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Anyone who knows me and Go Faster Food will know that I’m pretty fond of carbs! For runners, foods rich in slow releasing, unrefined carbohydrate (basmati rice, oats, wholemeal pasta, sweet potatoes etc.) are our primary source of energy.
But we wouldn’t get far without a good dose of protein in our diets.
So, what’s all the fuss about protein? Protein is crucial for the health and development of body tissues such as muscles, bones and red blood cells, as well as making hormones and enzymes. Eating foods rich in protein, such as meat, fish or vegetarian alternatives such as eggs, cheese, nuts or pulses also ensures we get enough iron, zinc, magnesium and B vitamins and keeps the immune system in good condition.
When Should I Eat Protein?
Most runners will get enough protein from a healthy, varied diet, but unlike carbohydrates, the body can only absorb a certain amount of protein in any one sitting (about 4 grams per kg of body weight). We don’t build up stores of protein in the way we do with carbohydrate; the body simply does not store it. So when you’re training, it’s a good idea to eat foods rich in protein at regular intervals throughout the day, rather than load up at one sitting.
For runners, consuming a combination of carbohydrate and protein within 30 minutes ( the ‘magic window’) of an event or heavy training session will promote recovery and reduce muscle fatigue.
- The carbohydrate will replace depleted glycogen (energy) levels,
- The protein will get to work repairing muscle trauma and promoting muscle re-growth.
A Little Bit of Science
Amino acids are the proteins we find in foods. Proteins are made from long chains of smaller molecules called amino acids. There are about 20 different amino acids and these are found in plant and animal proteins. For adults, 8 of these have to be provided in the diet and are therefore defined as ‘essential’ or ‘indispensable’ amino acids. These are: Leucine, Isoleucine, Valine, Threonine, Methionine, Phenylalanine, Tryptophan and Lysine. However, for children a further 7 amino acids are considered to be essential, as children are unable to make enough to meet their needs. These are: Arginine, Histidine, Cysteine, Glycine, Tyrosine, Glutamine and Proline.
An egg, for instance, contains 6.3g protein, and 18 amino acids, making it a very good source of protein.
Top 10 #GoFaster Sources of Protein
- Lean meat or poultry
- Fish or shellfish
- Dairy Products (Milk, Cheese and yoghurt)
- Soya Milk Products
- Pulses, such as lentils, beans, baked beans, soya or soya bean curd (tofu), edamame beans make great alternatives for vegetarians
- Nuts and seeds (including nut butters)
- Chia seeds
- Grains such as quinoa, wheat (found in cereals, pasta and bread), rice and maize also provide some protein.