Protein Packs a Punch - Getting Enough Protein to Get Fitter and Faster

When it comes to what we eat there are no shortage of myths, fad diets, 'secret super foods', or stereotypes. One is that all runners need to eat are carbs; carbo-loading for that big race, the next long run, subsisting solely off of pasta and bagels, right? Well, don't get me wrong of course runners, and anyone who is active, will need an influx of carbohydrates (the more complex the better) in their diets but what can sometimes get overlooked is the amount of protein in an athlete's diet. Amidst those bowls of spaghetti and rice there need to be adequate protein sources, such as lean meats or eggs, in order to help build muscle and improve both recovery and performance.

Personally I am a carbo-lover (and don't get me started on all those crazy people who say you should avoid eating carbs at all costs...umm, where do you expect to get that energy you need to workout and replenish those glycogen stores?!) and could eat pizza crusts, bagels, and breads all day long...the doughier the better. I used to never really give much thought as to the amount of protein I was getting and while I did probably eat enough for the average person, it wasn't enough for someone who wanted to be an athlete or who was as active as I was. When I started to consciously up my protein levels I noticed I was able to build more muscle and leaned out; and that translated into better workouts and faster recovery.

A good rule of thumb is to try to get in at least 1 to 1.5 grams of protein daily for every pound of body weight. So if you weight 150 pounds try to get in at least 150 grams of protein; that amount should be more if you are doing more anaerobic or weight training work. You also want to think about the timing of your protein; try to get in a good mixture of protein and carbs within 30 minutes after finishing your run or workouts. This is key to recovery and muscle growth. People often think the only place to get protein is with meats, and lean meats are a great way to go, but there are other sources and if you are a vegetarian you need to be particularly conscious of finding adequate protein.

Some good protein sources:

*Lean meats: I say lean meats such as chicken and turkey because they are lower in fat and calories typically than beef. Surprisingly if you are able to get it bison also falls into the category of a lean meat. A few other tips is to go skinless and with chicken and turkey aim for the lighter cuts.

*Seafood: My absolute favorite is shrimp and it packs in about 17 grams of protein and merely 90 calories in a 3 ounce serving. Lots of other fish are great, think tuna and cod, and while salmon will have more fat it is the heart healthy Omega-3 kinds which you actually want to seek out and include in your diet.

There are some who avoid eggs because of the cholesterol but honestly eggs are a great source of protein with 6 grams and only about 70 calories each; and more research is proving the positives far outweigh the negatives. Though you can always go for a liquid substitute that can be both fat free and cholesterol free.

*Low Fat Cottage Cheese: I actually love cottage cheese, and it may be an acquired taste for some, but if you like it dig in. Just 1/2 cup has about 12 grams of protein. Other dairy products such as low fat milk and yogurt are good alternatives but don't have as much protein as the cottage cheese.

*Tofu and Soy Options: If you are a vegetarian, or even a gulp vegan, you may have to work a bit harder to find protein. Tofu is a good choice and there are other soy meats that can do the trick. Next in line would be beans, but these don't have as much protein per serving as other outlets with usually only single digit stats per 1/2 cup.

*Protein Supplements: If all else fails you can look for protein powders and bars that will boost your protein for the day. In fact there are sports recovery drinks that are including more protein and these can be great for sipping on right after a workout; replenish not only your electrolytes but protein reserves as you rehydrate. If you go for a sports bar try to pick one with at least 10 grams of protein.

Another great thing about protein is it will fill you up and keep you satiated longer so you aren't left with a grumbling stomach an hour later. So it's still okay to be a carby lover (and us active people should be!) but just make sure you add in some chicken, shrimp, or other protein along with all those rice and pasta bowls!

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1 Response
  1. You will find definitely loads of details like that to take into consideration. That is an awesome point to bring up.
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