I was never into running before, as it felt like a chore; however, as I got older, I realized that running could be a great way to get and stay in shape, so I gave it a shot. So, should you have protein after a run? I started taking protein shakes after my runs so my muscles wouldn’t get so sore the next day.
If you’re starting to run as a hobby or as a way to get into shape, I highly advise eating or drinking some protein after a run. Not only will it help you recover faster, but it offers a host of other health benefits. Let’s learn more.
Why Does Protein Help After A Run?
When exercising, you’re damaging your muscle fibers. Protein is an essential component for rebuilding those fibers, so the sooner you ingest protein, the faster your body can recover from a workout like running. Not only that, but eating or drinking a shake can replenish the nutrients and calories you lost, allowing your body to get back to normal.
When To Eat Protein After A Run
If you’re running hard, you may not feel like overeating after your workout. However, a high-protein shake can have immense restorative effects, especially within 30 minutes. That said, you can start drinking a shake as soon as you’re finished, so don’t feel like you have to wait a full 20 or 30 minutes.
Remember that your muscles get microtears as soon as the workout begins, so the longer you run, the more fatigued you will be by the end. Muscles are built when your body rebuilds these muscles bigger than before. So, if you consider how long you’ve been in workout mode, ingesting protein immediately seems like a good idea.
What Kind Of Protein Works Best For Recovery?
Realistically, you won’t be chowing down on a steak or half of a chicken as soon as you finish a run. Protein powders and shakes are a common go-to option for runners of all shapes and skill levels because they’re quick, easy, and come with lots of other nutrients. You might be wondering should you have an energy drink before a run.
But not all protein shakes are the same. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of protein you can mix into a beverage for post-workout recovery:
- Whey Protein: This option is the most common because it’s easy to come by and is absorbed by the body quickly. Whey is a by-product of making cheese, and many whey protein powders come with a lot of sugar to mask the intense flavor. However, try to find one that has a relatively low sugar content so you’re not hurting your health in the process.
- Casein Protein: Casein is a milk-based protein, but it’s non-soluble, so it stays in your system for much longer. Casein isn’t necessarily ideal for drinking after a run, but it can be helpful to aid recovery while you sleep. Also, while you can drink a casein powder shake, you’ll get the same effect by drinking regular milk.
- Soy Protein: Whether you’re a vegan, lactose intolerant, or just don’t like milk proteins, soy is a fantastic alternative as it is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. Soy protein will absorb quickly and doesn’t add any intense flavors to your drink.
- Pea Protein: Here is another vegan protein option that can give you all the same benefits of whey but without dairy, as it is also a complete protein. The flavor is pretty starchy, though, so it’s something of an acquired taste. Check out our explainer on should you eat before a run.
Other Factors To Consider When Picking Post-Run Protein
There are tons of products available, so it can feel a bit overwhelming to compare different brands and ingredients. Here are some elements to pay attention to when making a final decision:
- Sugar Content: Many protein shakes are chock-full of sugar, which can have a net negative effect on your body. Try to find products with little to no sugar added.
- Grams Per Serving: If you’re only jogging a few miles, you should ingest about 10 to 15 grams, depending on your body weight. If you’re running longer distances, you’ll need more protein. However, ingesting 40 or 50 grams is too much – try to keep it to about 30 grams max.
- Powder vs. Pre-Mixed: While pre-mixed shakes are more convenient, they may be lacking in nutrients and have more sugar. You have more control over your beverage when mixing a powder, making it more beneficial. Also, you can pre-mix your own shake and take it with you on the run, so it’s ready when you’re finished.