For endurance athletes, what you should know about protein, and my answer to the question I get asked often ‘protein shake or chocolate milk?’. Get reading, it is all in there for you, not too much into details, I have tried to keep it simple and easy to read.
First of all, and before going any further into how protein is supporting the athletic performance, protein in your diet should come from a balanced diet first and from supplements second. What I mean by that, is that protein shakes, bars, etc. should not be taken as a substitute for balanced nutrition from whole foods but as a complement.
As a guideline, the amount of protein for the average adult is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. For the athlete, it goes up to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight. Once you have worked out how much protein you should be having on a daily basis, you need to start looking at the food labels. Sorry if I make it sound dumb, but it is important to realize that 100g of mince does not equal 100g of protein! Look for the fats and all the additives to it, you’d be surprised! So anyway, most importantly when it comes to meat, the leaner, the better.
Now what about protein powders and supplements?
I am going to give you my honest opinion about this, I think they are great and here is why:
1- You can now choose to eat protein that tastes of strawberry cheesecake, chocolate caramel brownie, vanilla, etc.
2- A lot of research has been going into them and they are made of high quality protein, amino-acids and nutrients, and can be consumed and digested quickly by the athlete.
3- Protein along with carbohydrates has also been proven to maintain energy levels for longer and reduce fatigue, which all in all means improving the performance potential.
4- They are packed with all the essential amino-acids that your body needs and does not produce for its optimum functioning.
5- They help recovery and rebuild muscle fiber after the effort and therefore speed up the recovery process. Protein should be consumed within 30 minutes of finishing your workout as your muscles need it straight away.
Now one question I get asked frequently, protein shake or chocolate milk after a run?
My answer: protein shake all the way! My reasons:
1- All of the above!
2- After a run, you need a mix of protein and carbohydrates. Proteins to rebuild your muscle fiber, and carbohydrates to refill your stocks as you would have used up all your energy if you don’t want to crash soon after. You have more protein in a shake than in chocolate milk and if you pick a protein that contains carbohydrates, you have the right combination of both.
3- Calories guideline, a cup of chocolate milk is around 200-300 calories and a protein drink 120-150 calories.
4- Not to mention the extra needed amino-acids and nutrients that your body needs, which you won’t find in the chocolate milk.
5- From a health point of view, the chocolate milk is higher in fats, processed sugars and other additives that your body does NOT need and that are bad for your health.
6- If you like the taste of chocolate milk, there are some pretty tasty whey protein supplements that taste just as nice as chocolate milk and even nicer!
7- The price, you don’t have to ruin yourself to afford to drink some protein supplement. 1kg bags of whey protein are available on the market at just over £12! Chocolate powder might be cheaper, but when you look at the health benefits comparing to whey protein, wouldn’t you pay the extra couple of £ to get what is best for your health?!
Remember quality is just as important as quantity – if not more – when it comes to your health! Train like an athlete, feed your body like an athlete too!