The Importance of Protein Powder for Runners and Why It’s a Game-Changer for Performance

  Mar 18, 2024

Running is the best cardio activity and many marathon athletes highly recommend having quality protein powders. 

Protein is a good source of energy for runners and it also helps in weight management and muscle recovery. 

As a macronutrient, when this compound is combined with the correct amount of carbohydrates and fats, it takes care of the overall health of an individual. 

However, why do runners need to add protein powder to their diet? Is it only suitable for bodybuilders and weightlifters? 

Are there vegan options available and what is the right time and quantity to have protein shakes or bars?

We provide answers to all these queries in this article which will be a game-changer for athletes running for short or long duration. 

Protein’s Profound Impact on Running Performance 

Protein as a power source helps build and maintain muscles which is the main reason it is preferred by bodybuilders.

However, its benefits outweigh more than that and it is also a necessary compound that aids in the overall movement of the body. 

Consuming protein for runners is most significant for improving endurance for maximum impact and recovery from intense exertion. 

The Anatomy of Protein

Protein Structure

The primary structure of the protein constitutes smaller units of amino acids that are the building blocks of every muscle. 

For runners participating in sprints or long-distance sessions, as the heart rate increases, more oxygen is required. 

It is the work of protein to sustain the energy levels in the body to adapt to training and repair the muscles quickly for the next event.  

Protein for Endurance and Recovery

Our bodies have a natural endurance and rehab process that is facilitated through regular meals. 

For long-time runs, the body requires more fuel for optimum performance by sparing the muscle glycogen when needed. 

The second most relevant part of running is recovering from a workout. Having quality protein powder aids in muscle repair and reduces soreness. 

Proteins are therefore also known as polypeptides. Many thousands of different proteins are known, each with its particular amino acid sequence.

Decoding Protein Powders: Friend or Foe? (merge)

Different Types of Protein Powder

There are so many different types of protein powders available in the market that it could be confusing to opt for the best one for you. 

Sports coaches and trainers recommend a daily intake of protein depending on the runner’s individual needs. 

Each pack has its quality that may or may not suit you but just like every other food or drink, overconsumption should always be avoided. 

Whey, Casein, or Plant-Based?

Whey protein, produced from whey of milk and curd, is an excellent source of protein that gets digested easily and contains all nine amino acids.

Casein is slow to digest and provides sustenance through the release of amino acids. Some runners prefer whey post-run and others like to have it before bed for overnight recovery. 

Runners who want plant-based proteins and want to avoid dairy products can consume similar sources like peas, hemp, and brown rice. 

The Post-Run Window and Protein Timing

What to Eat Before, During, and After a Long Run

The time for consumption of protein powder is equally significant as experts suggest taking care of energy levels before and after running matters. 

After running for short or long duration, try to consume a protein bar or shake within an hour because the muscles are more receptive to it.

It also provides instant aid for faster recovery and adapting body temperature for better absorption of nutrients. 

Protein for Endurance Fueling

Athletes performing for high levels of aerobic activity, running, or a sports event, need more protein than a regular individual.

Data from NBAL studies recommends having 1.2g to 1.4g per day of consumption. However, this depends on a person’s BMI levels as well. 

Runners tackling long distances should focus on having 10 to 15% daily calories from protein that will maintain their endurance levels. 

The Carb-Protein Harmony

Taking care of complete nutrition is still necessary which includes a balanced diet with a combination of vital carbs and fats. 

Runners participating in runs longer than 60 to 90 minutes can have a protein-rich snack containing 50-70 grams of carbs, one or two hours before the event. 

You can opt for protein shakes, carb gels, and sports drinks to counteract muscle damage and boost endurance. 

Protein as an Energy Source

5 Reasons to Eat More Protein

The energy system works differently for a varied length of running sessions. For a sprinter, who needs an immediate fuel source, creatine phosphate works best. 

Swimmers and those 400m running distance activities rely on the slow breakdown of glucose to produce energy and lactate as a byproduct. 

Marathon runners or long-distance cyclists require oxygen to break down the carbs and fats to produce energy. 

Choosing Your Proteins Wisely 

How to Choose the Best Protein Powder

The market of protein powders is vast and varied designed for different types of athletes and body types. 

Supplements especially created for runners should have all the vital nutrients based on the individual’s body requirements. 

Here are some of the things to keep in mind while selecting a quality protein supplement that also matches ethical standards. 

Reading the Labels

  • Always check the nutritional information on your protein powder. 
  • Look for minimal added sugar, appropriate serving sizes, and a suitable protein blend.

Ethical Considerations

  • For runners who are vegetarian, vegan, or have lactose intolerance, the type and source of protein powder are significant. 
  • Ensure that the product is nutritious and aligns with your dietary choices and restrictions.

The Brand Reputation

  • A reliable brand ensures high-quality, transparent, and athlete-focused products. 
  • Customer reviews and recommendations from fellow runners provide valuable insights into the efficacy of different pre-workout supplement for running

The graph below shows the global protein supplement market size by type which has been growing since 2022 and is predicted to be in demand till 2032.

Global Protein Supplement Market Size from 2022-2032.

Pairing Protein with Strong Nutrition 

Your protein requirement should align well with the daily intake of nutritional meals. It should include relevant minerals, vitamins, carbs, fats, as well. 

  • The Power of Real Foods: Prioritize whole foods for complete nutrition such as Lean meats, dairy products, nuts, seeds, and legumes offer protein as well as valuable minerals, vitamins, and healthy fats. 
  • Timing Is Key: Protein intake should be equally distributed throughout the day by having it with each meal. Including a serving of protein within 30-60 minutes of running optimizes speedy recovery.
  • Hydration and Protein: Drinking enough water, particularly after consuming a protein shake, aids digestion and nutrient absorption. 

For runners who have difficulty digesting milk products or get stomach pain as a beginner, consume alternative products such as almond milk and soy.

Recipes and DIY Protein Solutions for Runners 

Protein Food Choices

Runners learn to create customized diets by adding protein shakes, smoothie bowls, and energy bars are rewarding delicacies.

  • You can add fruits, leafy greens, a scoop of protein powder, and a liquid base like water, milk, or yogurt to make it nutritious. 
  • Adding supplements like creatine or BCAAs can further enhance recovery and muscle support.
  • Craft your pre or post-run snacks by using ingredients like oats, nut butter, honey, and a protein powder of your choice. 

Check Out These Protein Powder for Runners

The importance of protein powder is varied as it can aid in muscle recovery, provide necessary nutrients, and improve endurance. 

It is a valuable compound for achieving optimal performance for short or long-distance runners. 

Don’t underestimate the power of protein powder and include it in your training regimen today. Start seeing the benefits of protein powder for runners yourself!