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30 Marathons in 30 Days AND Maintain Muscle Mass?

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Recovering From 30 Marathons in 30 Days

To prepare for 2017 our resident athlete adventurer Ross Edgley ran 30 marathons in 30 days from a treadmill in his kitchen. Why? So he could trial 30 different breakfasts and explore the intricacies of endurance-based nutrition so he’s (personally) better informed to fuel his year ahead. But what was his post-race nutrition like? How did he recover between marathons? What lessons did he take from the whole experience? Here he explains how protein (and our fridges supply of meat) is so often overlooked by endurance athletes.

"Recovering from 30 back-to-back marathons was as hard as it was enjoyable. This is because I love to eat and with a body in a state of constant repair I had a, “free diet pass” to raid the store. Stocking up on everything from BBQ ribs, steak and chicken, my sole goal was to consume enough quality protein to repair and recover in time to run 26.2 miles the very next day. Basically, although it was my pre-race nutrition that received the most “airtime” during my marathon month, it was my post workout nutrition — often eaten away from the cameras and social media — that made the entire event possible. Which is why this article is so important.

Meat-Based Marathons?

Protein is not a nutrient you commonly associate with marathon running. Nor is a meat shack and protein shake usually seen at the finish line of long distance races, but maybe they should be. This is because without enough protein in the diet the muscles are unable to effectively repair and regrow, the immune system is left without basic “materials” to function and the body enters a catabolic state that will take days, weeks or even months to recover from. Which is why — for anyone who’s ever attacked a 5km, 10km, half or full marathon and been left bruised, battered and beaten up — getting a substantial serving of high quality, meat-based protein, could be the best thing you add to your diet.

Why Do Runners Need Protein?

Let’s begin with the nutritional basics, protein is one of 3 macronutrients.

What this means is — like carbohydrates and fats — we need a lot of it in our diets. Whilst most runners are familiar with the key role fats and carbohydrates play (giving us the “fuel” and energy needed to run very fast and very far) it’s protein that’s dubbed by nutritionists as “body’s building block.” This is because our skin, hair, mails, organs and muscles are all built from proteins. That’s not all, even our digestive system, hormones, blood and immune health are reliant on us eating enough quality sources of protein.

Basically it’s fair to say getting enough in the diet is important for anyone, but especially athletes and those who lead an active lifestyle. This is because research in the Journal of Sports Sciences states that, "A considerable amount of evidence has accumulated during the past 15 years which indicates that regular exercise does in fact increase protein needs". Put simply, if you’re clocking the miles on a course day in and day out, you need more edible “building blocks” whether that comes in the form of chicken, liver, beef or conveniently wrapped protein bars tucked into your gym bag.

How Much Protein Do Runners Need?

In running circles, protein is almost seen as a dirty word. Most endurance-based athletes avoiding it in fear they bulk, turn into the hulk and become unable to run with their newly acquired muscle-bound arms. But a study conducted at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada suggested “Endurance athletes require a greater intake of protein than either strength athletes or sedentary individuals to meet the needs of protein catabolism during exercise.” So, during periods of intense and extended endurance training the body can begin to breakdown (entering a catabolic state). But by having an adequate supply of protein in your diet you have a sufficient amount of “building blocks” to fully recover ready for your next session.

How much is “adequate”? Well, our Canadian scientists state 1.6g per kg of bodyweight, so not too dissimilar to the International Olympic Committee Consensus on Sports Nutrition guidelines that states 1.7g per kg of bodyweight.

Protein-Powered Immunity?

But protein’s importance doesn’t stop there. Let’s look at more specifically how the immune system and your ability to fight illness is impacted by getting enough edible “building blocks.” An area of huge importance for anyone who’s dived headfirst into a swamp-like lake or had to wade through miles of mud. This is because researchers from the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada state that, “Nutrition is a critical determinant of immune responses and malnutrition is the most common cause of immunodeficiency worldwide. Protein malnutrition is associated with a significant impairment of cell-mediated immunity and cytokine production.”

In simple terms what is "cell-mediated immunity"? Now this basically refers to circulating leukocytes — which are often more commonly called white blood cells — that have the chief function to protect the body against microorganisms causing us to become ill. Should you not get enough protein, your healthy functioning leukocytes will be unable to work efficiently if (and when) the body is under attack from foreign bacteria.

Next up, what’s "Cytokine production"? It sounds complicated, it again isn’t. These are any number of substances that are secreted by specific cells of the immune system, which carry signals between cells. They’re basically like the messengers of our immune systems and are so important to the efficient and healthy functioning of our immune response to foreign bacteria and disease.

So in conclusion, how much protein we need of course varies depending on the person. Also the type of protein — from powdered whey protein to a rack of freshly seasoned lamb — requires a whole other article too. But if you’re preparing to run your first marathon this year, ensuring the kitchen cupboards and gym bag stocked with an ample supply of protein snacks might not be a bad idea."

Ross Edgley is an athlete adventurer, chief sports scientist at THE PROTEIN WORKS™ and considered one of the world’s most travelled fitness experts.

*One of those silly disclaimer thingy's > Athleat has no affiliation with THE PROTEIN WORKS™ nor do we endorse them specifically. Ross does and therefore we are more than happy to give him some links through to the Protein Works website :)


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