Protein and the Endurance Athlete ... How Much is Enough?

by Theresa DeLorenzo, RD

As runners we often think of ensuring adequate carbohydrates.  Protein is also necessary for optimal performance.  How much is enough?  What sources are the best?  Is it possible to get enough protein on a plant- based diet?  Are there dangers in taking in too much protein?  Let’s take a look.

Protein is one nutrient that as we age our need for decreases on a gram per kilogram basis and then increases again in our elderly years to maintain muscle mass.  Inactive adults need approximately 0.8 grams per kg (to calculate your weight in kg divide your weight in pounds by 2.2).  Adults who are moderately active need 1- 1.2 grams per kg.  If you are exercising very hard with weight training you may need as much as 1.8 grams per kg per day.  It is important to not exceed 2.0 grams per kg of protein per day.  More on this later. 

So where do we get all of this protein?  Good sources of protein include eggs, poultry, lean beef, fish, beans, lentils, nuts, nut butters, cheese, yogurt, tofu, tempeh, chia seeds, and hemp seeds, amongst others.  The animal sources of protein contain all of the essential amino acids that we need.  The plant sources do not, but when we consume a variety of plant proteins we get in all 20 essential amino acids.  It is not essential to consume complementary proteins at the same time.  Soy and hemp however are exceptions to this and despite the fact that they are plant proteins, do contain all of the essential amino acids. 

We can only metabolize approximately 30 grams of protein at one time.  If we consistently take in more than that, we have to excrete the extra nitrogen and in addition, store the extra calories.  When we excrete nitrogen, we lose fluid, electrolytes, and calcium.  Over time, this can cause dehydration and bone loss. 

Looking for some protein rich meals?  See below.

Chia pudding

1 cup chocolate or vanilla soy milk (whichever you prefer); can also be done with almond, cashew, hemp or oat milk if you prefer those to soy

1 tbsp. chia seeds

1/2 tbsp. hemp seeds

1/2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds

1/2 tbs.p chopped walnuts

1/2 tbsp. slivered almonds

Add chia seeds to milk and leave in the refrigerator overnight. In the a.m., add the remaining ingredients.  Add berries as well if desired. 

Variations: raisins, bananas, peanut butter, pecans

Tofu Scramble

Firm tofu, cubed

Bell peppers, diced

Mushrooms, diced

Onions, diced

1-2 tbsp. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Drain water from tofu and let sit between two plates to press out extra water while dicing the vegetables.  Heat olive oil in a pan and add the tofu.  Once browned, add diced vegetables.  Add salt, pepper, garlic powder and nutritional yeast (an excellent way to get vitamin B12 in for vegans and a natural probiotic).

By Dr. Theresa DeLorenzo, RD
Contact for a sports nutrition consult

by Theresa DeLorenzo, RD

Theresa is sponsoring the Winter Wellness Retreat by Nutrition for Optimal Performance on March 29th at the Hideaway Restaurant in Saratoga.
9:00       Check- in and continental breakfast
9:45       The Nutrition Inflammation Connection; Given by  Dr. Theresa DeLorenzo, RD
10:45     Vinyasa Yoga
11:45     Break and snack
12:00     Living According to the Seasons; Given by Angie Stritt L.Ac, M.AC, DIPL.AC
1:00       Lunch at The Hideaway
2:15       Cooking demonstration given by Dr. Theresa  DeLorenzo, RD
3:00       Hike around Hideaway Golf Course
3:45       Break and snack
4:00       Yin Yoga
5:00       Happy Hour at The Hideaway (each participant will  receive two drink tickets)
* 15 minute massages will be available throughout the day

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