What’s the Best Protein Powder for Runners? (4 Top Picks + 4 Recipes)

Runners need more protein than regular people (about 0.5 to . 9 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day), says registered dietitian Megan Robinson. Taking in protein after a hard run is vital for recovery and muscle building. These four protein powders are clean (no excess fillers), taste good, and are easy on the stomach. My favorite as a snack is the Previnex Nourify and my favorite post-workout protein powder its the Gnarly protein powder. My review of the best protein powders for runners is below.

It’s common knowledge that protein builds muscle—even my kids will tell you that. But do runners really need protein powder and what’s the best protein powder for runners?

I am sharing the 4 best brands of protein powder for runners.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with protein powder for years as I’ve been burned many times by an upset stomach when drinking my post-run protein smoothie. I mean, my stomach can sometimes be sensitive after a hard run and then I pour this thick goop into it, hoping it digests it well and absorbs the necessary protein to rebuild my damaged muscles. It’s a lot to ask.

And part of the problem had to do with the protein powder I was drinking. Many common protein powders for endurance athletes have a lot of additives that make it hard to digest. What’s more—is the most common protein source, whey protein, can cause tummy troubles in those who are sensitive to lactose (which was me for a long time).

So, I switched to eating real food after my runs—usually eggs with avocado toast. (After all, getting your nutrition from REAL good is always preferred). But many times, especially on hot days, I want a nice cold smoothie. And many times, it’s just easier to get the protein amount I need in a smoothie.

Related: Dangers of Low Iron in Female Runners

Runners need more protein than regular people (about 0.5 to . 9 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day)—and it can be hard to meet our protein needs. A quality protein powder for runners is the ticket.

So, I searched and tried many protein powders to find the best. Below are my 4 favorite protein powders for running.

These protein powders for running made the cut:

  • source high quality ingredients,
  • don’t have a lot of extra junk,
  • include the ideal amount of 20 grams of protein,
  • and have digestive aids like enzymes, probiotics, or prebiotics to aid in absorption.

Some also include bonus ingredients like more of certain amino acids to further boost recovery.

I also got with registered sports dietitian Amy Stephens, who works with elite runners, to give us the lowdown on what our protein needs are and how to best meet them.

Let’s go!

protein powder for runners pin
Pin these protein powder for runners recs for later!

Related: The Top 12 Supplements for Runners

Should runners take protein powder?

Runners don’t need to take protein powder, but protein powder can be a very convenient way to get enough protein to support your running.

Protein is crucial for muscle repair. When we run, we break down our muscles and bones and they need adequate protein to rebuild. And many runners struggle to get enough protein—especially after a run when protein intake is most crucial.

If you are someone who doesn’t struggle with getting about 20 grams of protein post-run or meet your protein needs throughout the day, then you don’t need protein powder. But if you do—then protein powder could be a wonderful tool to have in your training toolkit.

Related: How to Tell if a Supplement is Good Quality?

How much protein do I need?

Runners need .4-.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight, according to Stephens. So a 150 pound runner will need between 60-135 grams of protein a day. Masters runners may need slightly higher amounts of protein due to anabolic resistance, she adds. 

In order for your body to use protein to build or replenish muscles, it needs enough calories otherwise it will be used for energy. 

Related: Master’s Running Tips

Is protein powder good for runners?

Protein powder can be good for runners if it is a high-quality protein and used effectively. Runners should take a protein powder within an hour of a hard or long training run. They should also not take too much.

Ingesting more than 30 grams of protein is too much. In fact, about 20 grams of protein is optimal for most runners and the amount in most protein powders for runners.

Stephens recommends runners use a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein after a running workout so that the carbs replenish glycogen and protein is free to use to rebuild muscles. Therefore, a smoothie with 80 grams of carbs and 20 grams of protein is ideal. 

What protein source is the best?

Studies show casein and whey are the best protein source for athletes. 

What is the best protein powder for women?

A protein powder that includes the amino acid leucine is key for women, particularly women in or approaching menopause, as it helps signal to the body that it’s time to start building muscle. Most reputable protein powder brands will include leucine.

It’s also key for women to try to take their protein powder within an hour of their run—with 30 minutes post-run being an optimal goal.

Related: 18 Healthy Meal Ideas for Runners

What’s the best protein powder for vegans?

If you are looking for a plant-based protein powder, you are going to want one that includes more than one protein source (like the ones below). This is because a blend is more likely to include the essential amino acids necessary for rebuilding muscles aka branch chain amino acids or BCAAs. Stephens recommends soy and pea sources of protein for vegans or runners with a milk allergy.

Is protein powder bad for your kidneys?

Protein powders for running
It can be tough to find quality protein powders for running. I do the research for you!

Protein powder can be bad for your kidneys if taken too much.

Your body can’t digest more than 30 grams of protein at a time. Your body will excrete the excess. If you regularly ingest too much protein, your kidneys may become stressed. This is rare, however, as most quality protein powders are hydrolyzed (aka partially digested) for easy absorption. 

When should runners drink protein shakes?

In most cases, runners should drink a protein shake or use protein powder within 60 minutes of your run.

Related: 3 Proven Ways to Refuel + 2 Yummy Recipes

What to look for in a protein powder?

A protein powder for runners should include:

  • 20 grams of protein per serving
  • Leucine—an amino acid that signals to the body that new muscle protein should be built
  • Carbs if it is for recovery—about 10-40 grams or a 4:1 ratio of protein to carbs after endurance events like running and 2:1 after lifting 

What should a protein powder for runners not include?

A protein powder for runners should not include:

  • Sugar alcohols
  • Soy protein as it has been linked to increased estrogen levels
  • Preservatives
  • Heavy metals
  • MSG
  • Artificial ingredients including sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and maltodextrin
  • Gums, and
  • GMOs

What’s the Best Protein Powder for Runners: 4 Protein Powder Brands

All of the brands of protein powder for runners I include below are clean, low-glycemic, and include digestive enzymes to aid in absorption and key BCAAs like leucine. Most contain around 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein. If using after a running working, add more carbs by adding fruit to your smoothie or shake. 

Previnex Nourify PLUS

Previnex Nourify PLUS
I am a huge fan of Previnex and recommend Previnex Nourify PLUS for meal replacements and supplements, not as a recovery protein powder. Save 15% with code TMR15.

Flavor: Vanilla and Chocolate

Protein source: pea and rice proteins

Nutritional Facts per scoop:

  • Protein amount: 10 grams
  • Sugar: less than 1g
  • Calories: 110
  • Fat: 1.5g
  • Servings per canister: 28

Price: $62.95 Save 15% with code TMR 15 plus an additional 10 percent if you subscribe (cancel anytime)

Previnex Nourify PLUS Overview

You all probably know by now that I love Previnex. Their products are top quality and held to the most rigorous standards. That is why I can confidently say that Previnex’s Nourify protein powder is one of the cleanest, healthiest, plant-based protein powders on the market.

What makes Previnex’s protein powder stand apart is that it includes a comprehensive blend of ultra-healthy and balanced protein from peas and rice, carbs, fat, high-quality micronutrients, probiotics, and digestive enzymes.

Previnex Nourify packs a powerful punch and is much more than a protein supplement. It helps nourish you completely. For this reason, it’s not meant to be used as a recovery protein powder for runners. It’s best used for snacks and meal replacements (or complement).

See below for some suggested recipes from elite runner Andrea Pomaranski who is fueled by Previnex!

Related: Can Taking Collagen Prevent Injuries?

Road test: Previnex Nourify PLUS tastes best when blended in a smoothie or a protein energy ball. I don’t like the taste on its own blended in water or milk.

Specialty: Previnex’s protein powder has EVERYTHING. It’s packed with micronutrients, macronutrients, healthy fats, amino acids, antioxidants, and probiotics. Indeed, the label looks like one from a multivitamin.

For this reason, it’s best used as a meal replacement or part of a meal—NOT as a recovery protein powder for runners. There is some evidence to suggest that antioxidants can impair muscle gains after exercise.

Previnex also says that Nourify boosts liver detoxication to promote healthy liver function.

Best for: Meal replacement in a protein shake or energy bites. Nourify is a great protein powder for runners who are vegan or vegetarian, and those struggling to get all their nutrients in during the day.

Gnarly Sports Nutrition Whey Grass-fed Protein

Gnarly Whey Protein
Gnarly Whey Protein is yummy and easy to digest.
  • Protein source: grass fed whey protein isolate
  • Flavors: vanilla and chocolate
  • NSF-certified
  • Nutritional Facts per scoop:
    • Sugars: less than 1 g
    • Protein: 11.5 per scoop
    • Calories: 80
    • Fat: 1.5 grams
    • Servings per can: 20 (2 scoops)

Price: $62.95 for a can or $17.50 for 5 packs (save 15 percent when you subscribe)

Related: How to Get Faster as a Master’s Runner

Gnarly Protein Powder Overview

For non-vegetarian or non-vegan athletes, Gnarly has one of the best protein powders for runners. It contains whey protein which is most studied to be effective in improving athlete’s muscle building and injury prevention.

Gnarly uses high-quality whey protein derived from antibiotic-free, non-rBGH grass-fed cow’s milk. Gnarly’s protein powder blend includes healthy fats, omega-3 acids, prebiotics and probiotics that support muscle synthesis and immune health. The prebioitcs and probiotics help ensure the nutrients are absorbed and your gut is healthy.

What’s more, Gnarly’s protein powder includes digestive enzymes to promote healthy lactose digestion and improve protein absorption.

This makes this protein powder perfect for runners who have lactose sensitivity or intolerance. If you have bypassed whey protein because it upset your stomach but want the benefits of a whey protein, Gnarly Protein Powder is your solution.

Road test: Gnarly’s protein powder is incredibly rich, smooth, and yummy. I like it just for its taste—no need to be blended with other things. It’s easy to take and doesn’t upset my stomach.

Specialty: Gnarly’s Whey Protein Powder has digestive enzymes to make it palatable for those with lactose sensitivity, and a prebiotic and probiotic blend to encourage immune health and optimal protein absorption.

Best for: Gnarly’s Whey Protein Powder is best for runners who have sensitive stomachs, especially when it comes to milk.

Momentous Recovery Post-Workout Protein & Carbs

  • Protein source: grass-fed whey protein isolate
Momentous Recovery
Momentous Recovery Protein Powder is the easiest protein powder to take.
  • Flavors: vanilla and chocolate
  • NSF-Certified
  • Per scoop:
    • Sugars: less than 2.5 g
    • Protein: 11.5 per scoop
    • Calories: 70
    • Fat: less .25 grams
    • Servings per bag: 15 (2 scoops)
  • Price: $46.33

    Momentous Recovery Protein Powder Overview

    Momentous Recovery Protein Powder is a favorite among runners. I first purchased some after seeing Mary Johnson of Lift Run Perform recommend it.

    The Momentous Recovery Protein Powder is designed to kickstart recovery with a perfect 2-to-1 (grass-fed whey isolate) protein-to-carb ratio. This gives runners just enough carbs to “raise blood sugar and decrease cortisol” to then increase the absorption of amino acids important for muscle recovery. Its inclusion of larger amounts (than other protein powders) of the amino acids  L-glutamine and L-Carnitine also kickstarts some serious muscle recovery. Prohydrolase is a clinically proven digestive enzyme that helps the body absorb amino acids better.

    Related: 9 Steps to Return to Running After Injury

    Road test: I really like the Momentous Recovery protein powder because it has a very subtle taste. Whereas Gnarly’s protein powder is rich (and delicious), Momentous is light and also easy on the stomach. It blends easily in water, milk, and even in cereal. 

    Specialty: The Momentous Recovery Protein Powder has the optimal amount of carbs and protein for optimal recovery after a workout. Also, its inclusion of certain amino acids may give you an edge. L-Glutamine is important for a healthy gut and immune system along with muscle cell repair. L-Carnitine has been shown to improve oxygen uptake and running speed.

    Best for: Use the Momentous Recovery Protein Powder within an hour of a run. You can also use it in place of a meal.

    Orgain Organic Protein Powder

    protein-powder-for-runners pin
    These are the 4 best protein powder for runners brands that I have tried and vetted.
    • Protein source: pea, rice and chia seed protein
    • Flavors: 10 flavors such as cookies and cream and strawberry
    • Certified organic
    • Per scoop:
      • Sugars: 0 grams
      • Protein: 10.5 per scoop
      • Calories: 75
      • Fat: 2 grams
      • Servings per container: 20 (2 scoops)

    Price: $28.49 (save 25% when you subscribe. Carried at most grocery stores.)

    Orgain Organic Protein Powder Overview

    Orgain Organic Protein Powder
    Orgain Organic Protein Powder is the yummiest and cleanest vegan protein powder I have tried.

    This or is the best vegan protein powder for runners because it’s mostly clean, easy on the stomach, and includes 15 grams of carbs per serving. I used to be a big Vega protein powder fan but it upset my tummy after long runs so I switched. This brand doesn’t have a lot of additives—it’s a pretty straightforward protein powder making it easy to digest.

    I will be honest though, it does use Stevia as a sweetener and includes trace amounts of gums. I’ve had a hard time finding a vegan protein powder that takes good and doesn’t include these additives.

    There is also an Orgain Sport Protein Powder for runners that includes 30 grams of protein, but also more additives.

    Road test: I like how easy the Orgain protein powder is to take. I don’t like it as much by itself but mixed into smoothies, it is delicious. For those wanting lots of flavor, try one of Orgain’s ten flavor selections.

    protein-powder-for-runners pin
    Pin these protein powder for runners recs for later!

    Specialty: Orgain is a simple plant protein powder for runners that includes key amino acids, a carb 2:1 ratio for optimal muscle recovery, and zero sugars.

    Best for: Orgain is a good protein powder for runners who are vegan or vegetarian and want little sugar. Use as a recovery protein powder after you run, or to hit your protein intake numbers in meals or snacks throughout the day.

    Related: How I Stopped Being an Injury Prone Runner

    Recipes with Protein Powder for Runners

    Thank you Andrea Pomaranski and Amy Stephens for sharing these delicious vegan protein powder smoothie recipes!

    Strawberry Shortcake Protein Smoothie

    • 1 cup of nondairy milk of your choice
    • 1 heaping scoop of vanilla protein powder
    • 1-2 Tsp honey
    • 1 date
    • 1/2 cup frozen cooked cauliflower and/or
    • 1/2 cup frozen cooked butternut squash
    • 1.5 frozen bananas
    • 1/2 cup frozen mango (optional)
    • 1.5 cups frozen strawberries
    • 1 handful of ice
    • Top with milk and blend
    • Continue adding milk to desired consistency.

    Blueberry Detox Protein Smoothie

    • 1 cup non-dairy milk
    • 1 Tsp cinnamon
    • 1 liberal scoop of Sun Warrior or vanilla protein powder
    • 1-2 Tsp of Honey (Raw, organic if possible)
    • 1/2-1 cup of cilantro or spinach, depending on your taste
    • 1/2 cup frozen cauliflower
    • 1-2 chunks of frozen banana (optional)
    • large handful of frozen mango
    • 2 cups of frozen wild blueberries
    • 1 handful of ice
    • Top with milk and blend
    • Continue adding milk to desired consistency

    Post-strength workout smoothie

    • 1 cup milk (12 carb, 12 pro) *unless it’s almond or oat milk, which is much lower in protein
    • 1 banana (25 carb)
    • 1  cup berries (20 carb)
    • 1 tsp honey/agave (4 carb)
    • 1 scoop protein powder (20 g pro)
    • 1 cup ice
    Total – 61 g carb, 32 g pro

    Post-endurance workout smoothie

    • 1 cup milk (12 carb, 12 pro) *unless it’s almond or oat milk, which is much lower in protein
    • 1 banana (25 carb)
    • 1 1/2 cup berries (30 carb)
    • 2 T honey/agave (30 carb)
    • 1 scoop protein powder (20 g pro)
    • 1 cup ice
    Total – 100 g carb, 32 g protein

    If you want guidance with your running or marathon goals, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:


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