Being a fit, strong runner means eating a healthy balanced diet with enough protein.
We all know that protein is part of a healthy diet – and that sporty athletic women need more of it. But do you know how much protein to eat, where to get it from, and what it does for your body? This will explain everything.
What is protein (and why do we need it)?
Protein is one of the three macronutrients in food: carbohydrates, fats and protein. All macronutrients give the body energy, and contain calories (9kcals per gram for fats, and 4kcals per gram for carbs and protein). But protein is the only macronutrient that the body can not store – so we need to make sure we eat enough of it.
Protein helps so many functions in the body, including repairing muscle and connective tissue. Protein also keeps you feeling full, preventing energy crashes from highs and lows of blood sugar.
Endurance athletes should keep a close eye on their protein intake. But how much is enough?
How much protein do you need?
A good guideline is 1 gram protein per 1 pound (lb) of body weight. This is 1g of protein – not 1g of the food itself. So a chicken breast that weighs 150 grams contains about 30g protein. Check food labels to understand how much protein is in your food, or use a tracking tool like myfitnesspal or another free app until you get the hang of it.
A super simple way of assessing a decent protein portion is simply to use your hand – a flat palm of a protein food (like meat, fish, beans etc) is a good serving.
So a 10 stone woman (140lbs) should aim for around 140g of the macronutrient protein per day, ideally split into 4+ meals and snacks. A good amount to shoot for per meal, mini-meal or snack is 30g.
Where to get your protein
A chicken breast
A tin of tuna
1.5-2 fillets of white fish (like haddock)
1 fillet of oily fish (like mackerel)
A small pot of real Greek yoghurt (not “Greek style”), cottage cheese, or quark
A small steak or other red meat portion (like venison or bison)
A 25-30g serving of protein powder
Protein breakfast (or brunch) recipe
There’s a reason eggs are so popular for breakfast: they are a perfect protein source, with balanced amino acids, plus a little healthy fat from the yolks. They can be cooked up any way you like with the add ins you prefer. Try this tasty omelette for a healthy and filling meal any time of the day.
5ml oil or butter
3 eggs or 1 egg and 100ml egg whites
50g chopped mushrooms
50g chopped bell pepper any colour
Fresh leaf spinach
1) Heat the oil or butter in a heavy pan – choose one that has a lid (this is key to great omelettes!)
2) Add the mushrooms and bell pepper to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes.
3) Whisk the eggs and egg whites together and pour over slowly.
4) Wait until the edges are cooked, then put the spinach on top, and put the lid on the pan.
5) Turn the heat to low/medium and let the omelette cook with the lid on.
6) Fold the omelette in the pan and it should slide straight out onto your plate!
You can add healthy carbs to this omelette by cooking white potato or sweet potato, then chopping it into small cubes. Add the cubed potato in stage 2 of the recipe.