The Power of Protein

Let’s pretend this post is an honest appeal to see my readers introduce more protein into their diets and not a thinly veiled excuse to share photos from my Easter egg dyeing party last night. Agreed? Good.

When it comes to running nutrition, most athletes are all about the carbohydrates, and for a good reason: carbs are our muscles’ primary fuel source, and after logging mile after mile on our feet every day, our muscles get particularly hungry. From spaghetti to sweet potatoes to Cadbury Cream Eggs by the dozen (don’t judge me), carbohydrates are an indispensible part of a runner’s diet, and should make up the bulk – some 60 percent – of one’s daily caloric intake.

In fact, my guidebook for running a four-hour marathon goes so far as to suggest I start each day during marathon week with a breakfast of bagels. That’s right – not bagel, but bagels. I assume the author means two, but I’m planning to read that “S” a little more liberally. Sixteen doctor-authorized bagels, here I come!

But I digress. This post isn’t about chewy, delicious and utterly unparalleled New York bagels. It’s about another key nutritional building block in a runner’s dietary arsenal: protein.

Crucial for muscle growth and recovery, protein is an important part of any athlete’s diet, particularly during the vital hours of internal repair that follow a long run. According to runnersworld.com, which is hands-down my most visited website outside http://animalsdoingpeoplethings.tumblr.com/, runners who consume insufficient amounts of protein are at a higher risk of injury. Likewise, “military research studies show that Marines who ingested high amounts of protein had fewer medical visits than those with lower protein intake.” I don’t know any Marines, but that sounds like pretty sound advice to me.

Oh wait, I do know a Marine. Shout out to my baby brother!

According to the Runner’s World report, runners are advised to consume between 0.45 and 0.72 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day, giving this runner a target range of about 67 grams to 108 grams. Unless you’re throwing back a KFC double-down sandwich every day at 53 grams a pop, you’re probably going to have to make a conscious effort to elevate your protein intake to the levels your fatigue-strained muscles require. (And if you are throwing back a KFC double-down sandwich every day, kudos! With that breadless wonder also packing a reported 145 milligrams of cholesterol, you must have the world’s most resilient arteries.)

Here are some easy ways to introduce more protein into your daily diet:

  • Swap out your regular yogurt for a Greek yogurt. I love light & fit 100-calorie yogurts as much as the next calorie counter, but clocking in at just 3 to 5 grams of protein apiece, I prefer to swap in a 140-calorie Chiobani Greek yogurt – and its 15 to 18 grams of protein – instead.
  • Add a heaping spoonful of almond or peanut butter (6 to 8 grams) into your next bowl of oatmeal/smoothie/icecream. It also works straight off the spoon.
  • Pretend you’re still a kid and drink a glass of milk (7 to 8 grams) with dinner. Bonus points for chocolate milk.
  • Think beyond fresh veggies when you’re making your next salad. Add a protein source like canned tuna (about 40 grams a can!), kidney beans (about 15 grams a cup), hard boiled eggs (7 grams an egg) or quinoa (the internet can’t agree on how much protein quinoa has) to pump up your intake and keep yourself feeling full longer.
  • Throw an Easter egg dyeing party and eat multiple colored eggs for breakfast.

What’s that you say? You didn’t know I dyed Easter eggs with friends last night and you want to see photos? Well ok, I guess I can’t deny the people what they want.

Some attendees worked very diligently.

Some attendees are very photogenic.

Some attendees act like 14-year-old boys.

What’s your favorite way to sneak more protein into your daily routine?

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7 Responses to The Power of Protein

  1. Patrick says:

    Protein powder into my oatmeal and smoothies!

  2. Zach says:

    Great post. I have experimented a lot with this myself and wholly agree, no matter what you are training for, forget it if you don’t have enough protein in the mix. Carbs may give you calories to burn, but endurance and power come from protein. In my experience, I have found protein to be more important during training weeks to help the muscles repair themselves after workouts and get stronger with carbs being a secondary. The added side effect of this diet scenario is getting ripped and solid. On race week, during a taper, I switch this and go 70% carbs for energy and 30% protein. I have found however, that unless you want to eat steak and chicken three times a day, you simply can’t get enough protein in. For me, protein powder is the answer. Most of them are loaded with junk and sugar but there are a few good ones if you know what to look for. GNC’s Amplified Wheybolic Extreme 60 is the best I can find right now.
    I use it like this:
    Breakfast, every day-
    2 packets of oatmeal-4g protein each- 8g protein
    1 scoop of above mentioned protein powder- 20g protein
    1 greek yogurt mixed into this- 14g protein
    1 tsp local honey
    This makes a 42g Yoatmeal power bowl.

    I also have 4 hardbolied eggs each morning, but only eat one yolk (watching the cholesterol) 24g protein

    And I usually have a glass of milk with another scoop of protein (Cookies and Cream flavor) 8g+20g

    This is a 94g protein breakfast that is also healthy and it accounts for 1/2 of my days protein in one meal. Add a chicken caesar for lunch with another protein shake and then you can have whatever you want for dinner. When I am training hard, I make sure to make my other two meals high in protein also to ensure I hit 200grams a day (I’m 6’4, 215lbs.) This was great when I was racing hard and I have since added to it. Evidently Whey protein is fast digesting; for maximum effect use whey during the day and have a shake right before bed of a different type of protein, Casein protein, which is slow digesting. I have been on this plan since last fall when I started the 300 Workout -Google it- (currently 39 minutes and getting faster) and have never been this strong while being this lean. Since then I run faster than ever and pull hills like a beast. I’d love to say this has made my lacrosse playing better, but it’s hard to counter-act getting older. Oh well.

  3. I was going to say protein powder in oatmeal. Apparently it’s the thing to do!

  4. How does protein powder weight in calorically? I’ve always been hesitant to add it because it seems like it would be chock-full of sugars and processed chemicals, but that may be totally and utterly baseless. Patrick, Zach and Meredith are three of the healthiest people I know, so something tells me their advice is dead on. 🙂

  5. lightpaw says:

    protein rocks totally…endurance, recovery, strength does it all… nice post.

  6. Zach says:

    @ Rileduprunner: your instincts are half right, many protein powders are poo-poo in a can. Sugary, refined, caffeine loaded junk. Try the one I rec’d or one similar. They are about 100 calories a scoop but because a lot of that is from BCAA’s, which you want, not all of those calories count.

  7. Sarah says:

    I love dying easter eggs! And I also love your dress.

    My favorite protein source is a big glass of chocolate milk! I also sneak protein into my diet by adding beans to my salads. I ❤ Chickpeas!

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