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Exercise and Protein

How important is it to have protein after a workout and really how much?

I do good amounts of running, cardio, and minor strength training right now. I eat an orange like right after I run then I do have a smoothie when I get home that has soaked sunflower seeds and flaxseeds with lots of fruit and greens and that usually has 12-15 grams of protein (usually a 350-600 calories smoothie) then in a few hours I might eat something more hardy like a salad or a soaked buckwheat cereal (I'm a raw vegan). I do stay very well hydrated while I exercise with usually yerba mate tea or roobois/hibiscus tea

I am wanting to train for health and to become very fit so I can go running often maybe even run a race. Should I focus more on protein when I am strength/interval training?

I have heard a lot in the vegan/raw circles about the evident protein myth, I wonder. It seems to me that you don't need lots of protein (duh) to gain muscle mass and you can gain strength without gaining too much mass. I have learned in some of my college classes I am taking now that a large part of muscles are made up of stored glycogen which is energy made up of carbohydrates, fats, and protein (that is converted to fat because it is in excess??).

I think I am doing something right because I really haven't had many muscle aches even when I push myself hard I can always recover pretty fast.

hey whiteappleeater,
actually, even in conventional training books you are only supposed to have smalls amounts of protein after a work-out. it's really important at that time to get your carbs.. and lots of them! personally, i'd ditch the smoothie and stick with the orange, but eat more of them (like, drink 6 cups of OJ if you want 600 cals).
you are right about the protein myth. a great book to read about protein is "the china study" or "the 80/10/10 diet". over consumption of protein is linked with a myriad of diseases.

the most important thing to remember about increased protein needs is that whenever someone needs increased protein in their diet (which is ALWAYS measured by g protein/kg body weight) they are also needing increased calories, so by default you are going to be getting enough protein. you don't want to increase the % of calories you get from protein.

protein doesn't make you build muscle, exercise makes you build muscle. as long as you are supplying your body with sufficient amino acids (which you are, unless all you are eating is refined crap or you are undereating on calories, which you aren't) you will have NO problem.

i always have orange juice or a banana smoothie after my workouts (yoga lately) and i am seeing muscle increase after only a couple of weeks.

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hespedal,

I was actually hoping you would respond, I very much appreciate the input you give on these forums.
I was sitting in the sauna yesterday after a swim and I was eating an orange I think I will do this right after my workout with more oranges/other fruit and relax other than trying to rush home to get my smoothie. I always feel bananas do me good while being active so I believe I am going to go to the store today and get me some more bananas. I have been trying to be a wee bit careful with the calories in and calories out because I don't want or need to lose weight. I am trying to gain weight which I have actually gained 3 pounds (I think sort of hard to tell when you eat pounds of fruit and guzzle liquids) since I started working out but I am still "clinically underweight" according to averages but hey my body is comfortable where it's at I guess.

I do have the book "The China Study" it's just finding the time to read it. "80/10/10" is on my list of books to read, hopefully I can find a copy or borrow a copy from the library before summertime when I plan on attempting a 811 diet.

I track my daily food on nutritiondata.com and I just checked for what I ate yesterday and I got 70g of protein but that still was only 8% of total calories.

Thank you for your input it sort of cleared up something I thought I already had cleared up in my mind!

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I want to help and weigh in here. I am a runner, and I run 50-60 miles per week. I run 6-7 days a week, do one speed day and one long run of 15-20 miles. I also rock climb or boulder 1-2 times per week. I don't do any weights or strength training. That being said, I do nothing special for my protein. I eat a whole foods diet, full of beans, nuts, tofu, tempeh, and seitan, and I feel great. If I am feeling a bit sluggish one week I try to focus on getting more greens/iron. I don't feel like you have to worry about protein specifically, personally. We get so much more protein than we think we do! I occasionally try to count the grams of protein I'll get in a specific day, and the day I counted I ate over 90 grams (I ate a ton of seitan that day). I am willing to bet most vegans get more protein than most omnis--we're healthy!

Good luck with your training!

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hey there,

sounds like you got the answers you need - I just wanted to chime in about protein intake in that eating extra protein isn't necessarily good for you. (By extra I mean more than the daily amount your body needs - which on average for women is 45g and men is 60g, but if you're doing strenuous activity it would probably be more). Alot of people think that eating tons of protein will help them build muscle, but when you consume more than your daily requirement, you can't store the excess protein so you excrete it. This can also cause leaching of other nutrients like calcium from the body which are needed in order for the kidneys to process the protein. So buying those big jars of powdered protein supplements is kind of a waste of money - you're just going to pee it out if you already get enough protein from your diet, which most of us do :)

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hey there,

sounds like you got the answers you need - I just wanted to chime in about protein intake in that eating extra protein isn't necessarily good for you. (By extra I mean more than the daily amount your body needs - which on average for women is 45g and men is 60g, but if you're doing strenuous activity it would probably be more). Alot of people think that eating tons of protein will help them build muscle, but when you consume more than your daily requirement, you can't store the excess protein so you excrete it. This can also cause leaching of other nutrients like calcium from the body which are needed in order for the kidneys to process the protein. So buying those big jars of powdered protein supplements is kind of a waste of money - you're just going to pee it out if you already get enough protein from your diet, which most of us do :)

I'm so glad you made this point, and I feel like enough people don't know this. Excess protein is just as bad as not enough! Thanks for adding that in.

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I want to help and weigh in here. I am a runner, and I run 50-60 miles per week. I run 6-7 days a week, do one speed day and one long run of 15-20 miles. I also rock climb or boulder 1-2 times per week. I don't do any weights or strength training. That being said, I do nothing special for my protein. I eat a whole foods diet, full of beans, nuts, tofu, tempeh, and seitan, and I feel great. If I am feeling a bit sluggish one week I try to focus on getting more greens/iron. I don't feel like you have to worry about protein specifically, personally. We get so much more protein than we think we do! I occasionally try to count the grams of protein I'll get in a specific day, and the day I counted I ate over 90 grams (I ate a ton of seitan that day). I am willing to bet most vegans get more protein than most omnis--we're healthy!

Good luck with your training!

Ditto! (and well said)  ;)b

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I think if you're going more for strength as opposed to muscle mass, then loading up on protein isn't too important.  Remember, there's proteins in grains as well.

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I'm going to weigh in as a long time trainer. The average adult male should consume approx. 0.8 -1.0 g of protein per lb. of body weight. Only serious athletes need to consume more, but not much more (up to 1.2, possibly as much as 1.4).

After a cardio workout you want to replenish fluids and electrolytes. Oranges, bananas, fruit/veg juices are good choices. I do NOT recommend the above mentioned 6 glasses of orange juice. A single 6 oz. serving of orange juice contains the sugar of approx. 3 oranges. Multiply that by 6 and you're ingesting an insane amount of sugar.

Research so far indicates it's wise to ingest protein within 30 min. after a strength training workout. Does that mean you need to rush home for a smoothie? How about having some nuts/seeds or chick peas along with your orange and or banana instead?

Macro nutrient wise your diet should look something like this: 55-65% carbs; 20-30% fats; 10-20% protein. How much of which can vary from day to day and in the grand scheme of things what works best for you is unique to you.

That being said I personally had better muscle gain and maintenance after becoming a vegan. And I suffer less from over-training. I consume less protein than I did when I was lacto-ovo. My protein intake averages 10-12% of my diet and I don't worry about when I eat only what I eat.

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We went over the whole protein-and-muscles thing a lot in a nutrition class I took... basically, of the calories you're burning during strength training, the least is from protein, second fat, and primarily glucose. Running/swimming actually had the highest proportion of fat and protein used, if I remember correctly. But, that doesn't really answer the question of muscle building (since the "protein used" is being used for its energy, not as a 'building block'). Sure enough, while muscles are high in protein, there's plenty of other stuff in them... as someone else mentioned, glycogen (which is branched glucose, not fatty acids or protein).

While serious athletes do have to eat more protein per kg, (if I remember correctly), it actually winds up being the same or lower total percent of their calories, since a person on a 2000 kcal diet might need 50g, a 3000 kcal diet for an athlete might need 60-75g, depending on their sport. More energy is needed as glucose, hence the idea behind the "carbo loading" that some people do the day before endurance events (to build up glycogen stores).

Another reason to not get too much protein is that extra amino acids are converted to fat. Whether it's 10g protein over what you personally require, or eating an unbalanced amount of amino acids (as in no complete proteins), anything extra is unusable and converted to fatty acids for energy. So people eating high-protein diets can still get fat, and long term excessive protein can be unhealthy (or at least not helpful for) the liver and the kidneys, which has to deal with all that nitrogenous waste from protein breakdown.

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I do NOT recommend the above mentioned 6 glasses of orange juice. A single 6 oz. serving of orange juice contains the sugar of approx. 3 oranges. Multiply that by 6 and you're ingesting an insane amount of sugar.

the only reason that that much sugar is a problem (elevated blood sugar for an extended period of time) is if you are consuming too much fat (like more than 10% of your diet from fat). If you aren't consuming that much fat, sugar passes very easily through your blood. and since sugar is what you need to refuel, its a GREAT idea to eat it.

Research so far indicates it's wise to ingest protein within 30 min. after a strength training workout. Does that mean you need to rush home for a smoothie? How about having some nuts/seeds or chick peas along with your orange and or banana instead?

Macro nutrient wise your diet should look something like this: 55-65% carbs; 20-30% fats; 10-20% protein. How much of which can vary from day to day and in the grand scheme of things what works best for you is unique to you.

You are getting protein in everything you eat, provided it's not refined. Oranges have about 8% of their calories coming from protein.

Where do you get your macro-nutrient levels from? I always see protein recommended as 5-10% (I eat about 3000 calories a day and weigh about 54 kg, which means i should eat 43.2g protein/day. that's 172.8 calories and a whopping 5.7% protein, even by USDA standards). I like to remind people that breast milk (the perfect food for all of the growth that babies are doing) only has about 6% of it's calories coming from protein. Excess protein is not good!
Fat is better to keep lower because of the problems associated with it and the fact that if you are eating more fat you will eat less carbs, which is very bad for those wanting to excel as athletes. and of course the blood sugar. Most people eat way more fat than they think they do, it's pretty important to limit fat intake.

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hmmm...... I've been sorta busy and unable to come on here for a few days and I was suprised to see this still going. I was going to put a sorta update a bit ago but well here it goes........

hespedal,
I took your advice sort of with the post workout snack. I now eat an orange immediately after running/cardio then go do some stregnth training then after that I go into the sauna and eat more fruit. I must say it really helps, that sugar really rushes to make me feel oh so much better after a good workout. I did a long run Saturday of about 8.2 miles of about 6.5 miles of real running and I was pretty tired after running so I munched down on like 3 oranges, 1 big Apple, 2 Bananas, and a small bar. Then I went home and had some soaked buckwheat cereal. I feel better with this new way of doing things. I eat fruit immediatly after for the glucose energy then make sure I eat a good meal within 1-2 hours. Thanks for helping me to realize what my body needs.

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You are getting protein in everything you eat, provided it's not refined. Oranges have about 8% of their calories coming from protein.

It's funny when carnivores ask, "How do you get enough protein?"

They never believe me when I tell them even mushrooms have far more protein per calorie than any meat.

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I also want to throw in that Clif bars are really awesome, post-workout. When I get done with a long run, I'm usually too tired to do much more than open a package. I also eat Clif bars when I finish races. They have protein and carbs, a good mix to start your recovery.

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They never believe me when I tell them even mushrooms have far more protein per calorie than any meat.

When I'm not incredibly lazy, which isn't often, I make mushroom pate for my post-workout protein snack.

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This is awesome! I am soo glad I read this post. I love working out and I definitely have tons of great new tips! :)

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Research so far indicates it's wise to ingest protein within 30 min. after a strength training workout. Does that mean you need to rush home for a smoothie? How about having some nuts/seeds or chick peas along with your orange and or banana instead?

It is my understanding that for muscle growth you should wait AT LEAST 30 minutes before eating after strength training because human growth hormone competes with the same receptor sites as insulin, and HGH peaks around 30 minutes after your workout. 

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I know some people who take whey protein or other supplements but I've never noticed or felt that I lacked anything. I try not to think too much or read too much into anything. I basically eat healthy and exercise on a regular basis and don't worry about counting calories or carbs or protein. If I started gaining weight or losing too much weight or getting weak, then I would start analyzing my life. If you feel fine, then keep going. -Vega Sinclair, Medical Insurance Advisor

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