Health Nutrition

Proteins for runners

When it comes to protein, there are still many misconceptions floating around. Here are eight myths – and what is true.


Colin Glattfelder, MSc Sports Science, Prevention Consultant, Sports Masseur, Personal Trainer, Medbase Checkup Center Zurich.



Protein is crucial if you want to reach your full performance potential. Your protein needs are higher after hard training and in competitive phases.

Myth 1: Especially strength athletes have a high protein requirement

Wrong. In fact, it is the endurance athletes during very intense and hard training phases who need the most protein, because more protein is needed when building muscle – especially in the early phase of an intense training cycle. However, the body gets used to the training load over time. Therefore, protein requirements are not significantly higher for a trained athlete than for an active adult. Protein requirements depend on age, height, weight and training intensity. In general, 1.2 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilo of body weight per day is considered optimal for athletes. If you train for more than five hours a week, your protein needs can increase up to two grams per kilo of body weight.

Myth 2: Protein is important for energy

No. Proteins are made up of “building blocks” called amino acids. Some of these amino acids do serve as energy suppliers during exercise. But in fact, proteins provide only about 3 to 6 % of the energy for the muscles. The lion’s share, on the other hand, comes from the energy of carbohydrates and fats. Overall, proteins are often overestimated as energy suppliers. After training or competition, a combination of proteins and carbohydrates has proven to be effective. The proteins help to build muscle, the carbohydrates help to replenish the glycogen stores in the muscles.

Myth 3: It doesn’t matter when you eat the proteins

Proteins are very important for regeneration, they support the recovery and repair processes after sport. This is often underestimated. Therefore, it is ideal for muscle building to consume a protein portion within a time window of three to four hours after training (0.3 grams of protein per kilo of body weight for younger adults, 0.4 grams of protein per kilo of body weight for those over 40). It doesn’t matter whether you take this protein portion as a drink, as part of a meal or as a snack. It is best to spread your protein intake over several portions throughout the day.

Performance diagnosis at Medbase
The sports scientists and doctors at Medbase check your performance level with an endurance test. On this basis, they explain to you clearly and simply how you can optimally integrate the results into your training. Book now

Myth 4: Proteins are important for muscles

Yes, but … there are constant breakdown and build-up processes going on throughout the body. Muscle proteins are broken down and built up again every day. But your body also needs proteins for new cells, membranes, connective tissue and bones. In addition, they are important as messenger substances, they control metabolic processes and take on transport tasks as so-called enzymes. Hormones such as insulin or digestive enzymes, for example, are made up of amino acids.

To avoid a breakdown of body protein, the minimum protein intake for non-athletes is about 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of body weight per day. If you train and want to lose weight at the same time, you should significantly increase your protein intake to 1.8 to 2.7 grams of protein per kilo of body weight. This will slow down the muscle loss caused by dieting.

Myth 5: Whey is particularly valuable

To build muscle, your body needs all the essential amino acids. These are the building blocks of proteins that the human body cannot produce itself. The more intensively you train, the greater the “micro-injuries” in your muscles. They need care – and that’s where amino acids are crucial. Especially several grams of the essential amino acid leucine are needed for muscle building. Whey protein is particularly rich in leucine, and whey protein is particularly well absorbed in the intestine in many people compared to other proteins. Nevertheless, you should listen to your body: There’s no point in using dairy as a protein source if your body can’t tolerate it.

Myth 6: Athletes need protein-rich supplements

In most cases you can save your money. With a balanced and healthy diet you can normally cover your protein requirements. The prerequisite is that your energy metabolism and your energy intake are right. Nowadays, many younger athletes focus on their protein intake. This can lead to an unhealthy, one-sided diet and can reduce performance instead of increasing it. However, in certain cases and with special diets, supplementation can make sense, for example if you are on a vegan diet and training intensively.

Myth 7: Too much protein is bad for your kidneys and bones

No. Healthy adults can tolerate protein amounts of up to three grams per kilo of body weight per day without any problems. A high protein intake does not harm the bones either. However, you should avoid protein excesses. This is because a strongly protein-based diet causes faster satiety and can lead to athletes eating too little and not meeting their energy needs. In addition, high-protein foods tend to be fatty and contain fewer minerals and vitamins than lower-protein foods. You need these micronutrients to perform at your best.

Myth 8: Athletes need animal proteins

No, animal proteins are usually better utilisable and of higher quality, but you don’t necessarily need fish, meat, eggs or milk. Many plant-based foods such as bread, pulses, lentils, soya or nuts also provide high-quality proteins and can make a significant contribution to the protein supply. In any case, it is best to alternate your protein sources. This will give you a greater variety of essential amino acids. If you meet your protein needs exclusively with plant protein sources, you will need more of the plant proteins than of the animal proteins to meet your needs.

Who is Medbase?

Medbase is the largest multidisciplinary sports medicine network in Switzerland and offers specialised sports medicine services for athletes, clubs and sports associations at all levels of activity in the areas of sports medicine, sports physiotherapy, performance diagnostics and training advice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.