots of non-meat protein choices, just have to make sure you getting a varitey to make sure you're getting a complete array. Wonder how much protein a doughnut has? :-)

Jo Lynn said...

I had a donut this morning but I put cream in my coffee. THERE'S my protein!! HA! lol

RunnerDude said...

Hey Jo Lynn! Are the the dietitian for Krispy Kreme?

Matt (No Meat Athlete) said...

Good post! I've given protein a lot of thought since I turned veggie. One thing I've found is that there are lots of professional vegan endurance athletes who get far less protein than what is recommended. I don't want to get all conspiracy-theory here, but I do believe that the reason protein recommendation amounts are so high is because of lobbying by the meat and dairy industries.

Good info about the distinction between complete and incomplete. As for soy vs. whey, I'm still not sure which to use... but there are better sources like hemp and yellow pea protein. Of course, they get expensive, so I haven't gone there yet!

RunnerDude said...

Hey NoMeatAthlete! I should have consulted you when I wrote this! I forgot your my resident expert! Get info on the Hemp and yellow pea proteins. I didn't know about those. I'll have to check into them.

Dena said...

Building on what no meat athlete said, I've been making a lot of recipes lately from the E2 Engine diet which is a diet book written by a fireman/triathlete who eats a plant-based diet. His book cites numerous sources that say people are being told to eat way too much protein specifically b/c of the lobbying reasons mentioned.

RunnerDude said...

Hey Dena! I need to borrow that book!

Jay said...

During any sort of workout (weight training, sprints, or endurance) I like to continuously sip on a combination of Whey Protein and Maltodextrin (a complex carbohydrate made from corn). Depending on the aerobic/anaerobic qualities of the training session, I vary amounts of each substance.


RunnerDude said...

Hey Jay! Great tips! I usually drink Accelerade during and after a run. It contains whey protein and maltodextrin too. It also has fewer carbs than a lot of other sports drinks which is better on my tumtum. Their Accel Gel also contains the whey protein and maltodetrin.