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.
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:
- 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!