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Is a High Protein Diet Good for Endurance Athletes?
What about a high protein diet for endurance athletes?
What about a high protein diet for endurance athletes? Classically, endurance athletes have gravitated towards a high carbohydrate diet, since carbs provide energy, and the goal of the endurance athlete is longevity of performance, rather than putting on muscle size.
However, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has issued a report that supports the idea of endurance athletes embracing more protein in their diet.
A study was led by Kevin Tipton, PhD, a researcher at the University of Stirling in Scotland, to examine what kind of effects a higher protein intake would have on endurance capacity. Would this macronutrient have any benefits, he wondered.
For the study, eight cyclists completed two trials lasting three weeks. The trials were equally divided into 1) normal, 2) intensified, and 3) recovery training.
During #2 and #3, the athletes were assigned either to a normal, or to a high protein, diet. The normal diet consisted of 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass. The second diet was double this amount.
The endurance performance after intense training was improved slightly with the high protein diet. Stress levels were lowered.
Dr. Tipton cannot explain definitively why stress levels were lowered, but suspects it might be because of tyrosine, an amino acid with mood boosting properties. Maybe the reduced stress contributed to better performance.
Does this mean that endurance athletes such as runners, hikers, cyclists and cross country skiers should start eating like bodybuilders?
Of course not. In fact, even many bodybuilders don't agree that their own diet should be high in protein. I'm a bodybuilder (though I don't compete), and quite frankly, it's very difficult to maintain a high protein diet.
Results are preliminary and more studies are planned. However, all athletes (who are not committed to a vegetarian lifestyle) should feel comfortable regularly eating at least some high protein foods such as fish, nuts and eggs.