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Best protein for endurance athletes

Posted by Team 33Fuel on

Best protein for endurance athletes

You can't talk endurance nutrition without the P-word coming up. Yes, we're talking protein. Hot on the heels of cheap processed carbs, whey protein is the next favourite ingredient in traditional sports nutrition and is wrecking athletes' performances. This isn't to say we don't need protein to perform, it does mean though that when you're looking for the best protein for endurance you need to dig a little deeper. 

Also, we simply don't need protein in the quantities recommended by the protein manufacturers and their insistence endurance athletes chow down endless buckets of powdery muck misses the simple fact that protein is available at much better quality in thousands of regular whole foods. 

None of this would matter if the whole whey protein thing as advertised improved performance and health, but as it actually wrecks both we figure this one's worth tackling.

So let's dive in. Here are four key reasons why whey protein shakes suck:

1 Whey protein shakes don't come from a good place:

Whey protein is a by-product of dairy farming and cheese production. Cheese manufacturers used to have to pay to get rid of it because it's a pollutant, otherwise they would spray it on fields or earn a minimal return selling it as cattle feed. Then some clever marketing wonk worked out athletes could be made to pay a lot more for it. 

The great majority of whey is from industrial dairy farming so is likely from sick animals pumped to the gills on antibiotics. Even the very rare cleaner stuff is still dairy based which means increased acidity levels all round, once again actively slowing your recovery. 

The irony of a product sold for recovery being able to do this is not lost on us, but is lost on the entire whey protein industry it would seem.

Best protein for endurance athletes

A by-product of cheese production, whey used to be cattle feed until some marketing wonk worked out athletes would pay much more for it

2 The idea endurance athletes can't get their required protein intake anywhere else is crazy:

A big selling hook for whey protein products is their ability to deliver the right dose of protein at the right time. By encouraging athletes' fears ('if I don't get my protein right I'll be weak and the big boys will kick sand in my face), the whey protein supplement industry sets itself up as the saviour. This couldn't be further from the truth.

After all, how did the protein get into the cows' milk in the first place? The cows got it from their food. And what do cows eat? Plants. 

Because all protein comes from plants in the first place. 

The protein in whey protein is only there because the cows ate plants. Although in the case of industrial dairy cows, their feed will have been of such low quality their ability to produce quality protein in their milk will be approximately zero. 

So with whey protein being a low-grade and secondhand protein source that saps performance in so many ways the answer is to head right to the source and get your protein from real food. So many foods contain protein that if you eat a decent, balanced whole food diet, not getting enough protein is actually impossible.

And yes, this includes hard core endurance athletes. If you want a little more after your workouts and races, hit the nuts, beans, and veggies hard. It's that simple, honest. Hell, even porridge oats are 14% protein.

3 Protein shakes are stuffed to the gills with processed sugar:

Usually hidden using multiple sources* to dilute its appearance throughout the ingredients label and save it from appearing as the biggest sole ingredient, protein shakes are rammed with the crappiest versions of the sweet stuff.

Generally you can expect at least one gram of sugar you didn't ask for, for every gram of protein you did. This screws your energy levels and increases inflammation in the body increasing illness risk, slowing recovery and reducing performance. Not ideal for a product sold to athletes full stop, let alone one supposedly designed to aid recovery.

(*maltodextrin, fructose, sucralose, glucose and dehydrated cane juice are just some of the culprits to look for)

Best protein for endurance athletes 2

This is from a well known protein powder. You'll see 24g of protein per 100g, and 4.6g of sugar per 100g. Looks good, right? Which is what you're meant to think. When you learn that maltodextrin - a manmade sugar with a higher GI than table sugar - is legally allowed into the carbohydrate section of a nutritional label however, and then find from the ingredient label (below) that it's the main ingredient in this product, you'll understand that the carbohydrate figure is in fact the sugar figure as well. Which means for your 30g of protein per 100g, you are actually also getting 55.4g of sugar. That sucks

Best protein for endurance athletes 3

4 Protein powders come in the same buckets as paint

If you needed any further indication of just how little the protein industry thinks of its customers, this is it. Seriously, are we the only people who don't think food should come in paint buckets?

Conclusion

If you're an endurance athlete looking for the best possible protein, now you know - pile your plate high with the best whole food protein sources around and leave the sugary powder on the shelf where it belongs. And if you need to really smash the beneficial nutrient-density of your diet during heavy training blocks and races, try adding our Pre and Post Workout Shakes - a 100% natural and 100% powerful hit of delicious wholefood power. 

Related content

Sports nutrition for endurance

Benefit of a plant-based diet for athletes from elite to amateur

Dairy and athletic performance - good or bad?

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