February 16, 2024

Protein intake for Endurance Athletes.

Jon Bateman
Founder, Performance Nutritionist and Endurance Coach

Protein is an essential macronutrient for any athlete, but for endurance athletes, it plays a particularly important role in supporting their training and competition goals. Not only does protein help to repair and rebuild muscle tissue, but it also aids in muscle recovery and adaptation to exercise stress. 

In the United Kingdom, Recommended Daily intake (RDI) is 0.8 g-kg-bm. However, this is wholly inadequate for both athletes and the older population too. Endurance and ultra endurance athletes may be looking at protein intakes toward 1.4 to 1.8 g-kg-bm on a daily basis. 

When planning a diet that supports endurance training, athletes should aim to consume high-quality protein sources with each meal and snack. These sources should include lean meats, fish, dairy products, and plant-based proteins such as beans and legumes. It's also important to consider the timing of protein intake throughout the day.

Proteins that are rapidly digested and absorbed and that have a high leucine content are most effective at generating increases in protein synthesis. The addition of carbohydrate to the post-exercise meal will only increase rates of protein synthesis when the amount of protein ingested is less than optimal (<0.4 g protein per kilogram of body weight).  

In order to optimise protein synthesis, athletes should ingest a high-quality protein (20-25 g or 0.4 g per kilogram of body weight) with 8 to 10 g of essential amino acids and at least 3 g of leucine at regular (3-4 hour) intervals.

In addition to diet, athletes may also turn to protein supplements such as protein powder, bars, or ready-to-drink shakes. When selecting a protein supplement, it's important to look for products that are made from high-quality sources such as whey, casein, or soy. It's also important to consider any allergies or intolerances when selecting a protein supplement. Supplements can be useful post session, when travelling or have limited access to cooking facility's. Ideally we would look to get our protein sources from food first, then via supplementation.

Overall, protein plays a critical role in supporting the unique nutritional needs of endurance athletes. By consuming high-quality sources of protein with each meal and snack, and considering the timing of protein intake around workouts, athletes can ensure they are giving their bodies the fuel they need to reach their performance goals.

A few quick hits and myth busters....

The body can absorb ALL the protein you eat, however, there is a limit to how much protein you can utilise for muscle building. Once muscle protein synthesis has maxed out, it wont lead to extra gains.

Anabolic window?.. more like a barn door. 20-40g of protein 1-2 hours pre/post training should do the trick..

BCAAs are among the most popular nutrition supplements. The evidence for the manufacturers’ claims, however, is not convincing.

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