Want to run faster? Then make sure you’re getting enough protein

It should come as no surprise that runners need protein in their diets to help repair their muscles after a tough workout, but new research hints at a more surprising benefit of the nutrient: It might even make you faster, according to a small study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Protein is consumed by everyone from heavy-lifting bodybuilders to distance runners and advertised everywhere, from public transport to fashion magazines, and protein shakes have become a post-exercise staple for athletes of all shapes and sizes.

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In the study, 10 male endurance runners between 24 and 40 years old ran a 20K, 5K, 10K, and 20K over four consecutive days.

One group of men ate a diet low in protein—0.94 grams (g) per kilogram (kg) of bodyweight, or about .42g per pound of bodyweight—one group ate a diet moderate in protein (1.2g per kg, or .54g per pound), and one group ate a diet high in protein (1.83g per kg, or .82 grams per pound).

After that, the researchers tested the men’s performance in the 5K distance as a measure of their performance capacity.

They discovered that the runners who consumed a high amount of protein ran a 5K 1.5% faster—or about 16 seconds—than those who ate lower amounts.

Runners on a track

What’s the reason?

Those in the moderate and high protein groups maintained whole-body protein balance.

This higher protein balance may have been helpful in maintaining muscle strength in the max contraction of your quads—the muscle group that extends your knees—which can help improve short-distance running performance.

The group who consumed a low amount of protein saw decreases in markers of exercise performance after only four days, like muscle contraction, force, and speed.

Eating too-little protein can throw off your whole-body protein balance.

If that lack is sustained over a prolonged period, it could ultimately translate into a loss of lean body and muscle mass.

Quote: "We believe that any endurance athlete who trains regularly - most days of the week - and who is interested in maximing their recovery from and adaptation to their training would be wise to ensure they are consuming protein." Daniel Moore, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto.

How much protein powder do I need to take?

It's always been a general rule of thumb that recreational athletes need about 0.8 to 1 gram of protein for each kilogram of body weight a day to maintain muscle mass. So, if you weigh 77kg, you’ll want about 77 grams daily.

However, if you’re a masters athlete athlete or you exercise intensely for 10 or more hours a week, you probably need more to help repair and build your muscles.

Our Official Partner ShakeSphere recommend around 1.2 to 2 grams of protein/kg of body weight for serious athletes.