Endurance athletes are consistently pushing their bodies to new limits to achieve better performance. The required training to compete in endurance events means athletes are always thought to be in a state of recovery. This is due to athletes training 5-7 days per week with one or more sessions per day, resulting in less than the recommended 24-48 hr recovery period. As endurance athletes we go to great lengths to have the best equipment and training programs and make sure the equipment stays in good working order. However, an extremely important piece of the performance puzzle is often overlooked; nutrition and supplementation.
Optimal nutrition is not only required for normal physiological functioning, but the nutritional status of an athlete does impact their sporting performance. The working muscles of endurance athletes are challenged in several different ways in order to elicit the required metabolic and physiological changes that improve performance. Therefore in order for the working muscle to achieve optimal adaptation to the demands of repeated training sessions, a diet that sustains muscle energy stores and promotes recovery is required, making training and nutrition interrelated variables.
The nutritional requirements of endurance athletes include higher total energy, carbohydrate and protein intakes than inactive individuals. Endurance athletes tend to focus on carbohydrates as they are the main energy source. This can lead to inadequate protein consumption, which in turn results in protein deficiency thereby impacting the athlete’s performance and health. Lack of quality protein in your diet reduces training adaptations and increases susceptibility to fatigue, lethargy, and colds/flu and possibly overtraining syndrome. Endurance athletes require significantly more protein then the recommended dietary allowance for adults. The higher protein requirements are needed for the maintenance, repair and growth of lean muscle mass, as well as optimum immune system function.
The recommended protein intake for endurance athletes is 1.2-1.8g/kg body weight. To calculate your requirements you multiple the number of grams by your body weight (kg). The amount of protein required will be dependent upon the amount and intensity of your training program. For example, a male athlete that weighs 70kg and is a serious triathlon age grouper that trains 6 days per week (twice a day some days) would require 1.6 x 70 = 112g protein per day.
What type of protein to take
Currently the extensive range of protein powders available creates choosing the best protein a confusing and daunting experience. Additionally, the images displayed on many protein supplements show extremely defined bodies that portray misleading expectations for the consumer. Instead what should be the consumer’s focus is the quality and digestibility of the protein powder to ensure that athletes are receiving and optimising their nutrition. To explain, the quality of a protein refers to whether it is a complete protein or not. A complete protein is one that contains all essential amino acids. The digestibility refers to how the body utilises the protein. The type of protein consumed can affect the recovery process due to the differences in digestion rate.
Protein is available in a variety of dietary sources. These include foods of animal origin and plant sources along with sports supplements. Sport supplements may consist of soy protein, which is suitable for vegetarians, whey proteins, caseins, or individual amino acids. It is the whey proteins however that is superior for recovery.
The reason for this is whey is one of the two milk proteins and accounts for approximately 20% of the milk, while casein accounts for the rest. Whey proteins are complete proteins and rapidly absorbed. Whey is the translucent liquid part of milk that remains following the process of cheese manufacturing. From this liquid, whey proteins are separated and purified forming different concentrated whey protein powders.
Whey protein isolates have the highest concentrations of protein; 90% or higher, while whey protein concentrates have a range from 20-80%. They also contain high levels of essential and branched chain amino acids that are important precursors for muscle energy metabolism and fuelling the immune system and the recovery processes. Whey proteins are absorbed rapidly where as casein proteins are absorbed much slower. The rapid absorption of whey protein is important for stimulating muscle protein synthesis and aiding in recovery (International Protein Amino Charged WPI). International Protein superior whey also contains whey protein concentrates which contain more biologically active components and proteins.
When to take protein
A growing body of evidence supports the addition of protein to carbohydrate- electrolyte sports beverages used during endurance exercise as well as recovery. Recovery from endurance training sessions is important as muscle damage that occurs continues once exercise is ceased. This is due to the hormone response in regards to exercise, free radical damage, and acute inflammation. This damage can impair glycogen resynthesis and muscle repair and impair performance. Having a protein supplement directly after (or within 30 minutes) training or competition can kick start the recovery process and ensure you are ready to train at your best in every session.
Whey proteins (International Protein SUPERIOR WHEY or Amino Charged WPI) are absorbed rapidly, deliver more amino acids to tissues and stimulate a higher rate of protein synthesis and immune system support. Along with them being soluble and mix easily in liquid, whey is the ideal protein to consume before, during and after training and competition.
The slower absorbed proteins such as Caseins (found in International PROTEIN SYNERGY 5) are ideal to take during recovery for a mixture of fast and slow released proteins that cover every aspect of the recovery process.
Combined with CHO
Evidence suggests using a protein supplement in conjunction with a carbohydrate stimulates a larger insulin response and reduces markers of muscle damage. This improved insulin response is beneficial for the uptake of glycogen by muscles thus restoring muscles energy source more rapidly. Insulin is also a muscle building hormone, therefore is required during the recovery
process to repair damaged tissue. Supplementation with a combination of protein and carbohydrate throughout training may reduce the damage caused by training and result in improved performance for subsequent training sessions and ultimately during competitive racing.
A carbohydrate supplement (International Protein EXTREME CARBS) that provides fast and slow release energy combined with a protein supplement in a ratio of 4:1 (carb:Pro) will provide an ideal recovery supplement that will start the rebuilding process of muscle damaged during exercise.
- Endurance athletes require higher protein intakes. The recommended dietary allowance 1.4-1.6g/kg bw.
- Protein is required to speed the recovery process and gain the benefits from training sessions through stimulating protein synthesis (repairing damaged muscle tissue), and maintaining a healthy immune system.
- Consuming a protein supplement directly after training (within 30minutes) such as International Protein SUPERIOR WHEY or Amino Charged WPI can provide the perfect combination of amino acids required by your muscles to recover and be able to perform at a higher level in each training session.
Combing a carbohydrate and protein (4:1 ratio) supplement during the recovery process results in an optimal response. Muscle energy stores are restored rapidly, a greater insulin response has been observed and thereby the muscle recovery process is enhanced.