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What type of protein is best for runners?

Runners' guide to protein powders.

By Guest Writer

We all are aware that a runner’s performance and stamina heavily rely on proper nutrition of the body. Moreover, a runner must consume a balanced diet to maintain his overall health. One of the primary functions of protein is that it plays a vital role in muscle growth and recovery. Running results in the microtearing of muscles and sometimes fatigue. Thus, proper protein intake is highly recommended to rebuild muscles and prevent injuries. 

In the following article, we will look at different types of proteins and figure out which type is good for runners. So, keep on reading to know more about your proteins. 

Best types of proteins for runners

The following are four major types of proteins:

  1. Whey protein: While making cheese from milk, the transparent liquid that separates from cheese is the whey. It forms a popular protein source found in protein powders for athletes and runners alike. The main reason behind whey’s popularity is that it contains all essential amino acids. Moreover, whey is readily absorbed into the body and delivers the required essentials to the muscles. This quick absorption is also helpful in providing necessary and sudden support to replenish the reduction of post-exercise nutrients. 

Benefits of whey protein

Protein powders help runners recover.

Whey protein is renowned for its numerous health and fitness benefits: 

  • Whey is one of the only complete protein sources that contains all nine essential amino acids. Our body requires all of these amino acids which makes whey an excellent source that supports muscle growth, repair and overall protein synthesis. 

  • As it contains all essential amino acids, it is highly effective in building new muscles and repairing old ones. 

  • Why protein readily gets absorbed in the body which causes a rapid increase in amino acids in the bloodstream. 

  • Immunoglobins and lactoferrin in the whey protein have immune-boosting properties. 

  • Whey protein helps promote a feeling of fullness which reduces the overall calorie intake of the body. Moreover, it also promotes the preservation of lean muscle mass which is quite helpful for your weight loss journey. 

  • Whey protein comes in one of the most convenient forms. You will find plenty of protein powders in the market that can fulfill your requirement for this protein. 

  • Whey can improve your insulin secretion and help regulate blood sugar levels. This is beneficial for runners who have type 2 diabetes. 

  • Antioxidant properties of whey protein help the body’s cells from oxidative stress and improve overall cellular health. 

Types of whey protein

There are mainly three types of whey protein and each has different characteristics.

  1. Whey protein concentrate: The exact percentage of protein in this type depends on the specific product. However, in this type of whey protein, you will also find fats and carbohydrates. Immunoglobulins and lactoferrin make it an immune-booster for the body. 

  2. Whey protein isolate: This version undergoes additional processes that remove most of the fats and carbohydrates from it. Whey protein isolates are richer in protein content. It rapidly absorbs into the bloodstream and thus is excellent for post-workout recovery. Moreover, it is also low in lactose concentrations which makes it suitable for lactose intolerant people. 

  3. Whey protein hydrolysate: When whey protein converts from pre-digestion into smaller peptides, we call it whey protein hydrolysate. Smaller peptide makes it even quicker to absorb into the body and assist in the functions. 

2. Casein protein: This is the second protein found in milk in abundance other than whey protein. In cow milk, around 80% of the protein content is casein protein. Unlike whey, it is a slow digestive protein that helps the bloodstream with sustained amino acids for a long time.

There are four main types of protein.
Characteristics of casein protein
Following are a few characteristics of casein protein:
  • Casein forms a gel-like substance in the stomach. As a result, the digestion of casein is a slow and prolonged process. It is an excellent source of protein when the body is not actually consuming nutrients. 

  • Casein is rich in glutamine which plays a crucial role in boosting the immune system of the body. 

  • Consuming casein before sleep is an excellent way to supplement your body with amino acids throughout your sleep. The slow digestion will release amino acids into your bloodstream while you are sleeping to help you with muscle fatigue and tear. 

  • It contains all the essential amino acids a runner’s body can require. 

  • If a runner is aiming for weight loss, casein is a good option as it stays in the stomach for a longer time and provides a source of fullness. 

  • Casein contains even lower lactose concentrations than whey which makes it an option for lactose intolerant people. 

  • This protein helps in muscle buildup overnight as it takes more time to digest into the body. 

A quinoa burger is a great protein option for runners.

3. Plant-based proteins: Plant-based protein sources are also gaining massive popularity among runners due to their many benefits. You can easily find these options, when determining which protein is best for runners:
  • Chia seeds 

  • Beans

  • Peas 

  • Chickpeas

  • Nuts 

  • Grains 

  • Seeds

  • Quinoa 

  • Tofu 

All of these protein sources offer a variety of essential amino acids and meet the never-ending demand for runners. You get additional benefits like anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties from these proteins while being more respectful to animals and the environment. Still, you do need proper planning to ensure you get all the required amino acids into your diet.


4. Animal-based proteins: These proteins offer a valuable option for runners because of their high biological value and complete amino acid profiles. Eggs, fish, lean meats, etc., are common animal-rich protein sources. These proteins contain all the necessary amino acids for humans. Runners opt for such options to support their muscle production, recovery and overall endurance. 

In conclusion, we emphasize that you determine an optimal protein type for your running needs and involve it in your diet in a balanced manner. You can choose from a wide range of diverse options that include whey, casein, plant-based and animal-based proteins. 

Furthermore, the timing also plays a crucial role in consuming proteins. Your post-run protein intake should be able to help you with muscle recovery and fatigue. We highly encourage you to consult a dietitian so they can tailor your diet plan according to your body’s needs. 


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