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· Nutrition

Few months ago, Coup d’barre informed you about fats and carbohydrates consumption before, during and after training. Today we're going to look at the last one on the macronutrient list: protein.  

Ah proteins! This famous molecule too often associated with muscle mass gain. Between bars, spreads, protein preparation, whey… we see it everywhere. We hear it a lot about bodybuilding, but what about endurance sports?  

Today, Coupd’barre helps you see more clearly about proteins and give you keys to optimize your performance.  

What is the protein?

A protein is a macronutrient, that is to say, they have an energetic role, they provide energy to our body and allow the good metabolism of the vital functions of this one. 

Unlike carbohydrates and fats, proteins have a nitrogen molecule. They are the only food sources of nitrogen for the body. This nitrogen is essential for living being, all parts of the human body contain it (DNA, hair, muscle, tissues, nails, bone…).  

Protein is made up of a chain of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids that make up food proteins, 9 of these amino acids are said to be essential, that is to say, they can’t be synthesize by our body. They must necessarily be provided by food.  

Where do you find proteins?

There are animal and vegetable proteins. The quality of protein sources lies almost exclusively in their ability to cover protein and in essential amino acids requirements.  

Animal proteins have more nutritional value than vegetable proteins because they have all the essential amino acids and they are more bioavailable. That is, the proportion of amino acids used by the body will be greater compared to the amount ingested. Thus, vegetarians are more prone to have deficiencies in certain essential amino acids which are deficient in certain plant products.

To avoid this, it’s necessary to consume a variety of plant products with complementary proteins.  

For instance, cereal proteins are rich in sulfur amino acids but poor in lysine whereas legumes are poor in sulfur amino acids and rich in lysine.  

Note: However, animal proteins are more associated with animal fats (bad for the body) and vegetable proteins with the complex carbohydrates (good source of carbohydrates for the body and very important for an athlet). So you have to be careful with the amount of animal products you eat and not neglect the vegetable proteins.  

Here are some examples of animal and vegetable proteins sources

Roles of proteins: 

Proteins are everywhere in our body and play various roles.  

They are involved in many physiological processes, for instance in the form of enzymes (catalysis of reactions), antibodies (immune system), hemoglobin (carries oxygen), hormones, neurotransmitters… 

They also have an energetic role. However, proteins are used as a last resort when they aren’t enough fats and carbohydrates to provide energy. 

Proteins have an important structural role as a constituent of muscle tissue and essential elements of biological membranes via collagen (the most abundant protein in the body). 

They are essential for the renewal and repair of our body tissues such as muscle tissue, skin (nails, hair, etc.), bone tissue..., as they replace worn-out, inefficient proteins and repair damaged tissue.  

For instance, during training, muscles will “tear”, that is to say, microlesions will form following more intense solicitation than usual. The amino acids present in the proteins that we ingest will serve as the basis for the synthesis of muscle protein in order to rebuild, strengthen and potentially gain muscle mass. 

What about proteins for endurance sport ?

We hear a lot about proteins in bodybuilding to gain volume. Even if, proteins play a major role in increasing muscle mass, as seen above they are not only useful for that.  

The food you eat before sport have a direct impact on your performance. During your session, your body uses its store of glucose, then its fat, and lastly uses protein to provide energy.  useful in order to possibly have an additional energy supply but above all in order to optimize the recovery and repair of tissues damaged by exertion.  

Protein before sport: 

The food you eat before sport have a direct impact on your performance. During you session, your body uses its store of glucose, then its fat, and lastly uses protein to provide energy. 

According to some studies, consuming proteins before sport may have benefits but this is not where they are the most important.  

Indeed, proteins consumed before sport may prevent muscle damage by providing the muscles with protein that they would be normally catalyzed on their own. However, consuming protein before sport may cause digestive issues. It depends of the individual, so it’s advisable to try during a training session.  

In addition, the effort of digestion and assimilating the proteins requires energy from the body. It is therefore not recommended to intake a large quantity of protein before your session unless you have not eaten anything since the start of the day.  

Before sport, it’s recommended to consume carbohydrates, a little fat and about 10g of protein at least 1 hour before your exercise.  

Protein during sport: 

During sport, the muscles work and all sorts of metabolic reactions take place to provide your body with energy. This function takes priority over the others, so during exercise you don’t digest protein, let alone build muscle.  

There is therefore not much interests in consuming protein during sport except in the case of longue training (more than 4 hours), or during long training sessions carried out on an empty stomach or with a low glycogen stock. 

Indeed, during longue training, the stock of glycogen and lipid is well depleted, the metabolism of proteins will therefore be affected, and we observe an increase in amino acids for energy production. The consequence of this use is a breakdown of muscle proteins and the development of central nervous fatigue. In order to limit muscle weakening and the extreme fatigue, it is recommended to consume proteins.  

During ultra-trail, Ironman… It is advisable to have a protein intake of about 15g every 3 hours, making sure beforehand that this intake doesn’t cause you digestive problems.  

Protein after sport:

Consuming protein after sport is the best time to optimize recovery. Indeed, during training, the muscle fibers have been damaged and destroyed. The body automatically starts to rebuild muscle proteins (anabolism) immediately after the effort. For this reconstruction to be optimal, the body must have amino acids and different hormonal signals such as insulin.  

Therefore, injection protein with carbohydrates to promote insulin secretion will be optimal for your recovery.  

After sport, it is advisable to consume about 25 to 30g of protein during the 2 hours following exercise.  

How much protein should we eat per day? 

We don’t have an amino acids stock, so it’s necessary to consume proteins daily and with each meal to allow the continuous renewal of the body’s protein by providing essential amino acids.  

The protein requirements of an individual are related to their weight, they are approximately 0,83 to 1.1 g/kg/day for an adult. In infants, protein requirements are greater, reaching 2.2g/kg/day. Growing children and the elderly also need more protein (around 1.2 g/kg/day). 

Athletes will have different needs depending on the volume and intensity of their training as well as their goal. 

Table of protein requirements according to the type of effort

Note: Be careful, under consumption of protein is harmful to your health and your performance (loss of muscle mass, increased appetite, fatigue, etc.). However, too much protei, is not better. Too much protein can lead to bloating, weight gain (excess protein turns into fat), acidification of the body which leads to the use of minerals to compensate for this acidity, and which will reduce muscle growth factors as well as increased risk of inflammation (tendonitis for example) ... It is therefore important to consume proteins in reasonable quantities, according to your needs. 

Now, you know all about the use of protein before, during and after endurance sport. The next week we going to see a superfood, rich in protein too and with a lot of benefits: Spirulina. Do we count you in ? 

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