Thiel: Monitor your protein to repair muscle, stay healthy

Protein, for the athlete, is the most important food item needed to allow for tissue repair and muscle building.

Because of my training as a sports therapist, I see quite a few runners and endurance athletes  in my practice. During the course of my history and examination, I usually give the endurance athlete a sports profile questionnaire to fill out.

This does not just apply to competitive athletes; it applies to anyone who is engaged in training that is endurance in nature. This would involve your runner, swimmer, cyclist or competitive cat juggler.

If you get your heart pumping for a duration in excess of 30 minutes, this applies to you.

One of my questions, I feel, is most crucial in determining your ability overcome the rigours and demands of endurance training. In order to do so, you must be equipped to adapt, heal and build post exercise. I ask them “How much protein do you take in per day?”

On average, 80 per cent of the population does not know this amount.

Protein, for the athlete, is the most important food item needed to allow for tissue repair and muscle building. Our muscles are made up of amino acids. These amino acids are the building blocks for protein. Our body does not make amino acids or protein as a rule, therefore, we need it from our diet.

Most find it surprising that endurance athletes need more protein than do bodybuilders. By the sheer nature of endurance sports, we break down our protein, or muscles by the repetitive-high needs demands of endurance activities.

In other words, a runner, say, would break down their protein in their muscles every time they train hard. Well, that muscle is not only going to need to be replaced, but you will need even more protein to have an adaptation, or building response. This is why we train; to get stronger and faster. To deplete your dietary intake of protein is entering into a futile cycle. You will never improve and you run a much higher chance of contracting an injury.

In addition, protein is also very important in maintaining a strong immune system. Without it, you are more susceptible to getting sick.

How much protein is the necessary amount for a proper training and adaptation response? Dr. Maro DePasquale, an exercise physiologist, has spent his career answering just this question. His research, out of the Boston Medical Center cites that the endurance athlete should ingest a dietary equivalent of 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass. This is you minus your fat.

The trick is in knowing what has what amount of protein. How much does an egg have, a chicken breast, a can of tuna, etc? It is easy enough to look up. Become a label reader—it is often some of the most important reading you will do.

So, if you are an endurance athlete, do not go to the trouble of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Make sure you monitor and supplement you protein appropriately. All of my athletes now know this; this could be your edge. After all, a Ferrari is no good without gas, is it?


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