Importance Of Protein In Recovery For Endurance Sports

Lua Jiong How, Salomon Singapore Athlete and seasoned Ultra/Trail Runner shares more about his training and importance of adequate recovery tips


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We managed to get an interview with Salomon Singapore Athlete and seasoned Ultra / Trail Runner Lua Jiong How earlier this month. A familiar face in the Singapore running scene, he has completed notable races such as the UTMB OCC as well as the Ultra Trail Nan. Jiong How shares more about his training and the importance adequate recovery tips.

Q: Jiong How, you are an active runner who trains up to 8 - 10 hours a week. Describe to us what your average training week (mileage / hours) is like and some of the key sessions you do right before a big race!

Jiong How: I typically try to plan a race calendar that spans up to 5-6 months a year, during which I try to train in a more structured and disciplined manner. For the rest of the year, I run and train as I wish, to avoid burnout and fatigue.  Depending on the distance and elevation profile of the races I choose, I prepare based on event requirements, shifting my focus whenever necessary. A typical week involves three key runs at differing paces - one speed session, one easy run and one tempo run. There are periods that I focus on long runs, while during others, I prioritize climbing and vertical gain. There are also moments when I prioritize building speed.  Effective training, to me, is to gradually accumulate the benefits of training, to be well-rounded and ready to perform. Given the busy lifestyles most of us in Singapore lead - I also like to stress the importance of listening to the body and accommodating training in accordingly.

Q2: How important is the recovery phase in training and what are some forms of recovery you integrate into your program, to get you to the next session or start line in top condition? 

Jiong How: Recovery is critical when you have an intense season. There are weeks when I decide to take a break from everything related to sports to recharge and recover. The most important thing in recovery is getting enough rest and food, because heavy endurance training places immense stress on the body.  This is something that I still struggle with, and continue to work on, because I do not usually get sufficient sleep. 

The demands of hard long training blocks typically result in muscle loss and this can prevented if the right muscle building and replenishing systems are put in place. These come in the form of strength training, a good nutrition plan that supplements you with the right calorie needs and also timing the right amount of quality protein you take before or after training sessions to fully optimize recovery and growth. I make a special case for protein because it offers an opportunity to accelerate overnight recovery - something not to be overlooked especially in a local context where most of us train in the evenings or later at night  - taking a protein nutrition shake post workout followed by rest goes a long way in affecting your ability to train the next day.

I also do not develop much of an appetite especially after training in Singapore’s hot weather. Nevertheless, I try my best to consume diverse foods in my diet and eat at regular hours to ensure I have the calories and nutrients for recovery. I am not picky about what I eat, but I believe that diversity in foods and fair proportions of carbohydrates, protein and fruit/vegetables would provide much needed balance. Before harder sessions and races, I also make it a point to consume electrolyte drinks to ensure I am re-hydrated and replenished when I hit the start line.

Q3: Proteins for runners - yay or nay?

Jiong How: Yes definitely! For endurance athletes - it is tricky to get the intake we need just though our regular meals given the demand we place on our bodies. With protein, I feel that it is also less a matter of immediate consumption, rather, timing the consumption of protein to be regular and consistent - especially after the most intense races or workouts for it to give the best results. The point is to ensure that the body can better absorb and benefit from the protein consumed.

One example would be managing intake during multi-stage races like the half Marathon des Sables (Cross - Desert race). I chose to consume a recovery drink with a higher carbohydrate ratio because I realized too much protein would take much longer to digest, and it left me feeling slightly sluggish when I woke up the next day. Likewise, for endurance athletes I feel that prioritizing carbohydrate replenishment in equal measure is also key, because it provides me with the extra fuel to take on the next day.

Lastly, understanding your own body through regular practice and racing will allow you to choose the right products and supplements to use on the big day. This plays an essential role in optimizing performance to smash your goals!

Ensure Max Protein nutrition shake has 30 grams of high-quality protein in each 330 ml bottle that supports muscle tissue building. Each serving has only 1g sugar, contains 25 vitamins and minerals and provides 40% of the daily protein requirements for adults above the age of 18.

Find out more about Ensure Max Protein at Shopee or Watsons stores, Price $15 for 330ML x 4.


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