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