Ask the Coach: Protein – It’s What’s for Dinner

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

As a masters endurance athlete, is it true that I need to get more protein than younger runners?
—Onan J. Goat, Norman, OK

This article appeared in our February 2009 issue.

Nutrition fads come and go, but what remains is scientific research: In recent years, protein has proved to be key for solid endurance training and for older people (defined as 60 and up, by many studies on this topic).

“If you don’t get enough,” says Bill Evans Ph.D., professor of nutrition and metabolism at the University of Arkansas and author of Biomarkers: The 10 Keys to Prolonged Vitality, “your body will borrow what it needs from other parts of your body,” which results in weaker muscles or lower energy stores.

The FDA recommends about 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day, based on studies on non-athletes. Endurance training could bump that to at least 1.0 grams. Masters endurance athletes should get about 1.2 to 1.3 grams. For example, a 150-pound person would need 80 to 90 grams per day (a lean, four-ounce piece of cooked meat, fish or poultry contains about 32 grams). Also, eating adequate carbs helps your body “spare” protein stores, says Evans. But don’t overdo the protein since excess intake (more than 2.1 grams in one study) can drain calcium reserves and lower bone strength.

Want to Know What It Takes to Finish at Western States? Just Ask Hellah Sidibe.

Find out what happened when this six-year run streaker and HOKA Global Athlete Ambassador took on an iconic ultramarathon in California's Sierra Nevada