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Boost Your Endurance with Protein-Loading!!

by Greg DiRenzo, CPT

High Protein Foods.

It has been “instructed” for decades that for athletes, carbohydrates are often the go-to food when preparing for endurance based activities or intense exercise. Everyone says, “carb up and you will have more energy." But as a few of us have experimented with other means of “energy stores” and as a new report released this month by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) identifies a new nutrition option for endurance exercisers - PROTEIN. Huh… What… How can that be? “Carbing up” is what we have always been told will help us with more energy. Keep on reading and you will find out!

The recent report, titled "Effect of Increased Dietary Protein on Tolerance to Intensified Training," was published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise®, ACSM's official scientific journal. A research study led by Kevin Tipton, Ph.D., examined the effects of increased protein intake on endurance performance. "Endurance athletes - such as runners or cyclists - commonly rely on nutrition to enhance their post-exercise recovery," said Dr. Tipton, a researcher with the University of Stirling in Scotland. "For years, athletes have relied heavily on carbohydrate feeding for recovery. However, we wanted to explore the benefits of protein." Hmmmmm, interesting, personally all my clients and especially my athletes have been on a very similar program for years.

Not only can physical stress affect your performance, lifestyle stress can hurt it even more, but because of these findings, stress reduction and overall recovery can be improved with protein.

The study involved eight endurance-trained cyclists, they completed two three-week trials, divided equally into normal, intensified and recovery training. During the intensified and recovery training sessions, the cyclists were assigned either a normal or a high-protein diet. These cyclists consumed 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body mass in the normal diet and double that amount in the high-protein diet (example: 68kg = 150lbs = 102g of protein normal diet; 204g high protein diet). The results indicated that the athletes on the high-protein diet not only improved their endurance performance slightly after intense training but also reduced their stress levels! Yes, better endurance and less stress (better recovery). Not only can physical stress affect your performance, lifestyle stress can hurt it even more, but because of these findings, stress reduction and overall recovery can be improved with protein. The topic of “Stress” is another big, big, big discussion, but not here. Better recovery means you will have the ability to train at Homeostasis and allow for a Super-compensation training phase/cycle. That is the key, train to improve, and that primarily occurs in a Super-compensation phase/cycle, but if you are not recovered this will have a negative effect on your performance and training.

Dr. Tipton also noted, "Previous research has identified tyrosine, an amino acid found in protein, as a mood-booster. Whereas, we can't definitively say why the athletes felt a bit better with higher protein intake, it's possible the availability of tyrosine in our high-protein diet helped diffuse stress, thus contributing to the increase in performance."

The finding from this study shows the facts that I have believed for years and utilize with my clients and athletes (ask Trey Canard, Jimmy Albertson and Phil Nicoletti how much protein they had to eat!). This study also documents and provides qualitative data as well as the scientific proof that what we have been doing works and what I will continue to do with my clients, especially endurance performance oriented clients! As a coach and trainer, I hope more research will be done to further explore the benefits of long-term protein “feeding” for athletes. Now go out and get some steak, and maybe throw a little salt on it!

About the Author: Greg has over two decades of experience in exercise science and sports training. He holds several certifications in individual and group fitness instruction including TRX and sports performance. In motocross, he has worked with Phil Nicoletti, Jimmy Albertson and Trey Canard during Trey's 2008 East Coast Lites championship run. Visit Greg's website at ProFormers Training, on Twitter or Facebook. This guy is everywhere!

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    Tommy Tampa May 05, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    I have been in the fitness business for over 30 years and I am so tired of all the crap you read, No one can make up their mind on what is good or bad for you. I am assuming that as we progress our reserach extends beyound our need to sell the next big thing. Just eat a balanced diet. Pretty simple concept, but it does not sell any books, or get written up as the next big concept.

  2. Gravatar
    Pelotrain May 05, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    While I agree with Tommy Tampa and research is an ongoing thing I can say that I did a self test where I totally cut out all meat and protein except for fish 2 x week. I carried on training as per normal 15-25hr weeks and I would not recover atall between sessions and eventually after 5 days I had no power atall and was very miseralble to say the least.

    This article does hold alot of water.

    Thanks Tim again for decent content.

  3. Gravatar
    mil May 06, 2011 at 6:20 am

    It is very misleading to think that protein is used as a preferential fuel source - this is not the case.

    This study confirms and highlights the role of protein in recovery and repair. Carbohydrate is still vital pre-exercise, and there is good evidence to show a combination of protein and carbohydrate post exercise is the best form of rapid recovery. This extract does not show the full nutritional intake of the subject - just comments on the relative protein intake.

    Please don't suggest that people should choose protein instead of carbs to improve endurance.

  4. Gravatar
    Greg DiRenzo May 06, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Tommy Tampa
    I love Tampa, the Hooters on W. Hillsborough Ave is awesome! We all applaud your longevity in the fitness business, (well maybe not all of us). I do agree that there is crap out there and people need to be aware of that. But I am not sure where that comes into play here as no one is selling anything, not even a DVD or a new magic pill for 19.95 with free shipping! The research (spelling corrected) may extend beyond (spelling corrected again) our need, but if one truly understands nutrition, not saying you do not, but it does not seem like you do, suggesting to just eat a balanced diet for an athlete is missing the boat if you want to continue to perform at a high level. For the general population and for those who are 100 pounds over weight, your advice is spot on, maybe. I am now going to see if I can sell this though, I may go to the outdoor nationals and set up a raw meat stand, maybe get some Rockstar or Monster girls to promote it by walking around and yelling, Eat My Meat! AMA may not like that though.

    I am sure you were totally miserable after your self test. Awesome to see you guys doing real world evaluations! It looks like you guys have a solid program.

    Correct, carbohydrates are vital in pre and post exercise. This article only talks about ADDITIONAL protein added to a nutritional program. This does not suggest that athletes or anyone replace all carbs with protein, it simply states ADDITIONAL protein helps.

    Do people READ these articles or just skim through it? Time for a steak with salt! Hahahahahaha!

  5. Gravatar
    Mark May 06, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    I think the fats in the meats are most important.
    Also because your brain is composed out of fat en so its actually food for your brain en stress reductive.
    I also heard and read that animal fats can help with depressions.
    best organic.
    Greg maybe spot on.
    Greetings from holland

  6. Gravatar
    jake May 08, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Both protein and carbs are vital nutrients in a athletes diet. Carbs are the bridge for protein's. A trainer friend of mine suggests that you intake 20grams of protein 3 times daily along with a high Carb diet. I have been using this system daily for a few months and my endurance has shot through the roof. Before I was beat after a 20 minute moto on the 250f and now I go harder on the 450 for 40 minutes. The balance is different depending on the person and his training schedule, but carbs and protein are definately needed in a high intensity athletes diet.

  7. Gravatar
    Lancaster May 22, 2011 at 6:33 am

    Carbohydrate is essential for optimal performance, but, it is a tool that is overutilized by many people in the fitness industry. As Martin Berkhan discusses, it has been shown that it is better to train in the fasted state and then utilize carbohydrate post workout. Race day is the only time I would implement pre- workout carbohydrate. Other than post workout and race day, Ketones, not glucose, are the preferred fuel for most of the tissue in the body including the heart and lungs.

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