Guest Post: Protein…. do you need to supplement? – life+running

Guest Post: Protein…. do you need to supplement?

On Friday, I mentioned that I’d have a guest post by a Registered Dietitian for you today.

Meet my friend Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Wyatt, RD //

Elizabeth is an RD, she’s probably the sweetest person I’ve ever met, and has just gotten into running in the last year. I met her through one of my best friends, who happens to be married to Elizabeth’s brother. After reading one of Elizabeth’s comments on a previous post, I asked her if she’d write me a few guest posts. I’m not an expert, and I talk about nutrition and health a lot on my blog, so I’d like to bring you some opinions from actual experts practicing in the field.

Take it away, Elizabeth!



Protein is essential for tissue integrity, hormone production and as an energy source. For general health and well-being, the average healthy adult requires about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily (editor’s note — KILOS not lbs. When I first read this I read .8 per pound, and freaked because I wasn’t getting enough protein, but then I re-read and saw kilos, and realized I’m getting too much when I supplement.). Some believe that loading up on protein, specifically in supplement form, will enhance athletic performance and build extra muscle. This is a confusing and controversial topic and has yet to be proven true. We need not consider additional protein supplementation unless someone is of advanced age, has wounds that need healing or is in another stressed or disease state. Protein needs are easily met by choosing a balanced diet with a variety of healthy proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

Excess protein over the long term can, in fact, be harmful. Your body can absorb roughly 30 grams of protein at one time. Although uncommon, excessive protein intake can lead to dehydration and calcium loss in the urine, which may contribute to osteoporosis over time and overload of the kidneys. It must be said that most Americans have no trouble meeting daily protein requirements and most do not overload. Excess protein can also lead to fat formation, as excess energy from extra protein is not stored for later use. No matter what the source, extra energy intake is stored as fat.

The main link between protein and weight loss is the satiety factor that protein provides.Although both carbohydrate and protein contain 4 calories per gram (vs fat’s 9 calories/gram), the protein takes longer to break down and will keep you full longer.

When it comes to protein requirements for athletes, one would need to be a serious body builder or athlete to consider increasing protein intake above and beyond daily requirements.This could look like 1.0-1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.

As for the idea that protein is really only beneficial after a workout, this is not true. Let’s say that a 180 lb or 82 kg person’s protein requirements for the day are around 66 grams. Ideally, this would be spread out over the day as you can only process 30 grams at one time. As always, the best source of protein does not come from supplements, but from real food. Here is an article written by Nancy Clark, RD, MS and sports nutrition expert which supports this idea:


A. Supposedly, eating some protein along with carbohydrates after exercise stimulates insulin, and that stimulates greater glycogen uptake. At least five carefully controlled studies have shown the addition of post-exercise protein does not offer any advantages when the athlete eats adequate calories from carbs.

My advice: If you refuel with wholesome, refreshing meals that appeal to you, you’ll inevitably get the nutrients you need. Fruit & yogurt, nuts & raisins, bagel sandwich and pasta with meat sauce are justa few popular recovery foods that offer an enjoyable combination of both protein and carbs to refuel, rebuild and repair muscles.

Nancy Clark, MS, RD is Director of Nutrition Services at SportsMedicine Associates in Brookline MA. She is author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Second Edition ($23) and her new Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions ($20). Both are available via

Taken from: December 27, 2012.

Here is another article that references Nancy Clark and protein supplementation for weight lifters. Again, it states that there still is not enough evidence to support protein loading for muscle building or specific timing needed to optimize this.

Bottom line: Eat real food in moderation.

Elizabeth Wyatt, RD, LD


What do you think? Do you think you need to supplement? Or no? 

After re-reading and noticing that Elizabeth had said “kilos” and not “pounds” of body weight, I realized I am getting enough protein with one or 1/2 a scoop of protein supplement on days I don’t eat much protein-rich food. However, I’m still planning to drink a post-workout smoothie with a scoop of protein on days that I work out longer than an hour.

Thanks, Elizabeth!

[Source for featured image]

14 Comment

  1. Great guest post! Thanks for all the info, as protein is definitely something I pay most attention to in my diet. I had found out the hard way, that when I cut back on protein, I felt weak and didn’t recover well. Adding more protein into my diet has made the most positive impact than any other “tweak” I’ve made. Not that I go overboard or anything. I’ve just learned that it’s a very important component to make sure that I DON’T slack on or skip. 🙂

    1. chimes says: Reply

      Agreed. I found that I’ve been eating WAY too much. I got in the habit of trying to hit 100+ g when I did that bootcamp last summer and I kept gaining weight no matter how many calories I ate. And I wasn’t eating enough protein for the bootcamp (130 was my goal). Apparently I need 45ish grams … um. Yeah. So I’m trying to cut back on protein (though I am not tracking, so that makes it hard, and I don’t eat many grains, which also makes it hard).

  2. Definitely an interesting topic and discussion. I don’t supplement with protein powder everyday but as a vegetarian, I do find that I need to pay attention to if I’m getting enough, especially as my workouts are changing.

    1. chimes says: Reply

      I agree. I need to pay more attention right now to make sure I’m not getting TOO MUCH. Amanda says that extra protein turns into fat, which would account for all the weight I’ve not been able to lose in the last year (b/c i started supplementing in November 2011 … and BAM 15 lb gain).

  3. This debate has been going on a LOONNNG time. Why? Well, probably because companies manufacturing protein powders want to make money? Okay maybe not but I think somewhere along the line the term “athlete” got confused with “person who works out at the gym a few days a week for 45 minutes.” Since we aren’t athletes, our protein need for muscle repair isn’t that high so generally if we just eat a meal or a snack after working out we are good to go. I do, however, have a very small amount of protein shake (think 1/4 scoop with 4oz soy milk) after a good workout if I think what I did might make me sore since I have noticed less soreness with protein shakes.

    But like I said in a previous comment…extra protein just turns into fat, which doesn’t really help if you’re trying to stay fit by taking the protein powder. 😉

    Also this topic is on my list of topics for Teach Me Tuesday lol

    1. chimes says: Reply

      Great points! I really do think we get confused with “athlete” vs. going to the gym a bunch. In previous years I might have been an athlete (running 8-10 miles a day, and lifting 3-5x a week). But not so much anymore.

      1. ha yes 8-10 miles a day plus lifting is probably athlete material! I’d say marathon trainers/runners would qualify as athletes too.

        1. chimes says: Reply

          probably! PS I have my time manager on (StayFocused is google chrome’s version of what you recommended, fyi). I re-enabled after your post today. I need something keeping track of my time. 🙂

  4. Jaci says: Reply

    Personally, I eat a little more protein than is recommended…but that’s partially because I really have to limit my carb intake due to my PCOS. If I’m hungry and I have a choice between chicken breast and a bagel, I’ll almost always pick the chicken (you know, as long as I’m being mindful). I think it’s recommended for someone my size to eat something like 200 grams of carbs and 45 grams of protein…my typical day is roughly 150 carbs and 55+ protein. This is when I feel the best and my PCOS symptoms subside.

    1. chimes says: Reply

      Good point — I should have mentioned in my editors note something about dietary restrictions for people with different needs. I fall into this same boat — I can’t have a lot of grains, or I get sick. So I am likely to pick proteins over carbs as well. However, I can eat a lot of vegetables (not sure if you can or not), so I’ve been trying to do that lately instead of going to my go-to protein sources.

  5. I eat the body builder portion of protein ’cause that’s how I roll. 🙂 Totally agree on the 30g per serving and the importance of water. I make sure to get 120 oz of water a day to keep everything flowing through.

    1. chimes says: Reply

      ’cause you are kind of a body builder. duh. 🙂

  6. So I think that my little 1/4-1/3 scoop of protein powder in my oatmeal for ‘staying powder’ seems to be OK, and drinking aminos/BCAAs post-run or weight training workout is also a positive thing.

    I think I am doing a good job of getting ‘natural’ protein, and I honestly don’t use my powders for any sort of athletic, body building endeavor, but because I like them. 🙂 [And also, as a -mostly- vegan, I think I might be missing out on some days if I’m not veering into Greek yogurt territory.]

    1. chimes says: Reply

      ^ ditto! I used to use them for body-building purposes, but now I use them because I like them and I try to use them only on days that I eat mostly vegan / veggie — like today. I had Chobani for breakfast but am doing vegan the rest of the day, so I need a little boost. I’ve been doing a half a scoop instead of a full scoop.

      And yes — I need to find some BCAAs that I like. I’m thinking I might do Vega.

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