Do Runners Need Protein?

Runners fuel their bodies with carbs, energy gels and bars, and sports drinks. They carbo load before races and replenish electrolytes after a long run with fruity drinks endorsed by athletes. Perhaps they take in a protein shake after a workout, but are they really getting enough protein? Most are not.

Protein needs are higher for those who run because you burn through your fuel stores at a much quicker rate. For runners, a general gauge should be to maintain a daily diet of 0.5 grams to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight. This is according to a 2009 study published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association. This is quite substantial quantity higher than in a typical diet of someone sedentary.

Here is a standard calculation for determining just how much protein you should take in daily:

Step 1:  Take your weight in pounds divide that by 2.2.

Step 2: Take this number and multiply it by 0.8-1.8 gm/kg = protein gm. Use a higher number if you’re a training for race such as a marathon.

Here is an example for a 140-pound female runner:

140/ 2.2 = 64. This is her weight in grams rounded up.

64 x 1.3 = 83 grams rounded up. This is the total number of grams she should shoot for each day. The number 1.3 is used because she is in a heavy part of her training program for a marathon.

It is possible to achieve the recommended dosages with a little advanced planning. For breakfast, try adding in yogurt into a smoothie. For a mid-day snack, eat a hard-boiled egg. For larger meals such as lunch and dinner, add healthy protein such as grilled chicken to a salad, lean red meat to a sandwich and try adding beans into side dishes.

If you fall short on protein, the risks aren’t worth it. You’ll lose your ability to build up your muscles that you need to run and train at an optimal level.