Submitted by Jason Peters, General Manager @ O2 Fitness Chatham
Historically, nutrition plans for endurance athletes have been centered on carbohydrates and hydration. But it has also become widely accepted that endurance athletes require significantly more protein than the standard adult recommended dietary allowance (RDA). While pure power and strength is often thrown by the wayside when training for an endurance event, maintaining sufficient muscle mass is critical. Failure to do so subjects an athlete to the following potential detriments:
- Delays in recovery
- Loss of power
- Increased injury risk
- Weaker immune system
So how do you go about incorporating protein into your diet?
If you’re anything like me, dinner most nights consists of some sort of turkey, fish, beef or chicken as the centerpiece–a good protein foundation. But I don’t typically have the time or energy to cook eggs in the morning. Nor do I have the foresight or inclination to grill a whole week’s worth of lean meats to pack with my lunches. Below are some easy, low-prep options that can give you a steady influx of much needed protein throughout the day.
6 On-The-Go Protein Options for Endurance Athletes
- Cottage cheese–It’s one of those “love it” or “hate it” things, I know. But I’ve been eating this stuff since I was a kid (yum…thanks, Mom!!). Slap some blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes or strawberries in there and you have yourself a nice breakfast or mid-morning snack.
- Greek yogurt–Aside from the fact that I prefer the texture versus its more traditional counterparts, Greek yogurt typically has about half the sugar and 75% more protein!! Just like with cottage cheese, I buy it plain and load it up with fresh fruit.
- Almond butter–It’s not what you ate on your PB&J sandwiches as a kid, but almond butter is pretty similar to peanut butter without all of the hydrogenated oils and extra sugar. It also has twice as much Vitamin E as peanut butter and 20% of your magnesium RDA. Give it a shot! You may never go back to your ‘Skippy’ again.
- Tuna–I use the Starkist pouches, which probably aren’t nearly as good as a fresh tuna steak from your grocer’s meat counter, but they’re easy and pack 18 grams of protein. No draining required…I eat ‘em right out of the pouch with a little mustard mixed in!
- Milk–It doesn’t get any easier than milk. I occasionally jumpstart my metabolism with a Carnation Instant Breakfast and a cup of skim milk, a combo that nets me about 220 calories and 13 grams of quality protein. While I try not to do this every day, it’s a good way to quickly get some calories in me while I’m on my way out the door. Grab a banana for the road and that’s a decent makeshift breakfast. My rule on milk is…2% milk is a perfectly balanced meal on its own, so if you are in need of a small, quick meal, you can’t beat 16 ounces of ‘moo-juice’.
- Myoplex by EAS – Within 30 minutes of completing any workout, I try to load up on protein to aide in recovery. Myoplex is my favorite, packing 42 grams of protein per shake. It is somewhat pricey, but not when compared to the cost of getting that much protein from another source. I usually reserve it for my most intense workouts. It is delicious and worth the investment to get your muscles back on the right track.