Saturday, April 13, 2013

Protein Supplementation

It was around 2010 when I began my experimentation with protein. I'd always known that it was important for recovery, but now I began doing some serious supplementation, especially right after a run or other workout. It started with Hammer Nutrition's Recoverite, which is made specifically for recovery of aerobic exercise. Recoverite has a 3 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, which is pretty much what all the experts say is good. Then I moved on to pure protein supplementation - Cytosport 100% Whey Protein, which was available at Costco for a good price. I figured that with all the fruit and cereal, I was already getting plenty of the carbs that the Recoverite was giving me. Now I had the protein (usually mixed with almond milk) to go with it. Never mind that I had been using almond milk to reduce my dairy consumption, and now I was adding it back in. Not everything I do makes perfect sense. Actually, I'd been considering moving on to some sort of plant based protein for my supplementation. More on this later.

Whether it was directly related to the protein or not, my running improved. I increased my training volume fairly significantly. I ran some pretty darn good marathons and half-marathons. The greatest improvement was in my ultras. Arguably, the best of them was my run at the Mad City 100K in April, 2011, where I ran a 9:31.

Things kept going well, until my debacle at Mohican that summer. Although I still had some decent runs later that year, it was definitely a turning point. After that, the injuries really took over - the plantar fasciitis, the piriformis, and the rest - and things went downhill. 2012, of course, was a complete waste.

So was it the protein? Did that have anything at all to do with this rise and fall? If so, why didn't it shield me from all those injuries? Maybe it enabled me to run more, and that actually caused the injuries? I have no idea. But let me talk about a more recent, albeit much smaller, rise and fall. 2013 has started out kinder and gentler. My training volume is down. I'm only slowly increasing the intensity. If I feel any injury at all coming on, I back off. Most importantly, I am trying my darnedest to stay injury-free. With the reduced number of miles, I began to wonder whether the extra protein was helping at all. So I stopped taking it for a few weeks.

It was imperceptible at first, but then I began to notice it more and more. The soreness, the aches and pains. Not being able to run hard two days in a row, or even less often than that. Last weekend I met up with a gang of old friends in Broadview Heights for their Saturday morning long run. The pace wasn't all that terribly fast, and I should have been able to keep up. But I couldn't. I had run only moderately hard the previous two days, and I was just plain tired when it came to hitting the roads that Saturday. This was discouraging since I had been showing some slow but steady improvement throughout the year.

Setbacks happen, sometimes for unknown reasons. But am I back on the protein? You bet.

But wait - it gets even more interesting. In the wake of all this is some new information about l-carnitine. It seems that a study by the Cleveland Clinic has shown a link to heard disease. An amino acid that is a nutrient in red meat, and also an ingredient in many milk based protein supplements, including the one I'm taking.

I'm going to take a closer look at the plant-based protein supplements.

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