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Do Runners Need Protein?

Do Runners Need Protein?

Are you ever tired and sore after a run? Have you ever heard that incorporating some strength training can help you be a better runner? YES! That means you are using your muscles when running. So, YES, you need protein to repair those muscles.

Let’s start with the basics. As a runner, your workouts place stress on your muscles and joints with each step. Every time you go running, you are creating tiny tears in your muscles. 

Repairing those tears doesn’t happen during your run. It happens after your run and is your body’s way of helping you become faster and stronger. This is where protein comes in. Protein is the key nutrient and building block that helps you recover and fix those tiny muscle tears.

Whether you are a marathoner or training for your first 5K, protein is essential after each run and offers multiple benefits. 

  • Facilitates Faster Recovery: Research shows your body needs protein within 30-60 minutes after a workout. At OnUp, we prefer whey protein because it is highly soluble, allowing it to be absorbed into the small intestine and blood stream immediately for faster recovery. See more about the benefits of whey protein in our Why Whey blog.
  • Fresh Legs for Your Next Workout: Logging miles puts a lot of strain on your body, making it even more important that those tiny tears are fixed in between workouts. A 2008 study in Nutrients found that while protein supplementation provided to marathoners didn’t alter recovery in the first 24 hours post-race, it did improve fatigue and muscle soreness over the next 72 hours. Runners who consumed protein recovered faster than their counterparts who only had carbs post-run. So if you want your legs to keep feeling fresh over time, incorporate protein into your recovery. 
  • Maintains Lean Muscle: Consuming protein after a run does not mean that you are going to bulk up. You need to do resistance training to do that. It means that you will build and maintain lean muscle mass. Without enough protein, your body will begin to borrow from muscle for fuel during your run. You want to be burning carbs and fat, not muscle, during your cardio training.
  • Helps Improve Performance: A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences examined the effect of whey protein on physiological adaptations and exercise performance. Results showed that when whey protein was consumed after a marathon, elite track athletes had reduced inflammation post-run and improved endurance performance in comparison to those only consumed maltodextrin (a carbohydrate). The researchers also suggest that whey protein could have a variety of benefits for amateur runners. 

Remember, in order to trigger muscle protein synthesis and capture the many of the benefits of protein for running, you must actually hit a threshold of protein. OnUp is specially formulated with 22g of whey protein, just the right amount to initiate muscle repair. And it includes electrolytes and tastes delicious so is a super refreshing way to get your protein after a run on a hot summer day

This logic regarding the importance of protein in recovery isn’t just true for running. It also holds true for other endurance sports such as cycling and swimming. So, whatever cardio exercise you are doing, make sure to get enough protein in addition to your carbs.