Protein – A Guide For Runners

It’s easy to assume that protein is only important for those who are looking to ‘bulk up’. But think again: proteins are the building blocks of all human life!


You probably know that humans are mostly made of water – but protein comes a close second. Proteins are made up of amino acids, and are key for a number of bodily processes, including:

  • Building and repairing muscles.
  • Transporting oxygen in your blood cells.
  • Repairing your brain and nerves.
  • Making enzymes, which are critical to every chemical reaction in your body.
  • Creating antibodies and all of your immune system.

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Your body doesn’t store proteins long term like it does with fat. This means that you need to eat protein regularly to stay in good health. Sources of protein include: meat, fish, insects (if you’re brave enough!), dairy products, eggs, pulses, legumes, soy, fruits, nuts and seeds.


High and low quality protein

Some proteins are of higher quality than others – this is judged by the number of amino acids contained in a protein.  You need lots of different types of amino acids to function properly, so less amino acids = lower quality.

This doesn’t mean that the low quality protein isn’t useful – just that you need to ensure you eat the right mixture of them to get all the amino acids. This is the challenge that a lot of vegans face: as you can see from the list of high quality proteins, half come from animals.

High quality proteins include:

  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Chickpeas
  • Quinoa
  • Black beans
  • Pumpkin seeds

What should I have whilst I’m running, and when?

You should focus on eating the highest quality proteins listed above. It’s a good idea to have a meal with a high quality protein in it within an hour after training, to help your muscles to begin to recover.

Do I need extra protein because I’m training?

No, as long as you’re eating enough to start with. There’s no need to start eating lots of protein or taking protein powders: those are only useful for elite strength training athletes!

You need about 1 gram of protein for each kilogram of your body weight, per day.

For someone who weighs 70kg (11 stone), that would mean 60-70 grams per day. That could look something like this: 1 chicken breast, half a cup of lentils, a cup of milk, 1 egg and a yoghurt. So as long as you’re eating a healthy balanced diet, you’re probably doing fine!

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