Endurance Journey; Protein’s KEY role

Endurance Journey; Protein’s KEY role

Part five of our Endurance Journey looks at one of the key macro nutrients; protein. Protein is not only an essential ingredient in everyday health, but for an endurance athlete it becomes critical. The right amount, what kind, when to consume it; learn this and more in the following podcast.


Thanks for joining us once again on 32Gi Sports Nutrition; I’m Mr Active, David Katz, joined by Mark Wolff as we continue to take you through an endurance journey. In Part five we’re going into more detail. We’ve been talking about nutrition and how important it is. Mark talked in our previous podcast, which I’ll put a link up for you as well, about the importance of macro nutrients. Arguably the most important one when looking at an athlete and that’s not taking anything away from the others, is protein. Mark, protein is vital.

Protein is critical

Mark Wolff: Protein is critical. It’s not only the building blocks of our body, but it also helps and it is the strength of our immune system as well. Limiting protein intake or excessive protein intake, these things are quite debatable. I will just state the facts as they are.

If you are an athlete, you need to take in a certain amount of protein per day and especially endurance athletes; generally we look at about 1.4g to kg of body weight, up to about 1.7g per kg of body weight. On the lower end, more for maintenance, on the upper end, more if you want to increase lean muscle mass and drop off body fat.

If you’re not an active person, you’ll take a much lower portion of protein, and for those people that are doing strength training or a lot of resistance training; your protein intake needs to be increased even more. You’re doing a much more significant amount of tissue damage.

Just taking that into account now, it’s quite interesting to think that every single day, depending on how I’m training or what I’m doing; my protein intake is probably going to vary slightly. The reason being is that some days I just could be running, I could be cycling, I could be swimming, and it could be just very standard training, maybe for two/three hours.

I could be taking in 1.4g up to maybe 1.7g of protein per kg of body weight, but then I throw strength into the mix. and when I do strength training, on those days generally I take in more protein.

How lack of Protein can lead to injury

The problem with protein is, if you do not consume the right amount of protein for your body, your body is not going to be able to do proper repair. It’s not going to be able to be utilised as the building blocks for repairing muscle tissue, and how you’re expecting to adapt to training, you won’t.

You won’t get stronger, you’ll get weaker and eventually when the muscles weaken, because you’re breaking them down all the time and not repairing them properly, because your protein intake is limited. What’s going to happen is that you will land up with some injury at some later stages. Because eventually referral goes down to tendons and joints.

We know that for a fact, and I’ve seen it over the years with many, many athletes, especially when they’re under-eating completely on their protein side. What we find is that they suffer far more from injuries and illness than an athlete that is taking in the correct amount of protein. That is the first step.

How to work out Protein consumption needs

The second thing is; how does the protein work. and it’s quite easy. Just as an example, if a person has to consume 120g of protein a day, net protein in a day, you cannot consume that protein at one sitting. Don’t think that you can have 10g of protein in the morning, and you’re going to go and have 110g of protein at night before you go to sleep. Protein does not work that way.

Protein is broken down in certain volumes within the human body, and the body is able to break down and process a certain amount every couple of hours. Generally we’re looking at probably around 25-30g mark per serving.

Which means that if you’ve got 120g of protein that you need to consume in a day, you probably need to break that into four or five meals. Probably over 2.5 to three hour spaced periods in order to be able to make sure that the body is able to utilise, absorb and take that protein and use it for repair work within the body. Don’t think you can just fast the entire day, and then go and squeeze in all your protein in a single window period, it’s not going to happen.

Don’t turn Protein into Fat (over-consumption)

The other thing I say to people is, if you overeat protein, and I always say to these people telling me: I’m on a high protein diet. I don’t know what a high protein diet means; I know what the exact amount of protein that you should be eating for you means, because that’s what it’s about.

If you overeat protein, what will happen is it will give rise to blood sugar. Why? Because the protein breaks down, there’s an excess in the body. The body is not able to process it. What happens is it gets converted into blood sugar. After it gets converted into blood sugar, the body checks the glycogen stores, are the glycogen stores topped up? Yes, they’re topped up, okay, let’s convert it to fat and let’s store fat.

That explains very clearly why people that eat too much meat, and they generally don’t eat meat on its own because meat contains fat as well; as they probably eat carbohydrates with it in the form of potatoes or bread or chips or whatever it is, those are big weight gainers.

Are window periods a myth?

When you eat a protein, understand the amount of protein you are required to eat and make sure that you stick to that particular target. People talk about window periods when it comes to protein. There is no real specific window period. Yes, you can take protein as an endurance athlete any time after you’re training. It doesn’t have to be within the 20-30 minute window, you can take it up to even two hours afterwards.

But my suggestion would be to take in something early on so that you actually recover from your session. Not just from a protein perspective, but it helps stabilise any hunger cravings as well as it also, taken with the carbohydrates, it helps stabilise blood sugar and satiates for a lot longer.

There is one window period that I really firmly believe in and that’s the period that you’re sleeping at night. I always advocate taking in protein before bed at night. Why? While you’re sleeping, that’s where all the repair work is happening in the body. If you’ve got protein in your system, all the better, it keeps the hunger pains at bay and if you’re hungry at night, it actually impacts your sleep.

When you’re not hungry at night during sleep, in actual fact, you sleep a lot better, so it can play on that as well. There’s many different types of proteins out there, whether they’re plant based, whether they’re animal based proteins. You need to find what works for you. I’m a firm believer in understanding exactly how much protein you need. Keep it clean, keep it lean and make sure that you get your daily target in every single time.

All you need to know about BCAAs

DK: Mark, you were great there in saying look, everyone will be different. Some people will be lactose intolerant, some people are vegetarian; they need to look at different options to get their protein in. But what about protein supplements, something like amino acids? How important are those and would you need to be getting those from supplements as opposed to from your food?

MW: Look, a full protein will have all the amino acids in it. and you’ll get enough protein from that. There is something that we call ‘muscle protein synthesis’ and one of the triggers of that, we know, is a branch chain amino acid which is called leucine.

Leucine triggers muscle protein synthesis between the 2.5 to 3g mark, depending on how much protein you’re having post-exercise, you might get close to that or near that amount. Then the isoleucine value, they’re sort of less important in the muscle protein synthesis, but they’re also branch chain aminos. I would look at a 3g serving of leucine to 1.5g isoleucine. You don’t need more than that.

For those people that think these 12:1:1 and these 8:1:1 of branch chain amino acids are like the ‘in’ thing. I’m sorry to tell you, but from a science point of view and from what’s proven point of view, the 2:1:1 is the only branch chain amino acid ratio that has ever been scientifically proven. You hit super max at 3g of leucine, so why would you need to take more? You don’t need to take more.

BCAAs are definitely beneficial, best to take it along with a protein meal and you can take it post-exercise, absolutely nothing wrong with that. There are people that train twice a day as well, so you might even increase the dosage a little bit later on. Yes, they do play a crucial role from a supplement point of view.

The only problem with BCAAs is they are very, very bitter. Most brands in store, and I’m not speaking specifically about brands, use very unhealthy masking agents, unnatural sweeteners, colours etc, to try and mask the bitterness. Try and find something that’s clean. Try and mask it yourself with something that’s clean. I wouldn’t want you to consume anything that would be unhealthy to your body.

Pea Protein Isolate (our protein of choice)

DK: Mark, clean has always been and remains an extremely important part of your ethos and that has a knock-on effect to the product that 32Gi do produce. What compound are you utilising in Recover. and if people were to use the general serving, or recommended serving, how much of their daily intake, on average; I know everyone is different, would that constitute for someone in terms of their protein intake.

MW: I’m just going to state that 32Gi Recover is not a pure protein. It’s a carbohydrate combined with a protein. We use a pea protein isolate, which has an excellent amino acid profile. Very high in butyric acid levels, very good arginine levels, and it has a very nice branch chain amino acid level as well.

What I like about it, it’s an extremely clean protein and the way the protein is derived is also a very clean process. However, 32Gi Recover, I need to state this upfront, because of the carbohydrate content, you need to earn that recovery shake. It’s not something I would use as a meal replacement or as a pure protein. You need to understand that it needs to be taken in the context of post-exercise or pre-exercise, because it’s involved in the training process.

We are at 32Gi, launching a very unique pure protein very soon into the market. You can stay tuned for that and that will cater for the people that need to look at that from a meal replacement point of view or for consuming a pure protein and not having a carbohydrate in that basket either.

I am a fan of plant based proteins, just because I believe the quality of those proteins is, in my mind, a lot more trustworthy and I think it’s a lot better, but that’s up for debate. As far as the animal based proteins go, I think obviously you get different qualities of whey proteins out there.

Whey concentrate is not as great as a whey isolate and some of the whey isolates go through quite a number of processes, which make them extremely excellent whey protein isolates, but you pay quite a bit of money for those. I think the more you pay for some of these proteins, obviously the higher the quality of the protein is.

You pay for what you get as well on the market. Plant based proteins are on the rise across the globe. There’s rice protein, there’s pea protein isolate, there’s wheat protein, there’s mung bean protein, there’s pumpkin protein, there’s so many proteins out there that are plant derived. There’s such a wide variety of options from which we can choose from.

DK: Mark, I think the nature or the key is in the name, it’s 32Gi Recover and for endurance athletes in particular, it’s a fantastic product. A lot for people to absorb, so we’re going to leave it there for today. If you do want to ask Mark more questions, email him, coach@32gi.com.

Next stop - carbohydrates and fats

Mark, as we continue on this great journey and we will get, when we start focusing more on sports nutrition, talk more about Recover and how you can bring that into your diet, but where are we going to take this conversation? We’ve done proteins, what’s next?

MW: I think next we’ll talk about carbohydrates and fats because those are two that most people get wrong. They get it very wrong, so I think it’s quite important to understand. Protein, you need to hit a target. When it comes to carbohydrates and fats, those targets can shift and change and we need to understand exactly how to pick them, what to pick and the kind of quantities as well, to support
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