It’s interesting that despite studies suggesting that the (already elevated) recommendations for protein intake by endurance athletes may be too low – failing to optimise performance – there are many top endurance athletes who controvert this. An interesting study looked at the dietary habits of elite runners in Kenya.

The athletes were consuming a diet very high in carbohydrates (76.5%, 10.4 g/kg of body mass per day) and low in fat (13.4%). Protein intake represented 10.1% of their total calories which worked out to be 1.3 g/kg per day, which matches the recommendations by the American College of Sports Medicine mentioned above. Another interesting point is that the estimated energy intake of the athletes (2987 ± 293 kcal) was lower than energy expenditure (3605 ± 119 kcal).

This aligns with what we witnessed whilst training with Kipchoge and other elites in Kenya. Coming in from a long run, there was no sign of protein shakes. The snacks of choice were bananas, white bread and milky tea saturated with sugar. The authors of this study also noted that fluid intake by the Kenyan athletes studied was modest, mainly in the form of water (1113 ± 269 mL) and tea (1243 ± 348 mL). Their conclusions: “Although the diet met most recommendations for endurance athletes for macronutrient intake, it remains to be determined if modifying energy balance and fluid intake will enhance the performance of elite Kenyan runners.”
Here we take a look at some of the research and recommendations on how much protein athletes should be consuming, and the reasons why. There’s no universal answer but I hope this will provide some interesting points to consider when making dietary choices. Protein is obviously of significance – playing a key role in myriad bodily functions – but figuring out how much, what type and when you should be consuming protein is really quite a confusing undertaking. It’s by no means as simple as protein = gains. I mean, firstly, what is protein?

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