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Protein and endurance sports

To take full advantage of his abilities, the athlete must give his body the right fuel, via a diet adapted to everyday life, but also during exercise with the use of energy products within a framed nutritional strategy.


"For the endurance athlete, a high quality and varied protein intake will help optimize performance and recovery"

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  1. What is protein?

A protein is an assembly of amino acids that will be used by the body to perform various vital functions, and each protein will play a role in muscle mass.

The primary function of proteins and amino acids is not energy production.

"They are elements of construction and repair of the organism"

On the other hand, in the event of depletion of reserves, the body will produce energy from proteins, causing destruction of muscle fibers, resulting in a phenomenon counterproductive to performance.

There are 23 amino acids that can be distinguished in 2 categories:

  • Essential amino acids 9 in number (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine) essential for the proper functioning of the body, which must be provided by food because the body cannot synthesize them by it -even.
  • Non-essential amino acids which can be produced by our body thanks to the lipids, carbohydrates and vitamins present or assimilated.

2) What are our protein needs?

They will depend on the weight of the individual, the nature and the intensity of the physical activity.

  • For athletes (endurance and maintenance of muscle mass): from 1,2 to 1,7g per kilo of body weight per day.


For an athlete weighing 70kgs = 84 to 119g of protein per day

Beyond that, we will talk about muscle mass gain, sought in particular by athletes performing strength sports such as bodybuilding and bodybuilding.

3) Where can we find our protein intake?

Protein is found everywhere in the diet, on a more or less large scale depending on the food consumed, and it is necessary to have a varied supply to synthesize in a broad way all the essential and non-essential amino acids that we need. .

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The main sources of protein: 

  • Animal protein : meats, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy products
  • Vegetable proteins: cereals and similar, legumes, algae, oilseeds, nuts, seeds, fruits, dried fruits, mushrooms ...

Examples of protein intake:

  • 100g of tuna about 25g of protein.
  • 100g of chicken about 20g of protein.
  • 100g of lactofermented tofu about 20g of protein.
  • 1 egg about 7g of protein.
  • 1 goat's milk yogurt 125g about 7g of protein.
  • 100g of lentils cooked about 8g of protein.
  • 100g of whole rice cooked about 3g of protein.
  • 50g of oatmeal about 6g of protein.
  • 30g of almonds about 7g of protein.
  • 100g of banana about 1g of protein.
  • 10g of spirulina about 6g of protein.

4) Animal or vegetable protein?

Beyond the aspect of the theoretical protein quantity of a food, it is necessary to take into consideration the quality and the detail of the content of essential and non-essential amino acids which compose it.

"Each protein food will have its own chain of amino acids"

The context of modern food:

Today we have access to a substantial offer in terms of food, but which often comes at the expense of quality.

This abundance leads to an ever greater consumption of animal proteins which can have negative consequences on several points:

  • The health of the body with the excess of certain poor quality animal products (red meat, cold meats, dairy products, cheese, etc.).
  • Ethical issues (breeding method, intensive slaughter, overfishing, etc.).
  • Effects on ecology with pollution and disruption of ecosystems.

In this context, it is interesting to add a larger share of vegetable proteins to your diet in order to have a greater variety, but also from a health, ethical and ecological point of view.

“Consume less animal products but better! "

  • Meat from organic or reasoned breeding and preferably local.
  • Fish, seafood and shellfish from MSC sustainable fishing.
  • Organic dairy products or farm goat or sheep preferably.
  • ORGANIC or free-range eggs.
  • Animal products from the Bleu Blanc Coeur sector.

Can we do without animal protein? :

It is possible to have adequate nutritional intake without animal products.

However, plant proteins do not provide all or some essential amino acids in insufficient quantities, it will be necessary to make the right food combinations and associations during the same meal or during the day.


Lentils are poor in methionine and rich in lysine, conversely rice is poor in lysine and rich in methionine.

For a balanced supply of amino acids, rice and lentils should be combined.

The problem with anti-nutrients:

We notice a poor fixation of certain plant proteins, which can be explained by the presence of different anti-nutrients (phytates, lectins, saponins, enzyme inhibitors), present mainly in cereals, legumes, nuts and seeds, which are their system defense developed against predators of nature.

The human body is not able to consume these anti-nutrients in large quantities, which can ultimately lead to deficiencies with disruption of assimilation, digestion, and immune reactions.

The solution :

Soaking cereals, legumes, nuts and seeds is essential to protect and destroy some of the anti-nutrients, thus facilitating assimilation and preventing demineralization of the body.

The objective is to activate the germination process, in order to make them pass from the status of "dormant" to that of "alive", and thus increase tenfold their nutritional properties, with an increase in the rate of vitamins, minerals, proteins and acids. amines.

6) Proteins during exercise

During intense or long-term activity, it is difficult from a digestive and practical point of view to consume and assimilate a food protein ration such as meat, fish, egg or others ...

In order to compensate for the lack of protein intake for an easily assimilated food compensation role, the BCAA intake becomes interesting to consume.

What are BCAAs? :

They are branched amino acids, grouping together Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine, and representing about a third of muscle proteins.

BCAAs have anabolic (construction) effects, by limiting catabolism (degradation), on the various metabolic, energy and repair processes in the body.

Example par hour of effort:

1 to 3g of BCAA ratio 2.1.1 (50% Leucine + 25% Isoleucine + 25% Valine) + complementary food contributions for a total of approximately 6g of proteins.

7) Proteins after exercise

After intense or long-term activity, it is best to adopt the right food habits in order to take advantage of the metabolic window.

Over a period of 4 hours with a peak at 30 minutes after stopping the effort, the body will set up certain physiological mechanisms.

Goals :

  • Cover the losses related to the effort from an energetic point of view.
  • Optimize the body's capacity for reconstruction to promote recovery.

During this window, the body is therefore in full capacity to receive all that you are going to give it in terms of food and hydration.

To best activate the synthesis of proteins and amino acids, in total the objective will be to consume at least 3 times more carbohydrates than proteins, of the order of 20 to 30g of proteins for 60 to 80g of carbohydrates.

In practice :

30min after stopping the effort, a recovery drink or snack:

The composition :

  • Proteins and BCAAs, for a supply of branched amino acids comprising Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine, and representing about a third of muscle proteins.

About 0,1 to 0,2 g of BCAA per kilogram of body weight, with a minimum of 2 to 3 g of Leucine in combination with a supply of quality and digestible proteins.

  • Carbohydrates with rapid assimilation to allow to recharge the stock of glycogen (reserve of sugars of the body), and to better activate the synthesis of proteins and amino acids.
  • Hydration with bicarbonate soda water (Vichy, Badoit, St Yorre…) to compensate for mineral losses linked to exercise.


  • 1 very ripe banana, mashed.
  • 10g of honey.
  • 20g of hemp protein.
  • 1 BCAA intake.
  • Bicarbonated soda water (Vichy, Badoit, St Yorre…).

In the event of a very intense or long session, especially in running with repeated shocks, the consumption of glutamine represents another interesting nutritional axis.

This amino acid is involved in the metabolism of BCAAs, it is the nutrient of choice for immune and intestinal cells, enabling muscle and digestive recovery to be activated.

1 to 4 hours after stopping the effort, in addition to the recovery ration, a complete balanced meal:

The composition :

  • A supply of quality and digestible proteins (about 20 to 30g) to activate muscle recovery as much as possible (white meat, fish, egg, tofu, vegetable proteins), avoiding red meat and cold meats.
  • Quality carbohydrates in adequate quantities to promote protein synthesis and replenish healthy energy (brown rice, lentil, quinoa, sweet potato, oatmeal, wholemeal bread, etc.).
  • Omega 3 essential fatty acids as a natural anti-inflammatory to prevent the appearance of injuries and improve the overall functioning of the body (vegetable oils such as rapeseed, walnuts, camelina, flax, hemp, etc.; nuts; flax seeds, hemp , chia…; fatty fish such as sardines, mackerel, salmon…)
  • Varied vegetables in large quantities and fruits, in order to fill up with vitamins, minerals, trace elements, antioxidants, and balance the acidity of the body.


  • Green salad.
  • Grated raw beet.
  • Varied seasonal vegetables (cabbage, green beans, chard, broccoli, spinach, fennel…).
  • 2 eggs (preferably soft or fried).
  • 200g of sweet potato.
  • 1 plant-based yogurt without added sugars (soy, almond, coconut, etc.).

Seasonings of the meal:

  • Vinaigrette: 1 to 2 tablespoons of a mixture of 50% extra virgin olive oil + 50% extra virgin omega 3 oil (rapeseed, flax, walnuts, camelina ...) + fresh lemon juice and / or (cider vinegar , balsamic vinegar, tamari…) + 1 pinch of unrefined salt.
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of seeds (squash, sunflower, chia, sesame, flax, hemp, poppy…).
  • Aromatic herbs (parsley, coriander, chives, thyme…).
  • Various spices (turmeric, ginger, black pepper, fennel, cumin, fenugreek, cinnamon…).


Proteins and amino acids are essential for the proper functioning of the body, and must be integrated into an overall food balance.

You have to adapt your consumption qualitatively and quantitatively according to your own needs, in synergy with the presence of other macronutrients (lipids and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, trace elements), but also during exercise with a nutritional strategy framed to optimize its recovery and performance while preserving its health capital.


This article is written by our Ambassador Guillaume Klein (Personal Coach Expert in sports nutrition and health / Ultra endurance specialist)

If you would like more information or advice, do not hesitate to contact guillaume via his site

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