Thanks to years of clever marketing, gym enthusiasts, runners, athletes and the public, have been led to believe that if you consume enough protein you will build bigger muscles.

This misconception (that no one has been quick to correct) has led to the sale of protein powders and supplements hitting an all time high.

For runner’s muscle is built by specific heavy resistance gym workouts and high intensity running sessions. A balanced healthy diet will provide all the protein needed for muscles to recover and rebuild after these workouts and sessions, and the truth is all the excess protein from powders and supplements may be doing more harm than good.

Reports have shown that consuming protein in excess, and in particular animal protein, can cause health problems. Any excess that your body does not put to use will be stored as fat or eliminated through the kidneys,  which can result in specific kidney health issues.

So how much protein do we need?

For adults, whether male or female, the recommended amount of protein is 0.8 grams for every kilogram of target body weight per day. Some protein supplements can have up to 50 grams per shake – most sit around the 30 grams mark.

Athletes and runners who spend 10 or more hours per week training, should increase their protein intake to 1.37 grams per kilo of body weight. Even at this recommended level of protein, athletes and runners do not need to take protein supplements.

For a healthier alternative look to whole plant foods, instead of the highly marketed protein supplements and powders. Ask yourself the question… which is better for your health, a processed protein product or a handful of organic nuts or seeds?

So after the next hard workout in the gym or high intensity running session try some high-protein plant foods, such as cashew nuts, almond nuts , sunflower seeds and chia seeds. As well as eating them as they are, these natural protein sources can easily be added to a simple smoothie.

These whole foods are also a great addition to recovery meals after a workout or running session, along with lots of green vegetables, beans and whole grains, which are not only high in protein but rich in micronutrients too. To find out more about the recommended nuts for runners click here.