Mixing protein powder and runners

The running community doesn’t have a lot to say about protein powders, and I never had much reason to experiment with them.  But when  I was invited to sample and review a variety of GNC and Vega protein products through Fitfluential, I decided to accept the challenge to learn more about the benefits of protein powder.

As a protein powder newbie, here’s the progression of my questions and the answers I am finding…

Isn’t protein powder just for weight-lifters?

True, those big guys at the gym are probably downing their protein powder.  But protein powder also has a lot of benefits for the average active person.

How can protein powder benefit you?

There are many benefits: taken before exercising, protein powders can improve strength, endurance and performance; afterwards they can help to repair and build muscle and reduce your overall recovery time.  Some powders are designed to be absorbed quickly as fuel for working out or recovery, while others provide a slower, steadier absorption rate.

Should runners use protein powders?

I found a number of articles that encouraged protein powder for runners, especially as a post-workout recovery drink.  The authors of The Big Book of Marathon and Half Marathon Training do not think protein powder is necessary, but agree that it can be helpful for those who may not get enough protein through their diet.

What are some of the options?

There are many! The ones I have been sampling include: whey, soy, egg, casein protein powders from GNC, and Vega Sport (vanilla).

Here’s a brief overview of each:

Whey:  fast absorbing; best before or after workouts
Casein: digested slowly and steadily, best between meals or before bed
Egg: Good for those with lactose intolerances; best immediately before or after workouts
Soy: complete plant-based protein; ideal for those avoiding animal products
Vega: another plant-based option; within 30-90 minutes of working out, or to recharge/repair

How can I use the powder?

The powder is designed to be mixed with milk or water as a drink, but there are countless ways you can be creative with protein powder, including smoothies, protein bars, pancakes, or dips.  I took the opportunity to try Jess’s protein bars, and they are delicious! I love the fudge-like texture.  You can find her recipe as well as a few others on GNC’s blog.

I also added a scoop of chocolate soy powder into my cookies:

I am most interested in the plant-based powders, but it was fun to experiment! As a runner, I don’t have the need for excessive protein but could benefit from a recovery protein smoothie.  And as a mostly vegetarian, I do have to pay attention to my protein intake.  I like the idea of occasionally adding protein to our family pancakes, bars or cookies.

What’s your take on protein powder for runners?

Any favorite ways to use it?

These products were sent to me for review purposes.  All opinions are my own.

53 thoughts on “Mixing protein powder and runners

  1. I, too, have just started to experiment with Protein Powders. I’ve tried the Vega line so far and really like it as a post long run smoothie mixed with almond milk and a banana. It has been helpful in for refueling since I can’t stomach actually eating anything after a long run.

    I’ve also heard great things about sunwarrior, too.
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted..Almond Flour Dutch Baby – WIAWMy Profile

    • Thanks, Lisa- it’s definitely a bit more confusing for runners who are told to fuel and refuel with 4:1 carbs:protein ratio… I’m enjoying the opportunity to learn more about the purpose and benefits of protein powder.
      Laura recently posted..Mixing protein powder and runnersMy Profile

  2. I have tried protein powders in smoothies a couple of times. Both times were a fail for me (mostly in the scale/weight department). I’m looking forward to seeing other replies and finding out what distance runners use.
    Kimert recently posted..Saturday SevenMy Profile

  3. I’m a long time user of protein powder and have recently been on the search for a plant based option. Thanks to the generosity of Vega I’m trying their product line this week. Have to say their Performance Protein is by far my favorite! Their recovery drink is awesome!

    I put protein powder in overnight oats, smoothies, breakfast quinoa, homemade protein bars…endless options.
    Jill @ Fitness, Health and Happiness recently posted..What I Ate Wednesday || Running On A Plant Based DietMy Profile

  4. I can say that you get out of it what you put into it. I used protien powder a LOT when I was a vegetarian. Mixed it into my morning post-run recovery smoothie and gobble en route to work. These days, I just don’t think I need the extra boost now that I have reverted to my carniverous ways…Though I gotta say, I am seriously considering dropping meat again.
    Thunder recently posted..Are You Off Your Frickin’ Meds?My Profile

  5. Great review! I’ve enjoyed trying all of them this week too. There are some that I like better than others and I have definitely enjoyed mixing the powders with other things.

    I have been using them in the morning, with the exception of the no bake energy balls that I made with them. I haven’t had them as a recovery drink yet, but I probably should!
    Jamie @ couchtoironwoman recently posted..We Run This Town: North Ponds ParkMy Profile

  6. I use protein powder maybe once or twice a week in a recovery smoothie. I only add 1/2 a scoop since I think I get pently of protein through my nonvegetarian diet. I just like to drink the protein smoothie if i know I won’t be eating a meal anytime soon after my workout is complete. And some of them taste pretty darn good too!
    Lindsay @ Fuel My Family recently posted..WIAW Carnival FareMy Profile

  7. I think because I was into weight lifting before I became a runner, I’ve used protein powder daily for years: shakes, pancakes, French toast, baked goodies, heck there was protein powder in my daughter’s giant birthday cookie! I definitely work it into the food I make for the kids to up their protein intake.
    Marcia recently posted..Workout WednesdayMy Profile

  8. I use protein as a recovery drink almost every run! I use Vega Sport and it really has made a difference for me. I notice that if I don’t take it after a hard run I feel more sore the next day. I used to take Whey protein but it’s Dairy and I’m off Dairy now so I can’t take it but, I like Vega Sport much better than any Whey I used to use 🙂
    Kris recently posted..Running, it’s in my Blood!My Profile

  9. What I have learned over the years is that long distance runners break down muscle during their runs and need to make sure they build it back up by taking in more protein. Since runners are often focused on carbs, we often don’t get enough protein in our diets, so these powders are an easy way to get in extra protein. Thanks for the overview:)
    hikermom recently posted..I Am in the Club!My Profile

  10. I just started using them this year. I do think we tend to overdo protein intake in the athletic community when what we really need are good carbs. But anyhow, I use protein powder in my morning smoothies. I make them about 4x/week and use them after runs. I like to add the protein to help speed recovery and also to keep me full longer than the smoothie alone would.

    Great review!
    misszippy recently posted..Back to the futureMy Profile

    • I agree–everything I’ve read talks about how important the 4:1 ratio is (carbs:protein) for runners, so it makes sense that protein powder isn’t a big part of that equation. But I can also see the benefits for recovery, and have started using it in recovery smoothies as well… curious to see if I notice a difference.
      Laura recently posted..Mixing protein powder and runnersMy Profile

    • I think it makes a lot of sense to use it in the morning- that tends to me the lowest protein meal of the day, unless you’re a big egg eater. I’ve started using it in am smoothies or oats, and it has helped keep me full longer. I’m still curious to see the recovery benefits.
      Laura recently posted..Mixing protein powder and runnersMy Profile

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  13. Everynight after my run or workout I have a protein smoothie of some sort. I believe it is the best way to for my muscle to recover. Plus, I don’t eat alot of protein so it helps me with my daily nutrition.

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