If you’re over the age of 40 (or plan to be some day), you may be reminiscing about the days you could quickly bounce back after a hard run. And now, even your “normal” is less than what it was in your 20s. It turns out, the amount of protein you’re consuming is probably not enough to help you fully recover.
According to a review in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, by protein researchers, ageing (but fit) runners may have impaired recovery and need more protein than younger runners.
The researchers combed current scientific studies looking at muscle recovery and protein needs in younger and masters (40+ years) athletes to see if a difference exists and how best to meet protein needs. Numerous studies showed that masters athletes failed to recover as quickly as similarly trained younger runners or cyclists. Studies also showed that regeneration, or the repair, of muscles following tough exercise was slower or delayed in older comparably fit athletes.
Studies that evaluated how post-workout protein intake helps with muscle recovery showed that older athletes need 35 to 40 grams of high-quality protein (like whey from dairy), compared to only 20 grams for younger athletes.
These findings indicate that older runners need to pay close attention to their post-workout fuel. Following a hard run, a bagel and coffee (4 grams of protein) is simply not going to cut it, and neither will a protein bar (20 to 25 grams). Instead, have five ounces of grilled chicken breast, lean meat, or seafood—all of these options are rich in the amino acid leucine, which has been shown to boost muscle recovery.
Whey protein powder (another great source of leucine) mixed into a fruit smoothie makes a great recovery meal. Make sure to check the label and adjust your serving accordingly to hit 35 to 40 grams of protein.