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If you speak to the average long distance runner about nutrition, they will likely be able to list all of the beneficial reasons why you need to consume enough or more carbohydrates. However, that same person will probably struggle to tell you why you need to consume protein.  

Listed below are 3 important reasons why you need to consume enough protein. 

Protein helps rebuild damaged muscle fibers:

Long distance running (more than 30 minutes) has been shown to break down muscle tissue. During a run, your muscles are withstanding two to seven times your bodyweight with every foot-strike. This causes your muscles to breakdown and then swell due to inflammation. 

I am sure you have all felt your sore muscles the following day after a long run. If you do not consume adequate amounts of protein, your body will take longer than necessary to recover and you may actually in-fact lose muscle mass, the combination of which will negatively effect your running performance. A good amount of protein for an individual who runs multiple times per week is 1.8-2.0 g/kg/bw. 

High-protein intake has been shown to help maintain a strong immune system:

Intense exercise of any type weakens the immune system. Protein stimulates white blood cells which keep your immune system nice and strong, aiding recovery. If you do not consume enough protein you will be more susceptible to developing upper-respiratory tract infections. 

High protein diets prevent muscle loss:

If a runner wants to lose excess body fat, they will need to restrict their calories or increase output. Either option will cause you to enter a calorie deficit (consuming less energy than your body requires to maintain its current weight) and your body will start to breakdown stored nutrients. The body will get some of its energy by breaking down fat and some by breaking down muscle. Losing muscle mass when on a diet is something that can negatively effect running performance and wants to be prevented at all cost. The best way to do this is to consume enough dietary protein. A good amount of protein for an individual whom is in a calorie deficit is 2.2-3g/kg/bw.

By Liam Horne