Protein for Athletes: How Much & What Type?

A blog post titled Protein and Runners showed up in my Bloglovin feed today. We are often told that
There are 18 grams of protein in 1 cup of lentils.
athletes need more protein than sedentary adults, so runners and those who work out a lot need to eat a lot more protein, right? Well...

The author of that blog post recommended that a 150-pound woman eat 112 grams of protein a day, and her protein suggestions are animal-based. A five-minute Google search revealed different advice.

How Much Protein Should Athletes Eat?
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals), "While protein needs of both endurance and power athletes are greater than that of non-athletes, they’re not as high as commonly perceived." Adult female athletes should eat between 64 & 94 grams of protein (that is the range for both endurance athletes like runners, bikers, and swimmers and power athletes like sprinters, weightlifters, and CrossFitters).

This article from Vanderbilt University explains that there’s a point that more protein isn’t beneficial for athletes.

Furthermore, research released earlier this year showed that, "...while a high-protein diet may in the short term help people lose weight and body fat, in the long term it may harm health and reduce lifespan.”

What Types of Protein Should You Eat?
From that same research released in March 2014, there is (my emphasis added) “convincing evidence that a high-protein diet – particularly if the proteins are derived from animals – is nearly as bad as smoking for your health." Also, the negative effects of eating high protein are “either reduced or disappeared altogether among participants whose high-protein diet was mainly plant-based.” (Reference)

I don't have a copy of the popular book Run Less, Run Faster to give an exact quote, but I do remember reading in it that he recommends protein- over animal-based protein for runners.

How Do I Get Enough Protein?
People frequently ask me how I get enough protein in my diet. I eat the range of protein that's recommended for my weight plus the additional amount for athletes, and it is never a struggle. Legumes (beans and lentils) are protein-rich, and even spinach and broccoli have protein! Here's a list of vegan protein sources. I agree with the blog post author I mentioned at the beginning of this post that protein helps you lose weight because it's filling. I try to make each meal well-rounded to include protein, veggies, and a whole grain (getting the whole grains is where I struggle the most), and that keeps me satisfied until the next meal so I'm never starving and start binge eating. That strategy has helped me maintain my weight loss for the past 3.5 years.

I can see this post becoming controversial--I'm vegan, so of course I'm going to say plant-based protein is better, right?--so I encourage you to do your own research if you want to learn more.

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