“How much protein do I actually need to eat?” has been debated by endurance runners forever. Until recently, the recommended amount was between 1.2-1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight per day.
A new study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine annual meeting offered a new and improved answer to the question—the recommended protein intake for endurance runners should be somewhere around 1.8-2.0 g/kg/day. Depending what an athlete is currently eating, that could mean almost 40% more protein needs to be consumed daily.
How is this study more accurate?
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Researchers used a new technique where they were able to tag amino acids with a tracking device so they could keep tracking it once the runners consumed it. The previous studies used a calculation called “nitrogen balance” which involves measuring a change in body levels related to protein and is significantly less accurate.
Why so much more protein?
Researchers think endurance runners burn a significant amount of protein during a long run, which leaves less protein left for recovery, as well as helping repair slightly damaged areas like your digestive system.
Many endurance runners focus on carbs and fats in their nutrition plans, and may be neglecting to consume the proper amount of protein.
The new recommendation suggests runners also spread their protein consumption across multiple small meals during the day and a protein-packed treat before bed, and not just at breakfast & dinner. This enables the body to process all of the protein for efficient use.