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Do You Need Protein During Endurance Exercise?

by Dr. Gabe Mirkin, M.D.

A study from California State University, Fullerton shows that taking protein during exercise does not help you race faster (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research/National Strength & Conditioning Association, May 2012; 26(5):1361-5).

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A study from Denmark shows that taking protein during endurance exercise does not increase muscle growth (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, September 2011; 43(9):1635-42). On the other hand, taking protein after you finish exercising helps you recover faster so you can exercise again sooner.

MUSCLE TIREDNESS AND FATIGUE: Muscle tiredness and weakness during and after prolonged exercise are caused by lack of water, sugar, salt and calories. Your body stores very little sugar and an almost infinite amount of fat and protein. These studies confirm many other studies which show that you don't need to take protein during exercise to improve performance or to hasten recovery. You will recover faster by taking sugar and protein within an hour after finishing your exhausting exercise.

Here's the recommended formula for taking food and drink during exercise:
  • LASTING LESS THAN AN HOUR - fit athletes do not need to take any food or drink, except they may need water on the hottest days.
  • LASTING MORE THAN AN HOUR AND A HALF - Take sugared drinks frequently.
  • LASTING MORE THAN THREE HOURS - Take sugared drinks frequently, and eat the food of your choice (fruit or sugar-added foods such as whole grain bars, etc.), plus a source of salt. We use potato chips or peanuts. You cannot get enough salt in a drink because it would taste awful.

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