Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Q: Are protein powders/shakes really that great for a post-run recovery option?
A: That depends on the protein shake. The ideal shake would be 3:1 carbohydrates to protein, for example, 45 grams of carbs to 15 to 20 grams of protein. If a shake has enough carbs, go for it! If not, you’re not replenishing those all-important glycogen stores that have been emptied during your run.
There are a few arguments against protein powders and shakes. Since they’re sold as supplements, they’re not regulated in the same way as food or medicine. That means they could contain contaminants or ingredients not listed on the label. Look for products that are Certified for Sport.
Real foods, like a bagel with peanut butter, are also a good option, but not always easy and accessible for runners on-the-go.
There are lots of options when it comes to choosing a protein powder. Whey protein is considered the gold standard for protein sources and has been shown to be the most bioavailable, which means it stimulates muscle-repair the best, while egg-white protein powder is a close second. Soy is the best plant-based option, followed by pea protein, though neither are is as bioavailable as their whey and egg-white counterparts.
Banana Oat Recovery Smoothie
2T peanut butter
1/2c unsweetened almond milk
1 scoop protein powder
Blend all ingredients in the blender until fully mixed. Add a little bit of water if consistency becomes too thick to blend.
Do you have a question for our RDN? Send your trail-running-nutrition quandaries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kylee Van Horn is a licensed Sports Registered Dietitian and competitive trail runner.