What comes to mind when you think of protein powder? Perhaps you imagine the shelves of nutrition stores, lined with tubs of supplement powders. Maybe you think of yourself, mixing a whey protein supplement into a post-workout shake after hitting the gym. Or of a young skinny guy, hoping to bulk up, taking a protein powder supplement to build lean muscle.
But most people don’t immediately think of runners.
It’s true that protein supplements are usually related with body builders and weight lifting. But runners can also benefit from these essential muscle building supplements. How? And if you’re a runner, what’s the best way to benefit from whey protein powder?
Runners need to fuel properly to have the energy to complete a race. Fueling may not be a major concern for runners tackling shorter distances. Not for doing light training runs either. But that changes as training gets tougher and distances increase. Now proper fueling becomes critical to success and health.
Some runners fixate on carbohydrates for fuel. They only worry about their carb intake. Sure, carbohydrates are important. But you need a more balanced approach to fueling for the best results. Protein is also crucial to good fueling. You need it to avoid the “bonk” famous among marathon runners.
According to the NCAA, endurance athletes like runners have good reasons to get plenty of protein each day. The body uses protein in “the maintenance, repair, and synthesis of skeletal muscle.” But it’s not just about consuming lots of protein. The timing is also critical. The NCAA’s advice is that “while obtaining an adequate amount of protein each day is fundamentally important, athletes should not overlook the importance of the timing of protein intake throughout the day, especially after exercise.”
Your body is better able to take advantage of protein after a run. One of the best (and easiest) ways to get a substantial supply of quality protein is with a whey protein supplement. It is absorbed quickly and can go to work immediately. Besides fueling, protein also helps you in another essential way.
The recovery process is most efficient when your body is prepped to build muscle. This is called an anabolic state. While in this state, your body is better able to recover. Remember, it's experiencing muscle breakdown as a result of each run.
The problem for runners is that the recovery process demands fuel - especially protein. And if you are not supplying your body with enough through your diet, it will take it from your muscles. That leads to further muscle break down instead of the recovery and growth you need.
Not getting enough protein in your diet is all around bad for runners. Apart from making muscle recovery less efficient, a low protein diet can lead to:
Since no two runners are exactly alike, this is an important question. It depends on several factors, including:
In general, runners should get between 0.5 and 0.75 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. How does that break down? Here are a few examples:
140 pound runner
77 - 105 grams of protein per day
175 pound runner
88 - 131 grams of protein per day
200 pound runner
100 - 175 grams of protein per day
During light training, getting the low end of these amounts is fine. But when in training for half or full marathon, you’ll want to step up your protein consumption. That will ensure that your muscle recovery stays efficient. And it will save you from losing muscle mass in the process.
This is where whey protein is extremely beneficial for runners. Just one serving of the best whey protein supplement can offer 26 grams of protein. So with a post-workout protein shake, you can consume about 25% of your daily protein needs.
Protein is a critical nutrient for distance runners. Without plenty of it, they won’t be able to recover efficiently or stay properly fueled for long runs.
Runners - use whey protein to boost your protein intake. You’ll feel better, recover faster, and be able to take your training to the next level.