The title of this blog post is due to the fact that this was my relationship with protein when I first started training. I was hit in the face repeatedly with ads that I needed to have protein, protein, protein. It was to the point that a 30 minute run or a 2 hour run was followed by the same protein intake. If I did strength training then it was followed with a protein bar. A brick workout was all always followed with a protein bar and my favorite protein drink (HoneyMilk.) I was always scratching my head as to why I was not losing weight even though I was working hard at my craft.
Well the bottom line is that the protein came with calories. The protein bar I was consuming was 260 calories and HoneyMilk comes with the same amount. I was consuming 520 calories just about every time I worked out. Let’s put this in perspective for a moment. If I ran 3 miles I would burn approximately 300 calories. I would then consume 520 calories and so I had a net gain of 220 calories plus whatever else I was eating at the time. For arguments sake let’s assume that I ate a 2,000 calorie diet that day then my net calories was +220. I was never going to drop weight that way and I needed to. See I weighed 175 pounds at one time and needed to get rid of it.
Since my training has taken on the passion that it is today I have been dialing in my focus on what goes into my system to allow me to perform at my best. I have learned that the carbohydrates I consume are just as important as the protein and just as important as the fat. I guess those nutritionists were right when they said a balanced diet was necessary. Only difference is that as endurance athletes we need a different type of balanced diet and that is what I hope this series on macro-nutrients provides you.
Please note that this is based on my research and that I am not a registered dietician or doctor. Please visit your Doctor for what you should be taking in based on your daily activity and body composition.
I have read that protein is like the Swiss Army knife for our bodies because it serves a lot purposes and does a lot of things well. I typically think of protein in terms of recovery and as a way to help build muscle.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and there are two kinds. One is the essential amino acid, which you get from food because our body doesn’t produce it. You want to focus on lean proteins in your food. The second is the nonessential amino acid which are present in our food but our bodies can also make them.
As a vegetarian I do not get complete proteins, because those are found in all animal sources of protein, but instead have to have two sources mixed to complete the profile of essential and non-essential proteins.
Proteins primary role is to maintain muscle integrity but also has another role involving food intake. On an ounce for ounce basis protein makes you feel fuller than an equivalent amount of carbohydrates.
How much Protein? In my previous post I discussed that the amount of calories from protein for endurance athletes should be approximately 15%-20%. I still believe this to be the right amount. As I have tracked my caloric intake a number of times I am getting approximately 15% to 20% and I never feel tired and am recovering very well. A good rule of thumb for a person who partakes in moderate excercise is to be at 1g of protein per kilogram of weight. (The conversion for pounds to kilograms is 1 pound = 0.45359237 kilograms or use this calculator.) For me this amounts to approximatly 65g of protein.
What are some good sources of protein? Take a look at these and notice that the majority of them are animal based, but don’t fret my vegetarian friends there is a list just below these.
Very Lean (approx. 35 calories per serving): chicken or turkey breast (1 oz)white meat skinless, fish fillet (all whitefish – 1 oz), canned water-packed tuna (1 0z), shellfish (1 oz), egg whites (2 large), egg substitute (1/4 cup)
Lean Protein (approx. 55 calories per serving): Salmon, Swordfish, Herring, Trout, Bluefish, Lean Beef (flank steak, top round, ground sirloin)
Dairy Products (approx. 90 calories per serving): Fat free or 1% fat free cottage cheese (1 cup), low fat, sugar-free yogurt (3/4 cup), fat-free, sugar free yogurt (1 cup)
These are just a small sample of where to find proteins but don’t forget about greek yogurt, soy, nuts, beans, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, lentils, quinoa, amaranth, tempeh, seitan.
There are plenty of ways to get your proteins in but always be mindful of calories. Calories in minus calories out is always going to determine weight gain or loss. 1 pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories so keep that in mind. I will be doing a post on what is a calorie at a future date and this will put it all in perspective for you. Next week we will discuss fats in our diet.