9 Best Protein Powders for Runners (2024 Updated)

Supplements Considered 21
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Hours of Research 79
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James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: December 1, 2023
We personally test every product featured in our reviews and guides. By ordering products anonymously and getting a group of independent testers, we are able to get first-hand experience and provide data-driven recommendations. Learn more.

Every single person that I coach who gets into running quickly tends to become hooked on the drive to improve performance. But so many runners completely ignore sports supplements like protein powders.

When I recommend them to my clients, I often get push-back because they believe post-workout recovery drinks are only needed for endurance athletes and bodybuilders.

In reality, every runner can gain a lot of benefits from protein powders to improve their training performance and recovery times.

So I put together a guide on the best protein powders that I currently recommend to my clients, along with some important information on how they can help you achieve your goals.

The Best Protein Powders for Runners

Editor's Choice
Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate
Transparent Labs
Protein per Serving
28g
Taste
5.0
Ingredients
5.0
Price
5.0
Overall Score 5.0
5.0
Click For Best Price
2nd Best Choice
Ladder Whey Protein
Ladder
Protein per Serving
26g
Taste
5.0
Ingredients
4.6
Price
4.4
Overall Score 4.7
4.7
Click For Best Price
3rd Best Choice
Orgain Organic Protein Powder
Orgain Organic
Protein per Serving
21g
Taste
4.8
Ingredients
4.8
Price
4.2
Overall Score 4.6
4.6
Click For Best Price

Top Protein Powders for Runners (April 2024)

1 - Transparent Labs Whey Protein (Best Overall & High Potency)

Rated 5.0/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

28g
Protein per Serving
5.0
Taste
5.0
Ingredients
5.0
Price
Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Among the highest protein per serving for effectiveness and convenience during training
  • Contains no gluten and GMO to prevent digestive discomfort if taken before the run
  • Grass-fed and free from any artificial flavors and additives for the highest quality and purity
  • Low carb and fat content to favor burning fat over glycogen while running

Cons

  • We'd love to see it with an unflavored option to use in snacks

Transparent Labs Whey Protein has fast become a favorite for all types of athletes because it uses top-quality protein from grass-fed cows.

With 28 grams of whey protein isolate, I found this supplement delivers a great dose when I need it most.

One of the main things the company highlights in all their protein powder products is that they are gluten-free, non-GMO, and artificial additive-free. You only get ingredients that provide health and fitness benefits, making it the best protein powder.

The only minor thing I would highlight is that Whey Protein powder is not available as an unflavored option, which can be helpful when mixing with smoothies or snacks.

Get 10% off using coupon code:  TOTALSHAPE

2 - Whey Protein Powder by Ladder (Best Tasting & With Probiotic)

Rated 4.7/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

26g
Protein per Serving
5.0
Taste
4.6
Ingredients
4.4
Price
Ladder Whey Protein

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • CFS Certified
  • Tastes good even without artificial sweeteners
  • Contains Probiotics
  • Contains 14g of essential amino acids

Cons

  • Has a high amount of sugar - may not be good if you’d like to cut down on carbs

Another protein powder on our list is Whey Protein powder by Ladder.

This complete protein powder for runners contains the complete range of essential amino acids and branched-chain amino acids your body needs to fully repair after your run.

I also found that it helps gain muscles, lose fat, and improve sports performance.

I love how the protein powder provides a minimum of 90% pure absorbable and digestible proteins, so your body is able to enjoy and feel the results faster than other whey protein powders for runners.

Check out our full Ladder protein powder review.

3 - Orgain Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder (Cheapest & Best Organic)

Rated 4.6/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

21g
Protein per Serving
4.8
Taste
4.8
Ingredients
4.2
Price
Orgain Organic Protein Powder

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Combination of chia seed, brown rice, and pea protein that provides the essential amino acids
  • USDA certified organic as well as GMO, gluten,and soy-free pea protein
  • 7 grams of dietary fiber can help with digestion
  • Contains no sugar to help with diet efforts

Cons

  • Pea protein needs to be blended for the smooth texture

Many of my clients have become increasingly conscious of nutrition supplements that may contain some commonly used chemicals to protect crops.

From my own experience and the results I've seen with clients, I have to say that Orgain is one of the best organic protein powders for runners.

Orgain Organic protein powder is blended from chia seed, brown rice, and pea protein to provide the complete profile of branched-chain amino acids, which, according to the School of Nutrition and Translational Research in Metabolism, support recovery from running and strength training [1].

Some users report that you need to blend these protein powders for runners in really well to get a smooth, creamy texture. It's also one of the best soy-free protein powders.

4 - Future Kind Vegan Chocolate Protein Powder (Best Vegan Option)

Rated 4.6/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

20g
Protein per serving
4.7
Taste
4.7
Ingredients
4.5
Price
Future Kind Vegan Protein Powder

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Organic, non-GMO pea protein
  • No added sugar
  • Third-party tested to ensure quality

Cons

  • It may be pricey for some

Future Kind provides a high-quality protein powder for runners with countless positive reviews for taste. You won’t have many flavor choices; they currently offer basic vanilla and chocolate.

We like that Future Kind protein powder is plant-based, organic pea protein, which vegan runners love. Future Kind is also third-party tested to ensure the highest quality.

Ordering off the manufacturer’s website will net you a couple of discounts based on how you set up your purchase. Their “subscribe and save” option offers a 10% discount while purchasing multiple bottles gets you a 5% discount.

5 - MusclePharm Combat Protein Powder (Best for Muscle Repair & With Casein)

Rated 4.5/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

25g
Protein per Serving
4.7
Taste
4.4
Ingredients
4.5
Price
MusclePharm Combat Protein Powder

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • 25 grams of protein per serving
  • The protein powder is sourced from whey, egg, and casein
  • Many positive reviews about flavor and texture
  • Certified by Informed-Choice for not containing any banned substances

Cons

  • Protein shakes contain a little bit of sugar

One of the reasons MusclePharm Combat Protein Powder is so famous for running is that it combines a few different sources of protein. The protein powder is a blend of whey, casein, and egg protein, and the company claims to have created a supplement that provides fast and slow-acting protein [2].

This protein powder benefits runners with immediate recovery after training with a consistent and healthy supply of vital nutrition.

I find the vanilla flavor quite pleasant and not too overpowering, and it mixes easily in a shaker without being clumpy or chalky.

Just keep in mind that there is a little bit of sugar, which is a significant consideration for low-carb dieters.

6 - Optimum Nutrition Gold Whey Protein Powder

Rated 4.4/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

24g
Protein per Serving
4.6
Taste
4.4
Ingredients
4.3
Price
Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Blend of 24 g of whey protein isolate and concentrate
  • Provides complete amino acid profile for better muscle growth and repair
  • Also suitable for weight management
  • Good choice of flavors and different size options

Cons

  • Whey protein concentrate is absorbed a lot slower

This is one brand name you've probably noticed a lot in gyms and sports nutrition stores. Many runners prefer this brand, particularly for higher intensity phases with longer distances, because of the mix of whey protein isolate and concentrate.

Optimum Nutrition Gold whey protein powder provides a fast boost after your run to help with muscle growth and recovery, and several hours later, you'll still benefit from the slower-absorbed concentrate.

Of all the whey protein powders for runners I have tried, this has, by far, the largest selection of flavors.

This protein powder also provides the essential amino acids needed for faster muscle recovery and repair.

The only downside with the whey protein concentrate is that if you need a maximum boost immediately after running, this might not be the best option.

7 - Vega Sport Protein Powder

Rated 4.3/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

30g
Protein per Serving
4.6
Taste
4.4
Ingredients
4.0
Price
Vega Sport Premium Protein

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Pea protein powder is suitable for vegan athletes
  • Lists a broad blend of different plant proteins
  • Contains no artificial flavors, additives, or fillers
  • GMO and gluten-free for healthy energy with less risk of side effects

Cons

  • It's not the cheapest option for pea protein, but you get what you pay for

One of the leading brands of quality vegan protein powders is Vega Sport, and this particular option has a good blend of pumpkin, sunflower, alfalfa, and pea protein.

I don't just recommend this pea protein powder to my vegan clients, but also for anyone with lactose intolerance.

Vega Sport also makes a big point in their advertising that it only contains nutritionally valuable ingredients and amino acids. That means no fillers, sugar, or artificial crap thrown in, resulting in low calories from carbs that could otherwise cause blood glucose spikes.

It's a solid plant-based protein powder for vegans and lactose-intolerant people.

Now, I should say that the specific blend of pea protein powder will cost you a bit more than most plant-based protein powders available.

8 - Amazon Elements Whey Protein Isolate Powder (Best Unflavored)

Rated 4.2/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

25g
Protein per Serving
4.3
Taste
4.2
Ingredients
4.2
Price
Amazon Elements Whey Protein Isolate Powder

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • 25 grams of whey protein isolate allows it to be absorbed fast
  • Uses only natural ingredients with no fillers or additives
  • Low energy from fat and carbs to avoid blood glucose spikes
  • Available as an unflavored option to mix into other foods

Cons

  • Slight stevia aftertaste

The final protein powder for runners that I want to highlight is this Amazon-branded one. Based on whey protein isolate, this isn't suitable for lactose-intolerant athletes. But if dairy is not an issue for you, this is one of the fastest ways to get a protein boost [3].

Unlike many other budget-friendly protein powders for runners, you don't get something packed with fillers and artificial crap to make it taste nice.

I also like that you can get this protein powder as an unflavored option, which is ideal for adding it to a meal or snack.

The one thing I would agree with on many reviews is that it does have a slight stevia aftertaste.

9 - Battle Ready Fuel Whey Protein

Rated 4.1/5

Rated With Total Shape's Scoring System

28g
Protein per Serving
4.0
Taste
4.2
Ingredients
4.1
Price
Battle Ready Fuel

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Based on whey protein isolate for easier absorption
  • Many reviews highlight that it's easy to mix without blending
  • Very low in carbs and fat
  • Comes with a risk-free money-back guarantee

Cons

  • Only available in one flavor option

With a name like that and some fancy marketing, I was initially a bit suspicious. However, it didn't take long to realize why this protein powder is a favorite.

My testing experience with this supplement has shown that it's a good protein shake after running and for strength training and weight loss phases.

With the bonus of being low in carbs and fat, you won't have to worry about this protein powder negatively affecting your diet efforts.

The only reason I don't use this protein powder more often is that I sometimes get bored with flavors, and it's currently only available in chocolate.

How Did We Chose These Supplements?

In our quest to identify the best protein powders tailored for runners, we undertook a comprehensive evaluation process, taking into account several key aspects and gauging them against our test findings.

Protein Quantity

We zeroed in on powders offering our protein content in the 20-30 gram range, identifying 28 grams as the ideal amount for runners. This concentration is believed to provide the best recovery benefits post-run.

Origin of Protein

The source of the protein is paramount. We advocate for complete proteins and assessed if the powders were derived from whey, casein, egg whites, or plant-based sources such as pea protein, hemp, quinoa, or soy.

Carbohydrates and Fats

We aimed to spotlight supplements with low to moderate carbs and fats, emphasizing that the primary ingredient should be protein. Powders heavy on carbs could disrupt a runner's dietary balance, so we leaned towards those with negligible carbs and fats.

Taste

For runners, a protein powder's taste is vital, especially when many are sugar-free. We gave preference to powders that managed to deliver a delightful flavor without relying on added sugars.

Solubility

The ease with which a protein powder blends with liquids is essential. We evaluated the smoothness of the mix when combined with water using both manual stirring and a shaker.

Digestion and Potential Side Effects

Feedback from our testers was invaluable in understanding each powder's digestibility and any associated digestive issues, such as gas or bloating.

Independent Verification

Third-party assessments of protein powders ensure the product's integrity and authenticity. This external validation builds confidence in the product's quality and ingredient transparency, which we factored into our evaluations.

Cost

The price range for runner-specific protein powders can be broad, influenced by ingredient caliber, protein origin, and brand prestige. We concentrated on products priced between $0.50 and $1.50 per 25 grams of pure protein, ensuring a balance between affordability and quality.

Protein Supplements Needs for Different Distances

A close up shot of a runner on a road

Yes, runners need protein supplements, which are vital to building the correct muscle.

However, depending on the running you do, you'll need to know the best protein powders for runners. After all, every type of runner needs a different set of nutrients and dosages for their supplements.

1. Short Distance Runners

If you look at Olympic sprinters, you'll notice they have large leg muscles. A sprinter's predominant muscle fiber type is considered to be fast-twitch, which is what gives them their explosive speed [4].

The strength training required for this type of running also demands a lot of fast digestible protein, with whey protein isolate from milk being one of the best options.

2. Long-Distance Runners

On the complete opposite end, long-distance and marathon runners have a very different physical build and muscle composition.

I would generally recommend casein if you don't have any lactose intolerance, and for vegans, a blend of rice and pea protein is a good option. I often use this myself on long runs.

The training that is involved requires a lot of focus on muscle repair rather than bulking, so a slower releasing protein powder is best.

Benefits Of The Best Protein Powders For Runners

Beyond being a vital macronutrient that your body cannot do without, runners get three main health benefits from taking the best protein powders as part of their diet and training plan.

Here is some info from my personal experience.

1. Assists in Muscle Recovery

Even after some lighter exercise, your muscles will have come under enough strain to need some repairing. But when your training is more intense, especially in preparation for longer distances and competitive events, you can quickly feel stiff and sore [5].

That pain comes from micro-tears in muscle fibers, and the more protein you can get to your muscles, the faster they will repair and recover for the next session.

2. Supports Weight Management

Countless studies have been conducted on the health effects of protein and weight loss [6]. The best protein powders can make a massive difference if you're running as part of your weight management or need to cut some fat in preparation for a race.

3. Helps Maintain Ideal Muscle Composition

Muscle building for runners is all down to either bulking for sprinters or endurance for long distances. While your exercise routine will define your physical build, your body will always need amino acids to build muscles.

You can also step your game up by using pre-workouts specifically for running.

Which Type of Protein Powder Is Best For Running?

The best type of protein for running is whey protein isolate or a combination of rice and pea protein for vegans.

However, it is important to factor in your goals and the distances you run.

Let me explain.

Whey is one of the best protein sources if you need to build up muscle mass for fast runs over shorter distances.

The product I would recommend for this is Transparent Labs Whey Protein because it really only delivers the nutrition you need with no added fillers or artificial stuff.

When it comes to long-distance training, one of the protein powders I recommend to my clients is the MusclePharm Combat Protein.

The combination of whey, casein, and egg sources provides the right blend that can help with the sustained delivery of essential amino acids for better muscle healing.

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The Role of Protein Timing for Runners

For runners, not just the amount, but the timing of protein intake is paramount. Consuming protein before a run can prime the muscles, providing essential amino acids ready for repair.

During a run, especially longer distances, protein can help minimize muscle damage [7].

However, it's post-run when protein's magic truly shines. Consuming protein within the 30-minute "golden window" after a run accelerates muscle repair and growth, optimizing recovery.

This timely intake ensures runners bounce back faster, reducing soreness and enhancing overall performance. Thus, understanding protein timing can be the difference between good and great results for runners.

FAQs

How much protein do runners need?

Runners need about 20 grams of extra protein, especially after higher intensity training and longer distances. This would be on top of the standard recommended protein intake of 0.5 grams per pound of body weight from meals.

When should runners drink a protein shake?

Runners should drink a protein shake immediately after exercising or a run. You can also add some to your meals to allow for a long and sustained delivery of essential amino acids.

Should runners take BCAAs (Branched-Chain Amino Acids)?

Yes, runners should take BCAAs (branched-chained amino acids), particularly if they need to build muscle mass. This is most commonly required for sprinters who require maximum fast-twitch muscles.

Is it good to drink protein shakes after running?

Yes, it is good to drink protein shakes after running because your leg muscles will come under significant strain. This strain will cause damage and require repair of the fibers.

How Do Protein and Carbohydrates Affect Runners?

Protein and carbohydrates affect runners in that the latter replenish glycogen stores, ensuring energy for future runs., while the protein aids in muscle repair and growth. When consumed together post-run, they accelerate glycogen synthesis and enhance muscle recovery [8].

Our Verdict on the Best Protein Powder for Runners

Based on my own experience and that of my runner friends, the best protein powder for this lot seems to be Transparent Labs.

It’s very low on fat and carbs, which enables the body to burn more fat instead of glycogen, resulting in more endurance and a lower chance of “hitting the wall”, especially during long-distance runs.

 

Our #1 Protein Powder For Runners

Transparent Labs Whey Protein (Best Overall & High Potency)

Transparent Labs Whey Protein Isolate
Protein per Serving
28g
Taste
5.0
Ingredients
5.0
Price
5.0
Overall Score 5.0
5.0
Pros
  • Among the highest protein per serving for effectiveness and convenience during training
  • Contains no gluten and GMO to prevent digestive discomfort if taken before the run
  • Grass-fed and free from any artificial flavors and additives for the highest quality and purity
  • Low carb and fat content to favor burning fat over glycogen while running
  • Get the BEST PRICE until the end of April
Cons
  • We'd love to see it with an unflavored option to use in snacks
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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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