Home Fitness #3 Weight Loss & Running: Proteins for Runners Trying to Lose Weight

#3 Weight Loss & Running: Proteins for Runners Trying to Lose Weight

by Tanya Agarwal

Just to remind you – am doing this series on Weight loss for Runners from the book – Run to Lose written by Experts under Runners World. My first two articles on weight loss from the same book are on Sugar and Carbohydrates.

This is the 3rd article in the Weight Loss Series – This one is all about Weight Loss and Protein.

The book quotes

“Protein is important for weight loss. And as a runner you need more protein than what’s recommended for sedentary people. That’s because as you log miles, you’ll need to replace the protein you break down during intense and long workouts in order to build lean muscle tissue.”

But not all high protein foods are healthy. Often proteins is added to the processed packaged foods along with artificial additives, calories, sugar, fat, and sodium to make the products taste good. So you’ve got to carefully inspect the Nutrition Facts Panel. A 1 ¼  cup serving of a cereal with added protein has 7 gms of protein – more than the 4 grams of protein in the original variety.  But it also has 100 more calories and 16 additional grams of sugar per serving compared to original. Another high protein candy bar has 20 grams of protein, but it also has other candy bar like attributes : 290 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 22 grams of sugar.

Given all of this – how as a runner with extra need of protein are you supposed to lose weight? If your protein intake is low, you may start to feel fatigues, lose muscle mass, become run down and increase your risk of illness and injury.

The book has made some great recommendations but not all work for many reasons – some of the stuff is hard to find in India and even if you do – they turn out very expensive. Some stuff is available only in metros and is still hard on the pocket. I’ve taken the Indian variant of some of the options given in the book and also they are easily available. The list is a mox of non-veg and veg sources of Proteins.

 1.      Eggs – trusted, cheap, high carriers of high quality protein but also vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants! Very easy on the pocket. One whole egg will not let you gain any weight! But lets break this down:

  • Egg Whole: Rich in protein and choline – a nutrient not found in many foods that is vital for brain health. Chose Omega 3 –enhanced eggs. (these are slightly expensive) to increase your intake of healthy foods. 1 whole egg has 6 grams of protein.
  • Egg White : Especially for runners looking to shed kilos and still not wanting to compromise on protein intake this is great. One egg white offers good amount of protein for very few calories. 1 egg white has 3.6 grams of protein. ( But I keep thinking – what’s an egg without its yellow?)

2. Amaranth ( Cholai) – great, vegetarian source of protein. I mix it in my dal. It keeps me full for a long time after lunch.

3. Chicken Breast : For the non-vegetarians in India – Please remember to buy skinless chicken as it has way less fats. Chicken contains niacin which helps regulate fat during a run.  Protein per 100g (with bone): 15-20g. Protein per 100g (boneless):27-31g

4. Cottage cheese or paneer: This book is from the western world point of view hence they have no put in cottage cheese but every vegetarian knows the importance of Paneer in their lives. Cottage Cheese is to vegetarians what chicken is to meat-lovers. And as it turns out, it is quite healthy too. A 100 grams of paneer contains 11 grams of protein. Choose paneer made from low-fat milk for weight loss purposes. It is so affordable too. I make mine at home (the perks of not having a 9-5 job.)

5. Sprouts : The protein-rich, easy-to-make sprouts are highly recommended when trying to lose weight. Loaded with fibre, low on fat, low on calories, keeps the hunger pangs in control, improves digestion and really rich in protein.

6. Peas – I depend upon it a lot! Easy to buy, easy to boil and eat when you like.  Pea protein is a good alternative, especially for people who are lactose intolerant. In addition to this, pea protein is free from fat, cholesterol and gluten and thus an ideal cheap protein option for vegetarians and vegans. Besides being low in cost, you can add peas to any of your meal. However, there are certain dietary conditions that may restrict your pea’s intake to once in a while. Green peas – a very good source of vitamin K, manganese, dietary fibre and vitamin B1.  A cup of peas can contain upto 10 grams of plant-based protein. They are ideal for weight loss as a filler for high calorie foods. Protein per 100g: 5gB

7) Beans: This includes all the different types of beans like chickpeas, moong beans, kidney beans, lentils, etc. Out of all the beans, raw kidney beans and mung beans contain the highest proportion of protein followed by chickpeas and lentils. Talking about the prices, chickpeas are priced highest followed by kidney beans. Both moong beans and lentils are priced comparatively lower. I checked with a couple of Nutritionists and they gave me the following figures on proteins in beans:

The book however recommends two kinds of beans:

  • Chickpeas – promotes bone health and helps regulate blood sugar! Which Is exactly what we want. Protein without gaining weight. 1 cup of chickpeas is 12-15 grams of protein. I eat them boiled as a salad and of course rice-chole is great. But watchout on the portions.
  • Kidney Beans – Rich in iron (which we runners need a lot) and also in fibre. 1 cup of rajmah as we call them are 13 grams of protein.
  • Black Beans – Warning – they are expensive and not available at every general store. The book does recommend them because of 1 cup of black beans has 15 grams of protein. These beans play a very important role in heart health and circulation!

8) Almonds : I am a fan of Almonds and rarely go by a day without them. They feature in my oats, in my shakes, and sometimes just a handful of them are great! The book says almonds contain Vitamin E, am antioxidant that boosts circulation; many runners fall short on it because there are so few good food sources. They are rich in protein as well. They are have lower proportions of carbs and contain very few calories. ¼ cup of almonds is about 8 grams of protein.

Peanut Butter is not mentioned in the book but I know of many many people who eat it as a source of protein. But you have to be careful of the extra sugar that is added to make it sweet. It does have good fats but either you make a jar of your own at home or best is to get an unsweetened peanut butter which is expensive.

The book makes a mention of the fact that it’s not that vegetarians need more protein than the meat-eating runners. But you need to be diligent about meeting your needs, as a vegetarian!

Your variety of Protein matters

Some proteins are considered incomplete, because they don’t contain all 9 amino acids. For example – Kidney beans (Rajmah) are best eaten with rice as the combination provides the amino acids you need to repair tissue and stave off injury! So accumulate a a variety of proteins through the day.  Try as much as you can to stay away from processed proteins like bars and powders. However because Protein is so critical to muscle repair and appetite regulation, it’s better to grab a protein shake than to skip it altogether!

Hope the above was useful to every runner out there and to every runner trying to lose weight! You are welcome to share the sources of protein that have worked wonders for you but just keep the availability factor in mind!


  • Tanya Agarwal
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    Welcome to Wellthyfit.com! Wellthyfit is my ‘writing venture’ on health and wellness and a constant reminder that health is our only everlasting wealth! Who am I - you can read here. But at the core of it all, I’m a mom who loves to run!

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Abhijit June 19, 2017 - 5:06 pm

Nice article!
Could you list out the “Indian” recepies that are complete in terms of amino-acids (just like Rajma – Chawal make a complete combination)?

Shubho June 19, 2017 - 6:52 pm

Very informative as usual

Phani June 19, 2017 - 8:30 pm

What is your measurement when you say a cup of beans ?? Do you have any standard size for cups?? Does “one cup” represent any standard weight measurement like 100gm or 75 gm ?? Kindly clarify

Dr Reema Kapoor June 19, 2017 - 8:43 pm

As usual a great article. Thanks for sharing.

Sethu Nagarajan June 20, 2017 - 3:08 pm

Excellent article. Very Informative. Thanks for thia. IS THIS BOOK AVAILABLE ONLINE. I AM INTERESTED TO GET ONE.

Abhijit June 30, 2017 - 4:56 pm

Very informative article.
Could you list out some of the complete protein recepies for us (like Rajma + Rice)? What are other combinations that have protein with all amino acids?

Dr Jaswinder Sran July 18, 2020 - 7:02 pm

Very Informative.Add Phool Makhana(Lotus Seeds) healthy snack for munching full of proteins.


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