When, how and what for should runners take protein supplements? Let’s check into the matter.
Biologically active additives (BAAs) belong to the list of the most interesting and much-debated topics. Many runners stand for taking BAAs and believe that it is not good to train without additional nutrition support. The others are against it and argue that it is unnatural. As usual, the truth is somewhere in between.
Let us learn an expert’s opinion on the influence of BAAs on the body of a runner and study protein supplements better.
Who needs BAAs?
What we eat is crucial. Runner’s food should be complete and balanced. BAAs are recommended for those who has problems with nutrition.
Problems vary, ranging from the difficulty of getting rid of BAA eating habits or cooking skills to the choice of vegetarian eating of other diets.
BAAs are also useful if there are stressful situations that are hard to solve only with food changes, for example, ecological factors. BAAs can also help in the periods of intensive training that deplete body’s resources.
What belongs to BAAs? Vitamins, minerals, protein supplements, various extracts.
Why Do We Need Protein and How Much?
Protein is a key element for our body. If carbohydrates represent fuel, protein is our construction material. Muscles, inner organs, and hormones that control vital processes consist of protein.
Protein, elastin, and collagen are kept in bones, tendons, and in the connective tissues. Our cells are constantly renewing, so the construction material should be delivered without fail.
Every day, a runner needs 1-2 g of protein for each kilo of his weight (0,0022-0,0044 for each 2,2 lbs.). For example, my weight is 69 kg (152,12 lbs.), so I need minimum 69 g (0,15 lbs.), and 130 g (0,29 lbs.) is better. Better for recovery processes and muscle growth.
Low consumption of protein also affects motivation of athletes, as a neurotransmitter thrombotonin has a protein nature. Insufficient level of thrombotonin will have a negative impact on mood. We will be anxious, nervous, and it is not so pleasant.
Muscles contain irreplaceable amino acids, in the same way as bones keep calcium. Without enough protein in food, the body will burn its muscles for receiving necessary amino acids for vital inner organs. However, the excessive amount of protein is BAA, too. The body will burn the excess and get poisoned by ammonia (product of protein breakdown). The liver will be overloaded, and the body as a whole will overacidified. The overacidified body assimilates oxygen less well, and it increases aging processes.
Where Should We Take Protein?
Protein is everywhere. In vegetables, fruits, cereals, fish, meat, and seafood. But this protein is different in quality or amino acid composition. Protein consists of them, like a house is made of bricks. There are about 20 amino acids, and our body is not able to synthesize 10 of them – they are to come from food.
Irreplaceable Amino Acids
- Leucine helps to reduce the sugar level, stops the destruction of muscles that occurs during increased physical activity, and stimulates fat burning. Together with isoleucine and leucine, it is an important part of the process of muscle regeneration (like BCAA).
- Phenylalanine overcomes the obstacle between the CNS and the circulatory system, so it helps in treating neurological diseases and chronic pains.
- Lysine is the strongest fighter against viruses, especially herpetic and respiratory infections. It takes part in the production of antibodies, improves the immunity, promotes the synthesis of collagen, muscle protein, growth hormones, and makes hair healthy.
- Valine is named in honor of Valerian. It provides us with energy, promotes growth and regeneration of tissues. It is also crucial for normal brain functioning.
- Tryptophan helps to fight insomnia, BAA mood, and depression. It stabilizes appetite, lowers cholesterol, loosens blood vessels, and helps to synthesize the growth hormone, serotonin, niacin or vitamin B3.
- Isoleucine is important for athletes, as it increases stamina, accelerates recovery processes in muscles, and fills you with energy. It takes part in hemoglobin production and regulates glucose levels.
- Methionine is essential for digestion. It removes fat and toxins and helps to produce creatine that improves stamina.
- Threonine is especially important for children, as its participation is necessary to create strong bones and muscles. It is crucial for elastin and collagen synthesis. Threonine is essential for the work of the nervous, circulatory, immune, and digestive systems. It prevents accumulation of fat in the liver.
- Arginine is important when the body grows, gets sick or old, because in such periods its production is insufficient. It activates the production of growth hormone and rejuvenates the body, stimulates immunity, helps to reduce the layer of subcutaneous fat.
- Histidine takes part in the process of hematopoiesis, formation of hemoglobin, gastric juice. It also increases libido, prevents allergies and autoimmune reactions.
Complications of the Protein Intake
Huge Running Amounts
I have learnt it myself and heard from many well know athletes. When you run a lot (150-200 km (93-124 miles) per week), you do not want to eat meat. Meat requires a lot of energy to digest, and it is advisable to restore this energy for the next workout. That is why many ultramarathon people are prone to veganism.
Nutrition That Destroys Microflora
In case of poor nutrition, the intestinal microflora changes, especially when carbohydrates predominate. Such changes stimulate the growth of pathogenic microflora. As a result, protein is absorbed poorly.
You can eat on time, but limit yourself to a certain set of products in terms of protein content. The more varied the diet is, the better. Fish and eggs, red and white meat, seafood are sources of protein with different content of amino acids.
Our ancestors, hunters and gatherers, ate a variety of food for tens of thousands of years. They lived up to 80 years and were strong and agile. According to scientists, they were much stronger than the current representative of the species, who eats many carbohydrates and drinks much alcohol. That is, our digestive system requires varied food.
Recommendations on Protein Supplements for Runners
Right after training, it is recommended to take the quick protein (whey protein isolate) or amino acids. It is already possible to state with confidence that the intake of essential amino acids (BSAA — leucine, isoleucine, valine) after training to improve the protein synthesis and adaptation to exercise has a convincing theoretical basis and acceptable evidentiary base.
Glutamine is the king of amino acids. Muscle consist of glutamine up to 60%, and the lepidic tissue of the bowel up to 100%. In addition, glutamine is used to produce glucosamine for joints and the most powerful antioxidant for the whole body. Studies of the Oxford University with the participation of marathon and ultra marathon runners has shown that glutamine supplements taken immediately after the race and again within 2 hours, reduce the risk of infection and increase the activity of immune cells. During the following week, only 19% of the runners who took glutamine became sick, while 51% of those who took placebo fell ill.
Glutathione, being produced in the liver mainly from amino acids such as L-cysteine, L-glutamic acid and glycine, is considered a substitute amino acid. It was proven that physical stress reduces the amount of glutathione and affects stamina, immunity and rehabilitation rates, and that is special additives that regulate glutathione levels have a beneficial influence on physical form of the athlete.
Immediately after training, you get the “window” of recovery, and the night opens the “gates” of recovery. However, before going to bed you need slow protein that will make your body gradually absorb nutrients during the night. It can be casein or multi-component protein (isolate, hydrolysate, albumin, casein).
Tryptophan is an amino acid from which Niacin (vitamin B) and serotonin are produced. The latter is involved in brain processes and controls your appetite, sleep, mood and pain threshold. It also helps to fight insomnia and gives you normal sleep, freedom from anxiety and depression, and calms the limbic system.
Citrulline is an amino acid that does not belong to building proteins, but it has a large number of physiological effects. Citrulline can form arginine, the main donator of nitrogen, which improves blood flow in muscles, loosens blood vessels, and reduces pressure. Since citrulline takes part in the disposal of urea, it promotes the rapid elimination of toxins such as urea and lactic acid. These metabolites appear in the process of physical activity, metabolism and catabolic reactions. They slow down recovery and reduce physical performance of an athlete.
In 2015, BaileyS J and Blackwell JR conducted a research on healthy people. In the course of 5 days, the athletes took maltodextrin (placebo), citrulline (6 g) or arginine (6 g), dissolved in water in small portions throughout the day. On days 6 and 7, when tests were performed, supplements were taken one time 1.5 hours before exercise.
It was proven that citrulline reduces blood pressure, improves oxygen delivery to muscles and increases endurance in training. Arginine did not influence the studied parameters. Thus, citrulline allows you to make training more intense, as well as reduces the recovery time. It can be successfully used in aerobic sports such as running, cycling, swimming, etc. for rapid recovery and prevention of overtraining.
I do not give specific recommendations in this article. My goal is to draw runners' attention to the benefits of protein supplements. All, that concerns the need for use of different amino acids, I recommend to discuss with your couch. Overdose of proteins or amino acids affects your legs – they will keep water, swell, refuse to run. An experienced coach knows who and what should take. I recommend beginners to start with the development of a personal diet and only then decide what BAAs to add to the diet.