I’ve changed my eating habits at least a trillion times in my life. I probably will a million more, at least. I like to play around with my food, my “diet” (You all know how much I hate that term. But, I don’t mean IM GOING ON A DIET AND LOSING 20 LBS IN 3 WEEKS. I just mean, my habits as a consumer.) I didn’t eat meat for some while. I even cut out dairy all together for a few months there… However, since I began running I have truly truly found the importance of protein no matter what my eating habits may be. The key is to listen to your body. If it’s asking for more protein, give it some more protein!
What are some pretty big clues that you may not be getting enough protein in your diet?
- Weight Loss/Muscle Loss. Without protein, all our workouts are more or less wasted. We need protein to develop muscle, strengthen, recover. When your body can’t find enough protein, it takes it from the richest source… OUR MUSCLES. (Protein fuels muscles; then the highest amount stored in our body would be….) If you start to notice “flabby” muscles, you probably need to up your protein intake
- Fatigue and Loss of Energy. This applies both mentally and physically. If you are starting to feel consistently tired all the time, when typically you have more energy… Or, starting to feel sluggish while running or exercising… This could be a big indicator that your ‘diet’ is slipping in one area or another.
- Headaches. Headaches from h-e-double hockey sticks, that can range from dull and annoying to splitting and seem to return every day… There is probably a reason. Try eating something with some protein. Or, a protein shake – I’ve noticed a lot of my headaches go away after eating something healthy!
- Brittle Hair and Nails. Like I said before, when your body can’t find enough protein it will suck it dry from where EVER it can sink its teeth in. This can be one of the first signs of protein deficiency.
- Constipation and Irregularity. There are certainly a number of reasons you may be experiencing constipation, however lack of protein is a very common one.
- Injury and Difficulty Healing. Obviously, if your body is sucking the protein from your muscles, this leads to weaker muscles and the chance of injury. Also, because you don’t have enough protein you can’t even maintain your muscle mass, so clearly you won’t be able to heal them. This doesn’t only apply to your muscles though. Protein is absolutely essential in the building of new tissue, which is needed to repair damage cause from injury.
Around 25% of your calories should come from protein. A good rule of thumb, as a runner or other type of endurance athlete, is to multiply your body weight (per pound) by 0.6. (For Example, a 130 pound woman should be eating at LEAST about 80 grams of protein per day) If you are also incorporating strength training or other fitness activity, you may want to range your intake up to a multiplication of 0.9
Some great vegetarian friendly protein rich options are:
Whole Grains, Nuts and Seeds, Soy and Tofu Products, Beans/Lentils/Legumes of All Types, Quinoa, Seaweed, Most Fruits and Veggies, Super Green Foods, Hummus (Complete protein with bread) Protein Powder/Shakes (such as the Gluten, Sugar, Wheat free TUMMY FRIENDLY NeoCell Collagen Sport Protein Powder)