At the 2023 American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting (ACSM; acsm.org), more than 3,000 sports medicine professionals and researchers from around the globe gathered to share knowledge. Several sports nutrition presentations offered updates that might be of interest you.
• Muscle is constantly being broken down into amino acids and then rebuilt into new muscle tissue. Resistance exercise, such as weightlifting, stimulates the synthesis of new muscle during the 24-hours post-exercise. Including ~0.15 grams high-quality protein per pound of body weight (0.3 g/kg) per meal maximizes muscle protein synthesis. That comes to about 20 grams protein for a 120-lb (54.5 kg) runner and ~30 grams for a 180-lb (82 kg) runner. You can easily consume that amount in (chocolate) milk, eggs, or tofu.
• Protein’s food matrix, with all the bioactive compounds that accompany the amino acids in natural foods, has a positive influence on the muscle-building effectiveness of the amino acids. For example, eating a whole egg, not just the egg white, more effectively builds muscle tissue. Hence, your best bet is to choose protein-rich foods in their natural state, such as nuts, yogurt, tuna, beans & rice, etc. Whole foods are preferable to the protein isolates in powders and bars.
• Including protein at each meal and snack also offers benefits. Many runners eat too little protein at breakfast and lunch, then devour 2 to 3 chicken breasts at dinner. They’d be better-off enjoying a serving of protein at each meal and snack.
• Vegan runners can indeed consume adequate protein if they are responsible. A vegan meal with just pasta and greens doesn’t do the job. How much protein from plants is enough? The goal is ~1 gram plant-protein/lb (2.1 g/kg) body weight per day. For a 120-lb (54.5 kg) runner, this comes to about 30 grams per meal plus 10 to 15 grams in each of two snacks.
The information on food labels tells the grams protein/serving, as does a quick google-search (protein in half-cup of hummus). Don’t be among the many athletes who comment “most Americans consume way too much protein” and make little effort to replace chicken with enough beans. A big dallop (1/2 c) of hummus with 8 grams of protein does not equate to the 35 grams of protein in a small (4-oz) chicken breast. Vegans, educate yourself!
Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD counsels both fitness exercisers and competitive athletes in the Boston-area (Newton; 617-795-1875). Her best-selling Sports Nutrition Guidebook is a popular resource, as is her online workshop. Visit NancyClarkRD.com for info.