Best Protein Powder For Runners

Best Protein Powder For Runners

There are a lot of runners out there with the drive to be the best.

They train hard, they compete, and they take their hydration very seriously.

That's why electrolyte & hydration supplements are so common among runners.

To be fair, they are very important ... but they aren’t the only supplements runners need to perform at their best.

Where many runners go wrong ... is neglecting to take care of their post-workout recovery.

If you use the right post-workout supplements for you, they can take your recovery and results to the next level.

What I’m referring to is protein powder.

What you may not know is ... protein is not just for weightlifters who are looking to get huge or extremely strong.

Actually, protein powders can be beneficial for anyone who does any form of exercise ... and many of the most accomplished runners are likely using some sort of protein powder to supplement their daily intake of protein.

Why? Because they understand how much it can benefit their performance & recovery overall.

Now, while that may seem like a lot ... I'll break it down in this article, and give you a better idea of which protein powder is the right one for you.

First, let’s cover what protein powder is.

What is Protein Powder?

Protein powders are a supplement designed to help you get more, you guessed it, protein.

You should know, there is more than one type of protein, and they come from all sorts of different sources.

The Difference Between Whey and Casein Protein

You can actually find protein powders that come from milk, beef, fish, hemp, peas, rice, and many other sources.

One reason why there are so many choices is because there are different benefits to each type of protein.

For example, some people are lactose intolerant and can’t have protein powders made from milk.

Some people live vegan lifestyles and must consume powders made from plant sources.

Every person is different, and there is a protein powder out there for everyone.

But that brings up the question ... is protein powder good for runners?

Is Protein Powder Good For Runners?

Of course protein powder is good for runners! Allow me to explain.

Any form of exercise will cause damage to your muscle tissue in the form of little micro tears.

This is unavoidable when running as well.

If you’ve ever run a marathon, you know how much it can hurt during, and in the days following the race.

See, your muscles are made mostly of 2 things: protein and water.

...and when you accumulate damage to your muscles, you need to give your body the materials it needs to heal.

Those materials are protein and water.

You need carbs too, but I’ll get into that in a bit.

One thing to remember though ... is that protein powders aren’t just meant for big, beefy bodybuilders and powerlifters.

The Benefits of Whey Protein

Runners can truly benefit from consuming protein powders just as much as anyone else.

Studies even show taking protein powder post workout enhances recovery. It also boosts performance over time in endurance athletes (1).

In most cases, runners are endurance athletes ... so you can see how it would be beneficial to incorporate protein into your routine as a runner.

Now that you know protein powder benefits runners, let’s look at what some of the other benefits are.

Benefits of Protein Powders

As I’ve already mentioned, protein powders can support better recovery and performance.

This is just the tip of the iceberg though.

Protein powders are also and quick and convenient way to increase protein intake ... which is awesome, because it’s not always easy to eat enough protein for many people.

On that thought, what does "enough" mean?

Well, when I'm referring to protein, i'm talking about the amount of protein a person needs to perform and progress in their training.

For this, I always recommend eating at least 1 gram of protein per pound of their goal body weight.

For someone who weighs 200 pounds and wants to lose 15 pounds, I would recommend they eat at least 185 grams of protein per day.

While some people can eat that amount with no problem, others may really struggle to get that in a day from just the food they eat.

Using protein powder can make it so much easier to hit your protein goal daily.

It’s as simple as mixing 1-2 scoops of protein powder in water or milk and going on your way.

Protein powder can help you maintain muscle mass

One of the benefits of taking a protein powder is helping to preserve and maintain muscle. This is important because, well, who wants to lose muscle?

This is especially true in a few different scenarios.

For starters, as we get older, it becomes more difficult to maintain muscle. As a result, losing muscle is actually a common problem for many older people.

It’s also a common problem for those looking to lose body fat.

How Much Protein Do You Need To Build Muscle?

To lose fat, you have to eat less calories than you burn, but this can lead to muscle loss. The less muscle you have, the less calories you burn throughout the day ... so this isn’t ideal for anyone with that goal.

Using protein powder can help make it easier to get the right amount of protein for your lifestyle & goals. This will likely help you maintain more of your muscle while eating less calories to lose body fat (2).

The goal is fat loss anyway, not muscle loss.

As a runner, it can also help you build muscle in the right places.

Now I’m not saying you’ll bulk up more than you want to overnight, because that won’t happen. Whatever kind of training you’re doing, like running, your body knows what to do in order to get better at it.

So while running a lot, and using protein powder, your body may build muscle in areas that make you a better runner.

It’s good for your immune system

Maybe not every type of protein is, but whey protein is good for your immune system (3). Whey protein also happens to be the most common type of protein powder on the market.

What makes it good for your immune system though?

Some of the peptides in whey protein have antimicrobial and antiviral properties (4). That means it can definitely be good for your immune system to help fight off infections.

So, regular use of whey protein can help you stay healthier long term. No matter your goal, staying healthy should be a priority too.

Protein powder can help you lose weight

I know I already mentioned how protein powder can help you hold onto muscle while losing weight. Here, I’m looking at a more direct benefit.

One of the hardest parts of losing weight is sticking to a diet without overeating. One major benefit of protein is its ability to help you stay full.

Benefits of Whey Protein for Weight Loss

Keeping you full with protein powder can also help you reduce cravings that lead to overeating (5).

The less cravings you deal with, the better you’ll likely stick to your diet. The better you stick to your diet, the more likely you are to reach your goal!

Should I Use Protein Powder Before or After a Run?

This is going to depend on the situation. There is actually a benefit to consuming protein powder both before AND after.

If you want to maximize your recovery, using protein powder after your run can help kick start that process. If you take it with a simple carb, it can work even better!

Using them together boosts the speed that you replenish muscular energy for the next run (6).

On top of that, taking the right type of protein and carbs after any kind of workout is the best way to start recovery anyway.

Using protein powder before your workout is good too. In fact, using whey protein pre run, and then post run with carbs may help speed up the training effects from the run (7).

If you’re wanting to only use it before or after though, use it after. There isn’t a lot of evidence for using protein powder only before a run making much of a difference in recovery.

Theoretically it’s still good to do, but it hasn't been studied enough to have  clear evidence supporting it.

So, my recommendation is to use your protein powder both pre and post run. If you are only going to do one or the other though, use it after your run.

…but make sure to take it with carbohydrates for the maximum benefit!

Post Workout Stack

What Types of Protein Powder Are There?

There are tons of different types of protein powders out there. There are so many because they all are either for different purposes or different people.

I’m not going to cover every one, but I’ll cover the more popular types.

Let’s start with the most popular, and arguably the best option out there.

Whey Protein Powder

Whey protein makes up about 20% of the protein in milk. What I find funny is some people think humans shouldn’t have whey protein because we weren’t meant to drink cow’s milk.

Well, to those people I ask them to look into the protein types in human breast milk. Whey protein makes up 60-90% of the protein in our own milk.

So, I think it’s safe to say our bodies do pretty well with it. Plus, there is tons of research on it.

In fact, whey protein has the highest biological value score of any protein I’ve ever seen, at 104 (8). This means it is very easily utilized by the body, and it also has a very high amount of essential amino acids.

The essential amino acids are the ones we can’t make internally and have to get through our diet. When a protein source has all 9 of these essential amino acids, it is considered a complete protein source. Whey protein is a complete protein.

When it comes to giving your body what it needs to recover and adapt, nothing beats whey protein powder.

The only downside is some people have intolerances and allergies to dairy, so they shouldn’t use it.

There are a couple main forms of whey protein though, and they have different uses.

Whey Protein Isolate

This form of whey protein is more pure and faster digesting than the other forms. To be considered an isolate, it must be at least 90% protein by weight.

It can also be pre-digested, or hydrolyzed, to speed up the absorption, and make it lighter on your stomach. This form of whey protein is best used pre and post workout.

This is the only protein source used in Phormula-1, and is why it’s perfect before and after a run.

It's also good when blended with slower digesting proteins for meal replacement shakes and snacks. The different digestion rates help to keep you fuller and repair muscle longer.

Whey Protein Concentrate

This form of whey protein is a little less pure than isolate. In low-quality products, I’ve seen it as low as 30%, while higher quality products will use 80-89.9% protein whey concentrate.

If it’s 80% protein, that means the other 20% will be lactose, natural fats, and other components from the milk. This doesn’t make it unhealthy either.

In fact, whey protein concentrate showed the greatest benefits to fat loss over other forms of whey (9).

The fats and non-protein parts of whey protein concentrate slow down the digestion speed. This makes it more ideal for meal and snack times, especially in a protein blend.

This is the type of protein blend used in Level-1, and it makes for a delicious meal or snack replacement!

Level-1 Protein

Egg White Protein Powder

This is a less common type of protein powder, but it isn’t a bad option. Egg whites are a great protein source that are generally well tolerated by most people.

Egg white protein is also very bioavailable. In terms of biological value score, it comes in second at 100 behind only whey protein at 104 (8).

I’m a huge fan of eggs, and eat them almost every day. For those that have problems with dairy, egg white protein powder is an awesome option!

For some people though, they stay away from animal proteins in general. Eggs obviously come from animals, so if you follow a plant-based diet, then you’ll need a vegan protein powder.

Casein Protein Powder

Casein is the other major protein in milk besides whey protein. It is much more slow digesting than whey protein, and this can be a benefit in the right case.

Before and after a run/workout it’s not the best. The slow digestion makes it a perfect bedtime protein shake. That way, your muscles get a steady supply of amino acids for a while as you sleep.

That means your muscles will be repairing and recovering longer each night.

Blended with whey protein, it can make for a great meal or snack replacement too.

When it comes to a meal, you want slower absorption to keep you full and feed your muscles over time.

Vegan Protein Powder

This is a much broader category than it sounds. There are actually many different vegan options that come from different protein sources.

Typically, vegan protein powders will contain more than one source of protein, and they should. There are very few complete protein sources coming from plants.

So to make a vegan protein powder, most of the time you’ll have to use 2 or more sources to make it a complete protein. The essential amino acids that one protein lacks, the other will provide.

How To Choose The Best Protein Powder For You

Some plant proteins are complete, like soy protein, but many people have allergies to soy. For that reason, it’s less common.

The most common type you’ll see is pea protein ... but it is not a complete protein. So a quality vegan protein powder, like Vegan Power Pro, will add something like rice protein to fill in the gaps.

Some options will have a lone source of pea protein, or hemp protein, but I don't recommend those, since you will not be getting a complete protein. As a result, they will not give you the same benefits that a complete protein blend would give you.

Summing Things Up

To sum things up, yes protein powder is something you should use as a runner. It’s also something you should use if you exercise in any other capacity.

It can aid in recovery and performance, but not all proteins are the same.

Yes, whey protein is the number one option out there, but it isn’t the only option.

There's also egg white protein, casein, vegan options, and more too.

If you don’t have any issues with dairy, I would choose whey protein isolate before and after your runs. After your runs, I would add carbohydrates with your protein to enhance your recovery.

I would do a 1:1 ratio of protein to carbs in that shake. 20-30 grams of both for females, and 30-40 grams of both for males.

If you are sticking to plant-based options, choose a vegan protein with at least 2 protein sources. That way, you get the benefits of a complete protein.

Protein powder isn’t the only thing you need to see results though. If you have goals of fat loss, and that’s why you’re running ... your diet is crucial.

If your goals are more performance-based, then how you train is super important as well. If you aren’t an expert on either of those, you could benefit from working with one.

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