A PRESCRIPTION: “8 Ways Protein Spikes Can Improve Your Fitness”. In this article for Competitor.com Coach Pete Magill provides a discussion on how runners can benefit from increasing the amount of protein taken in each day. Not only is the total quantity important, but also the ‘dose’ and ‘schedule”.
Magill references Steve Magness, the author of “The Science of Running”, and an exercise scientist and coach. Magness recommends taking in about 15 grams of protein at each meal, 30 grams at bedtime, and “some” protein (amount not specified in the article) after 1-2 exercise sessions/day.
The article explains scientific thinking on how this nutrition strategy will help improve fitness. It’s very well done and cannot be improved by a summary; a great inspiration to assess and make changes to this part of your training plan. Read the article to learn all 8 improvements, which, not surprisingly, include increases in muscle size and strength.
Now for a little math; the protein spike calculation: 3 meals x 15 grams = 45 grams + 30 grams before sleep = 75 grams + “some” after exercise. At a minimum, the total amount of protein ingested per these directions, will be about 75-80 grams/day.
Each gram of added protein will provide 4 calories, which does not include the calorie contribution of carbohydrates and fats that may also be contained in the protein source.
The point to be made is that boosting protein will mean adding calories. Caution must be taken in choosing protein sources to avoid unwanted weight gain for some runners. If 40 grams of protein each day are taken in above what you would ordinarily consume, a very minimum of 160 calories would be tacked on to your daily tally.
Dairy products will always include extra carbohydrates, and some fats unless the products are fat-free. Meat, fish, and nuts will include fat, although there is significant variation in fat content in these foods.
Processed-food snacks like protein bars can, calorie-wise, be relatively expensive protein sources. Unsweetened, low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt on the other hand, is a rich source of protein with a low carb-to-protein ratio and few-to-no fats.
Protein powders are especially convenient to use in situations in which refrigerated high protein foods aren’t available. Another advantage to powders is that many formulations have lower carbohydrate and fat content, with easily absorbed whey as protein. Dried preserved meats like jerkies may not be the healthiest items to eat on a regular basis, regardless of the meat origin (grass fed or corn fed).
Remember that even +50 calories/ day can lead to a weight gain of 1 pound over about 10 weeks (70 days x 50 extra calories = 3500 calories = one added pound of body fat).
Embedded in Magill’s article is a link to an excellent slideshow piece by Matt Fitzgerald, “11 Best Protein Sources for Runners,” also on Competitor.com.
If planning to spike your diet with nutritious high-protein foods, you may find you have less of an appetite or need for other snacks. One of the 8 ways of improving fitness identified in Magill’s article is that this nutrition adjustment has been shown to reduce hunger!
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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