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Is protein supplementation necessary for Marathon runners?
The general belief is that nutritional supplements are only for those who dedicate their lives to the world of fitness and muscle hypertrophy.
Muscle tissue is destroyed through small tears and needs to be regenerated once we finish the workout. If you are a regular runner and have never questioned your protein intake requirements before or are already taking protein supplementation, keep reading this article as we explain the essentials to you.
As a start, you should know that there are a variety of nutritional supplements, and the ones used for bodybuilders have nothing to do with those recommended for runners. Runners need a quick recovery, and in the long run, they need to improve their physical condition related to their resistance.
The second important thing is that proteins are made up of amino acids. The primary role of amino acids is to form our muscles. Essential elements that form our tissues, bones, skin, and hair also emerge from them. In addition, they have a particular function in cell repair and restoration as they transport nutrients and transmit chemical messages. Every cell in the human body contains protein. Therefore, it is essential to our skin, muscles, and organs.
Proteins are also crucial for runners' muscles as they help restore muscle proteins lost during exercise or training. Furthermore, various studies support that amino acids could also be used as a fundamental energy source in case of lengthy workouts.
Proteins also help runners to repair muscle tissues and fibers that can be damaged during exercise and to form new structures. During physical activity, we make our muscle work, expose them to the intense effort, and suffer wear and exhaustion. Still, at the same time, this is the moment when our muscles could grow. That is why the subsequent recovery is significant, during which our efforts made during the recent workout are recognized.
The resting phase allows the muscle to grow. Therefore, it is the stage in which the muscles have the most significant need to recover nutrients, especially carbohydrates and proteins.
To help recover the fibers that may have been exposed to stress, it is essential to eat food rich in protein, and at the same time to recover fluids. It is possible to achieve this by controlling the amount of protein consumed or resorting to protein supplements.
It is more than clear that people who practice resistance exercises such as running need to consume more significant amounts of carbohydrates. However, the amount of protein should ideally be high compared to what a sedentary or inactive person consumes. The OMS recommends that every person's protein amount be 0.8gr/kg/weight. In the case of runners, this requirement increases to 1.5 to 1.8gr/kg/weight; that is to say that proteins should represent between 15 to 20% of their daily diet.
To gain a better understanding, consulting with a specialist is essential, which also helps us to determine the amount of protein we should ingest according to our sex, weight, type of activity that we carry out, or special training we follow.
We should not forget that, in general, all types of food contain protein in their natural state. Fish, meat, eggs, milk, its derivatives, grains, and nuts are good sources, such as vegetables. Each one offers unique benefits and allows the body to gain and restructure muscle mass.
Another source is what is known as whey protein, of animal origin, which is obtained from whey. People intolerant to lactose or milk protein should be careful when consuming it since some of these products are not lactose-free.
Both the health and the long-term functional muscle capacity largely depend on the potential existence of a protein deficit in the diet, the maintenance of the protein balance, and on being physically active and increasing the capacity of protein metabolism to repair fibers, muscles injured during exercise, especially by eccentric actions.
Workouts can profoundly affect protein metabolism, muscle morphology, and function. The generated effect always depends on the type of training we are doing. For example, suppose we do strength exercises. In that case, we cause hypertrophy, an increase in muscle mass, and a small conservation or slight increase in mitochondrial mass. On the other hand, if we do resistance training, we work more at the mitochondria level, increasing the number of muscle fibers. The activity is usually a combination of both, depending on the relative intensity and strength we need to complete the sessions.
Any protein synthesis adaptation must occur in the recovery phase between training sessions. Both forms of exercise have been shown to stimulate and enhance the aforementioned physical adaptations in the long term.
The use of protein supplements is recommended for athletes with special nutritional needs due to the type of physical activity they perform. Still, it is also recommended for people who have decreased protein intake due to diet or illness.
Remember to visit a sports nutrition specialist who could help find the best option for you according to the type of training you follow, considering the ideal moment for the additional protein intake your body needs, especially if you are starting to run or if you are already doing it. You want to improve your results and get the most out of your consumption.