VRP Nutrition Blog 3

My Friend Protein & How it Affects Post Run Recovery…

Hello again VRP athletes. Perhaps you are reading this before your run and you have had your delicious and nutritious pre run snack or maybe you have already been out and are thinking about what and how to re-fuel your body in the best way? Perhaps you don’t really think much about food and how it is linked to helping our bodies recover? For me, food is nearly always on my mind, when, what & how much. I love food and I love cooking, second to running.

We have looked at pre run fuelling and into the energy demands during running and the food groups involved – carbohydrates, fats and proteins. In this blog I want to talk about what happens after training and more about one of my fav food groups – Protein. 

Now, we spoke about how these 3 food groups can provide energy more specifically Carbs in the form of glycogen and good fats. If glycogen is depleted protein can be used but it is not that efficient. The greater the exercise duration and intensity the more protein is broken down. What is interesting though is that when glycogen stores become low approx. 75-90 mins of endurance exercise, certain amino acids (when proteins are broken down they form amino acids) can be converted into glycogen which are then released into the bloodstream when we really need them. Here is the interesting bit, when our glycogen levels are low, protein can provide 15% of our energy compared to when we have good stores of glycogen, and it only provides 5%. Protein comes to the rescue when we really are depleted in our other forms of energy although we don’t really want to get to this stage if we can help it. 

BUT, the main reason for our friend protein is that it makes up part of the structure of every cell and tissue in our body – muscle, internal organs, tendons, skin, hair, nails etc… it is needed for the growth and repair of our muscles and tissue. It is therefor obvious that additional protein is needed for the breakdown of it during and after exercise for repair and growth. Those of us who are new to running/exercise will have slightly higher demands for protein, after about 3 weeks of training your bodies adapt and become more efficient at recycling protein. As you become more trained, you become more efficient at conserving protein. 

As protein is broken down more when glycogen is low and protein is not as efficient as providing us with energy, it becomes clear the importance of having good carb – glycogen stores especially for intense or longer training sessions. Being on a low carb diet can really have an effect here and force your body to use more protein as an energy source which may not benefit our performance. 

Is the timing of protein in take important? Due to the super powers of protein, we really must try and include it in our food intake post training especially on those hard training days to give all the help we can to our muscles, cells and tissue in order to recover quickly so we can get back out there to train feeling tip top. 

Many studies suggest that our muscles are really sensitive and receptive to protein uptake up to 2 hrs after exercise, this is when muscle repair takes place at its fastest rate. Food after exercise should include a good mix of protein as well as carbohydrate. Saying this, it is a good idea to evenly distribute protein throughout the day in your meals. 

What protein is best after exercise?

Now this is good news for me, as I love it, it is suggested that MILK contains the best type of proteins needed post exercise. Whether you have this in a smoothie, as a milkshake or in its pure form, it has great recovery powers. 

For us as runners and not body builders, I feel that we can get enough proteins from our diet rather than using any supplements.

Personally, I use a lot of plant/veggie based proteins such as:

Nuts & seeds

Pulses – lentils, beans & chickpeas

Greek yoghurt

Cottage cheese


Animal sources generally provide the most protein such as meat and cheese BUT they also contain high levels of saturated fats so try and choose lean versions like:

Chicken breast 





Eating too much protein is not harmful, once requirements have been met, additional protein will not be converted into muscle unlike carbohydrate in that if you eat more than your body needs or utilises, it may turn to fat. 

In summary, protein is needed fore the maintenance, replacement and growth of body tissue. Athletes require more protein than the general population to compensate for the increased breakdown during intense or long training for repair and recovery. Protein breakdown is increased when glycogen levels are low. Athletes should be able to get sufficient protein needs from a good balanced diet and try to consume a mix of carbohydrate and protein within the 2 hr window after exercise. 

That’s enough for this week VRP, please look out for my food video to follow where you will find a protein packed, post run snack. 

Do hit us up with any questions which we will endeavour to answer in our ‘Coaches Corner’ feature over the weekend. 

Stay safe, Run happy 😊

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