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As the quest for the perfect post-run recovery supplement heats up, protein powder races to the forefront.
When it comes to finding the best protein powder for runners, it’s not just about refueling. It’s about supercharging recovery and ensuring each stride is matched by the right nutrients and amino acids.
Before you scoop just any protein powder into your blender, know this: not all products are winners at the finish line. Through rigorous research and hands-on testing, I’ve identified the top-performing protein powder for runners. Let’s dive in.
What Makes the Best Protein Powder for Runners?
What criteria make a protein powder ideal for runners? When selecting the products highlighted in this post, I’ve focused on several key factors:
- Complete Protein with BCAAs: Beyond just encompassing all nine essential amino acids, a top-tier protein powder should have a substantial concentration of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). These BCAAs play a pivotal role in muscle recovery.
- Whole Protein Sources: Protein isolates, like whey or soy protein isolate, might undergo a process that results in “denaturation”, potentially leading to inflammation. It’s advisable to opt for whole protein sources over isolates.
- High Bioavailability from Clean Sources: While whey protein is celebrated for its complete nature and high bioavailability, its dairy origin doesn’t sit well with everyone. Plant-based sources, such as organic pea, hemp, chia, and pumpkin seed proteins, are commendable alternatives.
- Natural Ingredients: Numerous protein powders are laced with artificial flavors, sweeteners, and colors, potentially causing inflammation and other adverse effects. Emphasize naturally sourced ingredients, leaning towards organic and non-GMO, including wholesome sweeteners.
- Avoid Refined Vegetable Oils: Additives like soybean oil, canola oil, and sunflower oil, commonly used for texture enhancement, are laden with omega-6 fatty acids. Excessive consumption might lead to inflammation.
- Skip Unnecessary Additives: Thickeners and fillers, such as xanthan gum, might trigger digestive issues, particularly in those with sensitive digestive systems. Given the rigorous routine of runners, it’s generally best to avoid these if possible.
- Certifications: NSF Certified for Sport® is a noteworthy certification, signaling that a product is devoid of contaminants, masking agents, or prohibited substances. While not obligatory, it adds an assurance layer.
Subject to debate, I also focus exclusively on plant-based protein powders for runners. It’s worth noting that vegan, plant-based sources often lead to considerably lower inflammation compared to their animal-based counterparts like whey. In turn, the upcoming recommendations lean heavily on vegan, plant-based selections. Let’s explore.
Top 7 Protein Powders for Runners Worth Trying
Whether you’re an athlete who prioritizes taste or nutritional value, these picks below strike a healthy balance of both worlds. Check out my top 7 picks for the best protein powders for runners.
1. Sunwarrior Warrior Blend Protein
Catering specifically to athletes, Sunwarrior Warrior Blend emerges as a low-carb, near-zero sugar, and keto-compliant protein powder. Engineered for premium muscle recovery, its comprehensive amino acid structure is worth noting.
Sunwarrior Warrior Blend’s protein formula is organically derived, featuring fermented pea, hemp, and the antioxidant-rich goji berry. This exceptionally bioavailable powder furnishes 4 grams of BCAAs, all within a serving containing 16 grams of protein.
Its semi-fermented formula guarantees not only easy digestion but also an impressive nutrient concentration. Its flavor is smooth and appetizing, effortlessly complementing a range of foods – from velvety smoothies to warm oatmeal.
Both the chocolate and vanilla varieties are reminiscent of a creamy dairy texture sans the actual dairy. The inclusion of MCT oil infuses it with a blendable consistency, making it compatible with diverse mix-ins.
Economically, its potency stands out: A single 26.5-ounce container delivers thirty servings. Though each serving packs slightly less protein than its counterparts, at a modest price of just over $40 a tub, Sunwarrior Warrior Blend undoubtedly merits a taste test.
2. Orgain Simple Protein
Highly favored for multiple reasons, Orgain Simple Protein impeccably reflects its straightforward name, specially crafted with athletes in mind.
Formulated with organic powerhouses such as golden peas, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and chia seeds, this varied protein ensemble delivers a comprehensive amino acid profile essential for post-workout recovery.
Sweetened naturally with coconut sugar, known for its lower glycemic index, Orgain steers away from stevia or synthetic sweeteners. Moreover, its clean label shuns dubious additives and fillers, although it does include natural flavors.
Catering to diverse taste buds, this protein powder flaunts three delectable flavors: chocolate, peanut butter, and vanilla. A top-tier choice for runners, especially those with a discerning palate.
3. Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Protein
Often gracing the shelves of health-centric stores and major retailers alike, Garden of Life’s Sport Organic Plant-based Protein truly lives up to its ‘clean’ reputation, further validated by its Certified for Sport label.
Steering clear of artificial additives, this sport-centric protein blend boasts an organic concoction of pea, sprouted navy bean, sprouted lentil bean, sprouted garbanzo bean, and cranberry seed. The term ‘sprouted’ is synonymous with ‘raw’, which often enhances the protein’s quality.
A single serving delivers a hefty 30 grams of protein, enriched with 5.5 grams of BCAAs and 5 grams of l-glutamine. To further champion recovery, it’s complemented with 2 billion CFU of probiotics, anti-inflammatory agents like tart cherry and turmeric, and zero sugars, making it a keto-friendly option.
From my experience as a runner and multisport enthusiast, this protein blend has been a regular in my pantry. Its creamy consistency coupled with both chocolate and vanilla flavors rank among the tastiest protein options I’ve sampled.
4. MRM Veggie Elite Protein
MRM Veggie Elite contains a simple protein blend consisting of pea and organic brown rice protein concentrate. A single-scoop serving packs 24 grams of protein, offering 4.6 grams of BCAAs.
Equipped with Digest-ALL® enzyme blend, MRM Veggie Elite is designed to aid digestion and assimilation of plant proteins. These features alone make it a solid protein powder for runners and endurance athletes aiming for a quality product to improve their recovery.
But does it taste good? Yes, MRM Veggie Elite tastes very good. It’s a little on the sweet side but does not contain any sugar and is low in carbohydrates. For carb-conscious athletes, it’s a keto protein powder that’s developed for active individuals.
Available in four flavors: Chocolate Mocha, Cinnamon Bun, Salted Caramel, and Vanilla Bean. I have both the chocolate and vanilla flavors, and both tasted amazing. The mocha was a unique touch for the chocolate flavor and the vanilla hit home with a nice sweet addition to otherwise earthy green smoothies.
The flavoring agents include natural vanilla bean flavor and TreLEAFia, which is a natural and non-GMO sweetener blend comprised of stevia leaf extract, trehalose, and monk fruit extract. For runners who are sensitive to stevia or natural flavors, this is probably not the protein powder for you.
5. PB2 Performance Peanut Protein
Gaining recognition for its delightful taste paired with clean ingredients, PB2 Performance Peanut Protein stands out with its harmonious blend of roasted peanuts and brown rice protein. Peanuts, inherently rich in amino acids, are nutrition powerhouses. When combined with grains like rice, the result is a comprehensive plant-based protein source.
Steering clear of any unnecessary fillers and additives, PB2 offers a pure and beneficial choice for runners. A subtle hint of sweetness is introduced with monk fruit extract, enhancing its flavor profile. If peanut butter protein powder is your calling, PB2 is a sterling choice that excels in its category.
PB2 Performance Peanut Protein is available in two delightful variants: Dutch Cocoa and Madagascar Vanilla. While both flavors promise a taste sensation, it’s worth flagging that the Madagascar Vanilla variant includes “natural flavors” – an ingredient often mired in ambiguity. Regrettably, this component finds its way into numerous protein powders in the market.
6. Truvani Plant-Based Protein
Epitomizing the essence of a straightforward, athletic-centric protein powder, Truvani Plant-Based Protein offers an organic trifecta of pea, rice, and hemp. This combination ensures a rich amino acid profile, making it an exceptional pick for runners and endurance enthusiasts.
The palette of Truvani extends to nine flavors: vanilla, vanilla chai, banana cinnamon, chocolate, chocolate peanut butter, matcha, peanut butter, and an unflavored variant. Each flavor harbors its unique ingredient composition. For instance, the chocolate flavor incorporates organic guar gum and natural flavors.
Barring chocolate, the rest of the lineup stays true to its clean and nutritious promise. The Banana Cinnamon, Matcha, and Vanilla Chai versions deserve a special mention for their individual ingredient integrity and memorable taste. While Truvani might command a premium price, its unparalleled purity makes it a worthy contender for a spot in your pantry.
7. Your Super Skinny Protein
Your Super Skinny Protein shines as a supremely clean protein powder tailored for runners. Crafted from hemp and pea protein, it further boasts enriching additives like moringa, spirulina, and alfalfa powder.
Priding itself on its nutrient-packed composition, every ingredient is certified organic, non-GMO, vegan, and gluten-free. True to its pure essence, Your Super Skinny Protein sidesteps fillers, unnecessary additives, and artificial sweeteners, ensuring a digestible and maximally bioavailable protein source.
Though the powder’s fine texture ensures a seamless mix, its no-sugar and minimalistic profile gives it a notably verdant taste. However, when blended in a smoothie or similar mixtures, its flavor melds harmoniously, delivering both taste and nutrition.
Finding a Protein Powder that Supports Running Recovery
Runners, more than any other athletes, recognize the significance of swift and efficient recovery. To ensure optimal rejuvenation after pounding the pavement or the trails, it’s paramount to seek protein powders that encompass high-quality, bioavailable sources that the body can easily assimilate.
An organic makeup devoid of pesticides and other detrimental chemicals, coupled with a lack of fillers or artificial flavoring agents, results in the purest protein choices. Taste plays a role too, as delectable flavors are more likely to be consumed post-run. And specific considerations like being low-fat, low-carb, or other dietary criteria can also be worth considering.
In essence, runners can benefit immensely from protein powders packed with varied plant-based sources. Remember, amid the susceptibility to injuries and overtraining, runners should always accentuate sleep and superior nutrition. Here’s hoping these recommended protein powders for runners guide you to make informed decisions.
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- Innes JK, Calder PC. Omega-6 fatty acids and inflammation. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2018 May;132:41-48. doi: 10.1016/j.plefa.2018.03.004. Epub 2018 Mar 22. PMID: 29610056.
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Endurance athlete, professional off-road cyclist, and avid blogger, Tyler Tafelsky participates in long-course multisport and cycling events. Today, Tyler competes in ultra-distance cycling races at the professional level. Since starting Better Triathlete in 2014, he has been the head of content for the site's editorial team. Learn more about Tyler