Why runners need it in their diet
Whether it’s animal or plant-based, this essential macronutrient does more than you know...
Hormones are chemical messengers in the body, which act as catalysts for all major bodily functions – a study in Nutrition & Diabetes, for instance, suggests a strong relationship between gut hormones and obesity. Hormones are primarily derived from amino acids and peptides, which, in turn, are derived from protein. Hormone imbalances can affect everything from weight gain to mental health issues, so ensuring a steady intake of protein from a wide range of sources is essential.
Also a type of messenger in the body, neurotransmitters are best known for passing chemical and electrical signals in the brain. Research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry established a relationship between neurotransmitters in grey matter and symptoms of depression, and dopamine – the ‘happy chemical’ released when you go running – is a neurotransmitter. They work across the entire body, transmitting signals across spaces in cells rather than through the bloodstream and are – you guessed it – derived from amino
acids and, therefore, protein.
Hang on – protein is used to build muscle, not lose weight, surely? Well, it’s not quite that simple. A study published in Physiology & Behaviour confirmed that protein increases satiety more so than other nutrients (i.e. it makes you feel full), which is obviously handy when trying to cut a few pounds – but there’s even more to it than that. Protein has a thermic effect on your body, which means that your metabolism is increased in breaking it down. So by eating more protein, you increase the rate at which your body burns food for energy – neat, right?
Protein’s best-documented role in the body is to repair muscle cells after exercise, helping them to recover and grow larger in response to the intensity of the work. You’ve probably heard about the anabolic window and how important it is to eat protein immediately after exercise – but don’t believe the hype. Researchers writing in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition debunked the myth, asserting that simply eating protein at steady intervals throughout the day is just as effective. Gym bros, take heed.
Good news for runners experiencing a sniffle or two as the nights draw in – there’s another weapon in your anti-cold arsenal. Antibodies – you know, the body’s response to pathogens like bacteria and viruses – are actually proteins produced in plasma cells. We’re not saying you should abandon that Lemsip – vitamin C is well established as boosting immunity, after all –
but at least now it’s not your only option.