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Protein Intake Needs for the OCR Athlete: Protein Volume, Source, & Timing
Taylor McClenny  |  02/09/2018

Providing Basic Guidelines

Having coached hundreds of OCR Athletes, we’ve found that general knowledge concerning nutrition is basically the Wild West. This isn’t so surprising as much of the nutritional knowledge in most fitness communities is recycled bro-science.

We can’t tackle all of nutrition in one article so we’ll start with every Athlete’s favorite macronutrient - Protein. This article is meant to give the OCR Athlete basic knowledge and guidelines for their Protein needs.

Here's the Brief

  • Get an adequate amount of Protein - 0.7g to 1.0g/lb of Body Weight per day.
  • Not all Protein sources are equal - Get 2.5g+ of Leucine (Amino Acid) per Protein intake (meal).
  • Eat 3 to 4 quality meals w/ adequate Protein for your training for the 36 hours following your intense training effort.


Protein Volume, Source, & Timing

There are 3 major variables to adequate Protein intake:  Volume, Quality (or Source), and Timing.

#1 - Protein Volume

Consume 0.7 to 1.0 grams of Protein per pound of Body Weight per day.

  • ex. 185lb Male

    • 130g/day maintenance for general endurance & resistance training

    • 185g/day for building muscle (coupled w/ intense training efforts)

  • ex. 130lb Female

    • 91g/day maintenance for general endurance & resistance training

    • 130g/day for building muscle (coupled w/ intense training efforts)

#2 - Protein Quality (Source)

Not all Protein was created equal. For building muscle, ensure you intake 2.5g+ of Leucine per intake (meal). Leucine is an Amino Acid that is a major driver of muscle growth.

General Rule:  Your Leucine Protein source should have had eyes.

  • Chicken or Beef - 1.3 servings (142g) = 2.5g Leucine

  • Eggs - 5 eggs = 2.7g Leucine

  • Milk - 3.7 cups = 2.5g Leucine

  • Greek Yogurt - 1.1 servings (250g) = 2.5g Leucine

  • Whey Protein - 1 serving (23g) - 2.5g Leucine

*Must check! Leucine is the expensive Protein and therefore often stripped from inexpensive Protein products.

Yes - You can mix and match - Your goal is to consume up to 2.5g of Leucine in a single intake.

#3 - Protein Timing

Focus adequate protein volume and quality for the 36 hours following your workout.

  • Acceleration in muscle building, or "Muscle Protein Synthesis" (MPS), begins ~4 hours following an intense training effort.

  • Peak MPS is 24hr following an intense training effort.

  • MPS ends ~36 hours following an intense training effort.

  • Eat 3 to 4 quality meals per day, supplementing only when unable to receive adequate nutrient from real food sources.

  • Don’t graze all day! Adequate Protein consumption drives a 3+ hour cycle of MPS. Fasting for the 3-4 hours following adequate intake is required to end one cycle and allow a new cycle to begin.

  • Don’t sweat the 30 minute “lose my gains” window!

Quick Recap

Get an adequate volume of Protein - 0.7g to 1.0g/lb of Body Weight per day. Get 2.5g+ of Leucine per Protein intake. Eat 3 to 4 quality meals w/ adequate Protein for your training for the 36 hours following your intense training effort.

Disclaimer:  Everyone’s biological context and goals are different. Given our observations and findings, the above are general guidelines that will greatly improve the OCR Athlete’s training and performance. Your context and goals may warrant variations to Protein Volume.

Sources and Further Reading


Derek Snitker SATURDAY, FEB 10TH
Thoughts on things like creatine? Would you use it regularly or just "supplementing only when unable to receive adequate nutrient from real food sources" (as stated in the article)?
Taylor McClenny MONDAY, FEB 12TH
Hey Derek, thanks for reaching out.
Always shoot for a proper diet before any supplementation. After sustaining a proper diet with adequate protein, creatine is a great addition for regular consumption.
Creatine is especially helpful for the Intermediate and Advanced Athlete training with multiple strength sessions per week.
If you'd like to learn more, here is a great (short!) summary of findings on various creatine research -
Joe Gaetz MONDAY, FEB 12TH
this article was great! I was definitely guilty of grazing. I didn't know about the mps cycles. I've already adjusted my meal prep and consumption!
Taylor McClenny MONDAY, FEB 12TH
Joe, that's awesome! Way to put your new knowledge to action quickly.
Jason Leigh MONDAY, APR 2ND
A lot of great knowledge in here!! Very helpful!
Nono Guimbi MONDAY, FEB 12TH
Hi! That's a great article. I like the 'Wild west' comparison. I, myself, felt completely lost in this world. I used to take protein shakes just because you see it everywhere, I was completely influenced and thought that it would help me cut fat faster.... #whatwasithinking.
I don't do this anymore, I have stopped 6 months ago and I went back to real food. So thank you for encouraging us to eat real food! I love it.
I feel like this article is a lot around building muscles. But in my workout plan, I run a lot, sometimes I carry stuff (sandbags, bucket,...) but I run most of the time. The thing is I can't eat on early morning (my stomach just can't) so I usually workout on an empty stomach. Do you have any advice with that ? I would eat 1-2h after my workouts.
Also, if we run that much can are building muscles or losing muscles ? How should we eat when we run ? What is the best strategy ?
Thanks Taylor for your great article!
Taylor McClenny MONDAY, FEB 12TH
Hey Nono! We're glad you've gotten a lot of value from this article!
If an Athlete is not training to gain muscle they are likely going to be good with 0.7 - 0.85g Protein/lb of Body Weight. This is enough protein to hinder the breakdown of muscle as well as cover the needs of regular endurance efforts with some supplemental strength training. When an Athlete is lifting with intense effort 2 or more times per week, it's time to up the protein.
Given your current LeaderBoard training Rx, you should be aiming for 0.7 - 0.85g/lb of BW. As you are very active, you'll likely receive benefit from the higher end of that.
Working out fasted, is fine! As long as you receive adequate nutrition throughout the day. Just be sure that you adhere to the above with your meal 1-2 hours after your workout, and you are golden :)
Nono Guimbi MONDAY, FEB 12TH
Awesome Taylor! Thank you for your feedback :)
Matt Tighe MONDAY, FEB 12TH
Great read as always, Taylor!
Taylor McClenny MONDAY, FEB 12TH
Thanks, Matt! Any thoughts on what you'd like to see next?
Would be interested to hear your take on pre-race nutrition (day and night before, morning of etc). There's a lot of info out there in the space and would love to know the science behind race prep nutrition. I always feel like I'm winging it the morning of a race (usually a couple of packets of oatmeal with a banana and PB mixed in). Curious as to what the proper load meal would look like for an OCR athlete.
Colleen Lill MONDAY, FEB 12TH
I have a question about weight gain, and protein, and bwr. I eat relatively healthy and try to eat real, food, but I do supplement with a protein bar or shake sometimes, otherwise I don't get enough protein. How much weight, if any should you see added during a program like bwr, and how can you be sure the weight you're adding is muscle? Asking for a friend.
Taylor McClenny TUESDAY, FEB 13TH
Hey Colleen! Thanks for asking, this is a really common question/concern endurance Athletes have.
Weight gain is different for everyone. This has to do with many factors including: age, gender, intensity of strength efforts, nutrient intake, and many other biological and stress factors known and unknown.
Furthermore, measuring muscle mass vs fat mass vs other, is really difficult without fairly sophisticated equipment.

SO! I think we should change the question to be more direct to what we're doing all this work for - "Is my performance improving?"
Broken down a bit further for purpose of measurement - "Is my sport-specific expression of endurance improving?" and "Is my sport-specific expression of strength improving?"
Every Athlete should measure these 2 basic performance outputs at regular intervals as "performance correlates"
This is why we test our 4 Benchmarks: 5k, Mile, Rig, & Carry. If your performance correlates are improving, you're headed in the right direction.
Veronica Quinones TUESDAY, FEB 13TH
General Rule: Your Leucine Protein source should have had eyes.

Can you bold and highlight this and print it to my fridge?!

Great article. After my PT for shoulder injury I started adding a lot of protein bars to my diet to “make up the protein gap”.

After months of this, I came down with an almost 2+ week long stomach flu. I’m back on real foods and I can tell my body is so much Happier. Obviously there’s a lesson in moderation here, but I just wanted to share my story for the rest of the LB Athletes. I meal prep and eat pretty well most days, the bars were just my way to fill the gap to the adequate amount of protein.

Really great and easy to read article. Keep up the great info :)
Taylor McClenny TUESDAY, FEB 13TH
Yes!! Thank you for sharing Veronica!
Your workout results have been speaking for themselves! Way to be smart and stay consistent!
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