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The fitness industry is rife with misconceptions about all sorts of things. One particular misconception that bothers me as an endurance athlete and a certified nutrition professional is the misbelief that endurance athletes don’t need to worry about protein. 

Sure, carbohydrates are the master fuel for endurance exercise and a runner may not need the same amount of protein as a strength athlete, such as a weightlifter or a bodybuilder. But the fact of the matter is that running still results in muscle damage, and adequate protein intake is important for muscle repair and muscle maintenance, not to mention the many other benefits of protein

Ahead, I discuss all of the best protein powders for runners, including options for all types of dietary preferences and needs, plus benefits of protein supplements for endurance athletes.

Medical disclaimer: This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. For health advice, contact a licensed healthcare provider.

Best Protein Powder for Runners

Best Overall Protein Powder for Runners: Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate

Good for: Getting nearly 30 grams of protein in one shake 

Best Protein for Runners

Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • High-quality whey protein isolate
  • 28 grams of protein per serving
  • 15 flavors to choose from
  • $1.99 per serving

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • High-quality protein
  • No artificial sweeteners, food dyes, or preservatives
  • Lots of flavors to choose from
  • Good customer reviews
  • Whey isolate may be easier to digest for some people

Cons

  • Price per serving on the high end

Bottom Line

Our testers love Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate because we know exactly what's in it, and almost every flavor we've tried is a 5 out of 5 on taste. Yes, it's a little more expensive than other protein powders but you get what you pay for.

As you’d find in our Transparent Labs Protein review, we’re big fans of Transparent Labs supplements for a lot of reasons. This grass-fed whey protein specifically is a top pick of our product testers because it provides a fantastic 28 grams of protein per serving. 

It’s also free from artificial ingredients like sweeteners, flavors, dyes, or preservatives. In fact, the only ingredients on the list besides whey protein isolate are natural flavors (such as cocoa), Himalayan pink salt, and stevia. 

Although this product doesn’t have an official third-party testing label such as from the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) or Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG), Transparent Labs does have a commitment to label transparency and quality. They post certificates of composition and analysis for the vast majority of their products on the website. The testing ensures the products are free from allergens, heavy metals, pathogens, and other contaminants. 

A person holds a container of Transparent Labs 100% Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate.

Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey Isolate is available in several yummy flavors, including Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cinnamon French Toast, French Vanilla, Milk Chocolate, Mocha, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie, Strawberry, Vanilla Peanut Butter.

GGR performance editor Anthony O’Reilly tried the limited-edition Peppermint Hot Chocolate flavor and says, “I recommend you put this in your stocking if they offer it again around the holidays. It tastes as if you dropped a candy cane into a cup of hot chocolate and added protein to it, and it makes for a great high-protein holiday treat when topped with whipped cream and marshmallows.”

Price per servingAbout $2
Protein per serving28 g
Protein sourceGrass-fed whey protein isolate
Third-party testingIndependent labs with certificates of composition and analysis

Best Casein Protein Powder for Runners: Legion Athletics Casein+ Protein Powder

Good for: Slow-digesting protein that’s great when taken before bed to maximize muscle protein synthesis or to keep you full

Best Casein for Runners

Legion Athletics Casein+ Protein Powder

GGR Score: 4.3 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Milk-derived casein protein powder
  • Thick texture
  • 5 flavor options
  • Sourced from grass-fed cattle
  • 25 g protein per serving 
  • 5 grams of BCAAs and 11.4 grams of EAAs per serving

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Sourced from grass-fed cattle
  • 100% micellar casein
  • Tasty flavor options
  • Smooth, rich, creamy texture
  • Analyzed for purity and potency in an ISO 17025 accredited lab
  • 0g added sugar
  • Includes BCAAs and EAAs
  • Subscribe-and-save option

Cons

  • Casein protein is significantly thicker than whey
  • Casein can cause bloating and gas, especially upon initial use
  • Takes quite a bit of shaking to get rid of all clumps

Bottom Line

Legion Athletics Casein+ Protein Powder comes in several delicious flavors, and we’re fans of the Banana Cream Pie. Casein can be consumed as a shake, or with less water, like a pudding. This protein has 25 grams of protein per 110-calorie serving.

Legion Athletics is one of our favorite supplements brands because they just absolutely refuse to spew any B.S. And if there’s one thing about the GGR editorial team, it’s that we can sniff out B.S. marketing jargon with one nostril plugged up. 

Legion is extremely honest about their products and the capabilities of said products. They remind consumers that supplements aren’t magic pills that’ll turn them into superhumans, and they use peer-reviewed research to prove why their products are some of the best out there.

picture of Legion Casein 1 powder container and shaker bottle

Casein+ is one of the best casein protein powders because it’s made with Truly Grass Fed™ casein protein that comes from humanely raised cows in Ireland; provides 26 grams of protein, 11.4 grams of essential amino acids, and about 5 grams of branched-chain amino acids; and is naturally sweetened with stevia and monk fruit. It’s totally free from any artificial ingredients. 

Anthony, GGR performance editor and product tester, tried the Banana Cream Pie flavor. “It tastes more like a slightly under-ripe banana than anything else, but it’s still really good and really thick,” he says. “Casein protein is naturally thick, but if you put enough power behind it you can get this mixed thoroughly.”

We’re also fans of Legion Athletics Whey+ Protein Powder, which you can learn about in our Legion Whey protein review.

Price per serving$2.00 
Protein per serving26 g
Protein sourceGrass-fed micellar casein
Third-party testingLabdoor Certified

Best Plant-Based Protein Powder for Runners: Ritual Protein 18+

Good for: High-quality plant-based protein with all nine essential amino acids

Best Plant-Based

Ritual Essential Protein Daily Shake 18+

GGR Score: 4.13 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Organic pea protein powder
  • 20 g of protein per serving
  • Formulated to support adults 18-49
  • Third-party tested
  • 150 mg of choline per serving 

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Soy-free, gluten-free, and vegan-friendly
  • No artificial sweeteners
  • Complete amino acid profile
  • Non-GMO
  • USA-grown peas

Cons

  • Only comes in one flavor
  • Price per serving is on the high end

Bottom Line

Ritual’s Essential Protein Daily Shake 18+ is specifically designed for 18-to-49 year-olds with 20 grams of protein per serving and 150 milligrams of chlorine (to support brain and nervous system function). This protein powder from Ritual is third-party tested and Informed Sport Certified, which means this formula has been screened for over 250 banned substances.

Did you know that plant-based protein is just as effective at building muscle (and providing all of the other benefits of protein) as animal-based proteins including whey and casein? Yep, it’s true, as long as the protein has a complete amino acid profile, which Ritual’s Daily Shake 18+ does have.

This protein source in this powder is pea protein powder, and Ritual adds the amino acid methionine to improve the amino acid profile. Naturally, pea protein does contain all nine EAAs, but it’s very low in methionine, so Ritual added for a more robust serving.

Sweetened with stevia extract and monk fruit, Daily Shake 18+ is free from sugar, artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols. Kate Meier, GGR Head of Content and expert product tester, says this protein powder “has a shockingly great consistency.”

ritual essential shake 18+ in blender next to bag

“Mixed in water, it dissolves easily, and it also has a really smooth texture,” she says. “It’s not thick, but it’s not watery like some protein powders are. I tried this in a blender cup with water and in a smoothie with strawberries and blueberries. Even just with water, this has a nice taste. It’s not super plant-y or hemp-y like some plant-based proteins are.”

Kate notes a “very slight chalky aftertaste” when the powder is mixed with water, but she says it isn’t a dealbreaker. Mixed in a smoothie, the aftertaste is definitely detectable, but not overly strong, she says, rating Ritual Daily Shake 18+ with 4 out of 5 points for taste and 5 out of 5 points for texture.

As a certified sports nutrition coach, I really love that Ritual puts this product through rigorous third-party testing. Not only is it Informed Sport certified, but the company also tests it for allergens, heavy metals, and pathogens. Finally, Ritual makes its products traceable: On the website, you can see exactly where the pea protein comes from and where it’s manufactured into this protein powder.

Price per serving$2.60
Protein per serving20 g
Protein sourcePea protein (methionine added)
Third-party testingInformed Sport plus testing for heavy metals, microbes, and major allergens

Best Whey Protein Powder for Runners: Nutricost Whey Protein Concentrate

Good for: People who want a high-quality, complete, and fast-digesting protein

Best Budget

Nutricost Whey Protein Concentrate

GGR Score: 4.6 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • 25 grams of whey protein concentrate per serving
  • Available in 5 flavors, including unflavored
  • High-quality ingredients and third-party testing
  • Supports lean muscle growth and recovery after workouts

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Non-GMO and gluten-free
  • Manufactured in GMP-compliant facility
  • Unflavored option only contains one ingredient, instantized whey protein concentrate

Cons

  • Whey concentrate may not mix as well as whey isolate
  • Flavored options are higher in calories than other whey proteins

Bottom Line

Nutricost Whey Concentrate contains 25 grams of high-quality whey protein concentrate, available in five flavors. It's gluten-free, non-GMO, manufactured in a GMP-compliant facility, and third-party tested.

Protein powder isn’t just for people looking to gain muscle or lose weight. GGR’s Performance Writer and Certified Running Coach, Amber Nelson, says that whey protein powder is a crucial part of her post-run routine. As a competitive runner, she loves that Nutricost Whey Protein Concentrate is third-party tested and thinks it’s a great pick for best whey protein powder for runners. 

After working with registered dietitian nutritionist Kylee Van Horn, Amber learned that it’s crucial to intake at least 20 grams of protein after a run for proper recovery. Amber’s protein source of choice is whey protein powder. She’s a big fan of ones like Nutricost Whey Protein Concentrate that set you up with 25 grams of protein and don’t have a bunch of other added ingredients.

girl making smoothie with nutricost whey protein isolate

Whey protein is a good option for runners because it’s faster-digesting than other options like casein. On top of that, whey protein powders have more protein than most, if not all, plant-based protein options out there. Plus, it’s a complete protein source. 

We’re stoked that this protein powder tastes so good because honestly, the last thing you want to gulp down after running 12 miles or doing 400-meter repeats on the track is a chunky or chalky protein shake. Kate Meier, GGR’s senior director of content, says she loves the flavor and consistency of this whey protein powder. She rates it a 5 out of 5 for both flavor and solubility.  

We also love the affordability of this whey protein shake. Let’s be real here, the best running shoes often break the bank, so it’s definitely a bonus if your protein powder doesn’t. Available for anywhere between $0.78 and $0.99 per serving when purchasing the 5-pound container, we’re giving Nutricost Whey Protein Concentrate a rating of 5 out of 5 for price. 

Even though Nutricost offers budget products, the company has high standards when it comes to production. They utilize high-quality ingredients and their products are all third-party tested. 

This protein powder is gluten-free but not dairy-free and it contains small amounts of lactose. But no need to worry, Kate says it’s really easy on the stomach and during her two weeks of use she didn’t experience any discomfort. It’s probably not the best pick if you can’t tolerate dairy but if that isn’t an issue for you, you should give this supplement a try. 

RELATED: Best BCAA Supplements

Price per serving$0.78-$1.15 
Protein per serving25 g
Protein sourceWhey protein concentrate
Third-party testingYes, but unspecified

Best-Tasting Protein Powder for Runners: Seeq Clear Whey Isolate Protein

Good for: A refreshing taste of anything other than chocolate

Best-Tasting Protein for Runners

SEEQ Clear Whey Isolate Protein

GGR Score: 4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Light, refreshing alternative to traditional protein shakes
  • Does not contain lactose
  • Has 4 g of BCAAs per serving
  • Microfiltration leaves protein clear and crisp

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Thinner texture
  • Sugar-free
  • Free from nuts, soy, and gluten
  • Light, juice-like flavors

Cons

  • Contains sucralose
  • Often sold out
  • Stevia causes digestive issues for some people

Bottom Line

A great alternative to traditional protein powder, SEEQ Clear Whey Isolate Protein makes drinking protein just like drinking your favorite juice. This protein powder is a great option for those who do not like the traditional thick protein powder texture or just want to shake things up.

I’ll be honest: A lot of times, the last thing I want when I come in from a run is a thick, sweet, protein shake. During the summer, the thought of a frothy chocolate beverage after a hot, humid run actually repulses me. That’s why I’m so glad that I found Seeq Clear Whey Protein Isolate and chose it as one of the best-tasting protein powders

I tried the Blue Razz Freeze flavor and I really like it. It’s very different from typical protein powder; it has a thin texture that’s perfect for the fruity flavor lineup. It’s truly like drinking juice, which is perfect for a post-run, protein-packed beverage. 

The main thing I don’t like about Seeq protein is that it gets extremely foamy when shaken. However, the instructions on the label say to let the shake settle for about 30 seconds, and if you do, the foam disappears to reveal a perfectly fine texture. It is ever-so-slightly grainy, but to be honest, what protein powder isn’t?

seeq whey protein directions for use

There are 22 grams of protein per serving in Seeq Clear Whey Protein, all from microfiltered whey isolate. With a price under $2 per serving, I’d recommend this to just about anyone who wants a change-up from typical protein powder flavors. 

Unfortunately, it’s not third-party tested, so athletes subject to drug testing may want to look elsewhere. For everyone else, it’s no big deal. 

Read our full Seeq protein review for our full take on this product, and check out our best clear whey protein drink roundup for more clear whey isolate options.

Price per servingAbout $1.80
Protein per serving22 g
Protein sourceMicrofiltered whey protein isolate
Third-party testingNo

Best Organic Protein Powder for Runners: Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Protein Powder

Good for: runners who eat an organic diet

Best Organic Protein for Runners

Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Protein Powder

GGR Score: 3.4 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • A rice and pea protein powder 
  • Rated with 4.3 stars on their website
  • Comes in 2 flavors 
  • 24 g of protein per serving
  • Organic product with minimal ingredients

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • No artificial sweeteners, colors, or preservatives
  • Organic and vegan
  • Only 5-7 ingredients
  • Reviewers love the taste
  • 24 g of protein per serving

Cons

  • Only 2 flavors
  • Stevia can cause GI issues for some
  • Expensive

Bottom Line

This organic rice and pea protein powder is a good choice for people who want a clean plant-based protein option with minimal ingredients.

In addition to the grass-fed whey protein that we really like, Transparent Labs also makes an organic, vegan protein powder. This protein is a blend of brown rice and pea proteins, which forms a complete amino acid profile so vegan athletes can still enjoy all the fitness gains. 

Registered dietitian Sydney Lappe says in our guide to the best organic protein powder that this combo is a bonafide alternative to animal-derived proteins, with research showing that both pea and rice protein are “promising allergen-friendly proteins.” 

Additionally, this protein is free from artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors, making it ideal for anyone who prioritizes “clean” ingredients. 

Frieda Johnson, GGR editor, tested the Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Protein Powder. It wasn’t her favorite in terms of taste. “It tastes very artificial for a vanilla flavor,” she says, wondering if it could be the stevia. “I mixed one scoop with 8 ounces of water and it foamed a lot, but mixed pretty well,” she says of the consistency. “It has a slightly gritty texture, but not too much.”

Person scooping Transparent labs Vegan Protein 1 into shaker bottle

Lauren Strong, GGR writer, also tried this protein powder but in a different flavor: chocolate. “It tastes like a dark chocolate drink (not milk chocolate), but with an earthy hint because of the rice and pea protein,” she says. “I wouldn’t suggest this for people who like sweet protein drinks, though, as there isn’t that much sugar and you can really taste the cocoa powder.”

Price per servingAbout $1.50
Protein per serving24 g
Protein sourceProtein blend of brown rice protein and pea protein
Third-party testingIndependent labs with certificates of composition and analysis

Best Hemp Protein Powder for Runners: Manitoba Harvest Hemp Yeah!

Good for: Runners looking for a unique plant-based protein option 

Best Hemp Protein for Runners

Manitoba Harvest Hemp Yeah!

GGR Score: 4.2 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Hemp protein vegan protein powder
  • 3 available flavors 
  • Certified USDA organic, Non-GMO Project verified, dairy-free, soy-free, and kosher

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Pros
  • Only two ingredients in unsweetened flavor
  • 3 flavors available
  • Good for environment

Cons

  • Cons
  • Hemp-based protein may not be acceptable for competitive athletes getting tested
  • Customers report it has chalky/gritty texture
  • Some users found oregano extract to have overwhelming taste

Bottom Line

Hemp Yeah! Protein is a protein powder with a short list of ingredients that is good for the environment.

Hemp protein isn’t one you usually see on guides to the best protein powder (unless, of course, you’re looking at a guide to the best hemp protein powder…). 

Certified nutritionist and writer Lindsay Boyers states in the aforementioned guide that Manitoba Harvest Hemp Yeah! is higher in protein than other hemp protein powders because Manitoba Harvest uses a concentrated form of the plant protein. To be specific, this protein powder offers 20 grams of protein, 4.5 grams of omega fatty acids, and 3 grams of insoluble fiber, making this an all-around healthy addition to your day.

“This has a very mild hemp flavor,” says Frieda Johnson, product tester and GGR editor. “Some online reviews complain of an oregano flavor, but I didn’t have that issue.”

An image of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Yeah protein

“It mixes surprisingly well into liquids,” she says of the texture. “There is a little bit of settling, but it’s not grainy at all. This is a good one to try if you want to use it in smoothies or otherwise mixed with liquid. It has a mild flavor and smooth texture that won’t overwhelm what it’s being mixed with.”

Manitoba Harvest Hemp Yeah! protein is also a good choice for exo-conscious individuals, Frieda adds. “The bag is full—and I mean FULL. This is a nice feature if you, like me, are tired of the wasteful and excessive packaging on most products that makes you feel like you’re essentially buying a bag of air.”

On that note, the company is also a Certified B Corp, so eco-consciousness is a big part of their brand, Frieda points out. Find out more in our Manitoba Harvest Hemp Protein Powder review.

Price per serving$1.36
Protein per serving20 g
Protein sourceHemp protein concentrate
Third-party testingIndependent labs with certificates of analysis

Best Budget Protein Powder for Runners: Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Whey 

Good for: Runners who need to save some cash

Best Budget Protein for Runners

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey

GGR Score: 4.2 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Contains 3 different kinds of whey protein
  • Tested for banned substances
  • Over 5 g of BCAAs per serving
  • Instantized to help prevent clumping

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Affordable
  • High in protein
  • Plenty of flavor options
  • Low in carbs

Cons

  • Some users say it's overly sweet
  • Contains artificial flavors
  • Most flavors contain sucralose

Bottom Line

Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey is a team favorite for its budget-friendly prices and taste. Our team has tried multiple Optimum Nutrition flavors, and every one is ranked a 4 or 5 out of 5.

Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Whey Protein Powder continues to be one of the most affordable options with a fantastic nutritional profile. It’s hard to find supplements as good as this at prices as low as it comes—little over $1 per serving. 

Registered dietitian nutritionist Laila Ouldibbat likes this protein powder because it includes a mix of protein sources from hormone-free cows (whey protein isolate and concentrate plus hydrolyzed whey peptides), and it provides 5.5 grams of BCAAs per scoop. It also provides a very nice 24 grams of protein per serving. 

Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Whey Protein is also Informed Choice certified, a huge bonus for such an inexpensive product (sometimes manufacturers skimp on third-party testing to keep costs down).

picture of Optimum Nutrition Strawberry 1 protein powder

Of course, budget-friendly products always come with a hidden cost. In this case, that’s the inclusion of artificial sweeteners and other additives like emulsifiers and anti-caking agents. While all of the ingredients in ON whey protein are recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they can cause gastrointestinal distress in some individuals. 

Every member of the GGR team has tried Optimum Nutrition whey at some point in our fitness journeys. You can read all about our favorite flavors in our guide to the best Optimum Nutrition flavor, as well as our Optimum Nutrition 100% Gold Standard Whey review.

Price per servingAs low as $1.10 per serving (depends on size bought and retailer)
Protein per serving24 g
Protein sourceWhey protein isolate, whey protein concentrate, hydrolyzed whey peptides
Third-party testingInformed Choice

Best Unflavored Protein Powder for Runners: NOW Sports Whey Protein Isolate

Good for: Runners who prefer to blend their protein with other flavored ingredients

Best Unflavored Protein for Runners

NOW Sports Whey Protein Isolate

GGR Score: 3.5 starstarstarstarstar
Community Score: 5 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • 25 g of whey protein isolate per serving 
  • NPA A-rated GMP certified 
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or additives
  • Packaged in the USA

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • No additives
  • Pure protein isolate
  • Budget friendly
  • Mixes well

Cons

  • Some reports of a sour aftertaste
  • Some users complained of missing scoopers

Bottom Line

NOW Sports Whey Protein Isolate is an unflavored protein which delivers 25 grams of protein per serving along with a good profile of BCAAs.

If you are looking for the best protein powder for smoothies, NOW Sports Whey Protein Isolate should be in your cart, as it’s our pick for the best unflavored protein powder for smoothies. 

The lack of flavor is perfect for fruit smoothies or blending with, for example, an electrolyte powder that has a fruity flavor. NOW Sports Whey Protein Isolate won’t alter the flavor of whatever you mix it with, although taken alone with water (which we don’t recommend), it has an odd but subtle taste. 

GGR writer and product tester Lauren Strong says that there is “definitely a ‘whey’ taste, which is not good or bad, really.”

person scoopingNow Sports whey protein isolate into shaker bottle

“This is certainly not gag-worthy, which is saying something since I did mix this with water to get the full effect,” she continues. “It would actually be pretty good with a sports drink or in a smoothie. It blended just like you would want a protein powder to blend: no clumps, not too thick or thin. Pretty decent all around!”

Taste aside, the protein powder itself is fantastic. It has 25 grams of protein per serving and it’s Informed Sport certified, so athletes can consume it with peace of mind. It also provides ample BCAAs and essential amino acids, and it’s free from artificial ingredients. 

Price per serving$0.66-$1.38 (varies by size and retailer)
Protein per serving25 g
Protein sourceWhey protein isolate
Third-party testingInformed Sport

Best Pea Protein Powder for Runners: Naked Nutrition Naked Pea Protein

Good for: A simple, single-ingredient protein powder

Best Pea Protein for Runners

Naked Nutrition Naked Pea

GGR Score: 4.2 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Pea protein powder 
  • Certified vegan 
  • Informed Choice-certified 
  • Dairy-, gluten-, and soy-free

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Minimal ingredients: only 1 for unflavored and 3 for flavored
  • No artificial flavors, sweeteners, or colors
  • Customers share it is easy on stomach
  • Informed Choice-certified to be banned substance-free

Cons

  • Mixed reviews on taste
  • Mixed reviews on mixability
  • 1 serving is 2 scoops

Bottom Line

This pea protein powder has 25 to 27 grams of protein depending on the flavor. There are no artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners. It is also third party-tested for banned substances.

On the hunt for a super clean protein powder or the best pea protein? Naked Nutrition Naked Pea Protein might be your new favorite. 

The ingredients list for the unflavored version is ultra-simple, containing just one ingredient: pea protein. The protein comes from yellow split peas sourced from farms in the U.S. and Canada. There are no additives whatsoever, which is great for health but not so much for taste. The chocolate and vanilla flavors do contain some additional ingredients, but just for flavor (coconut sugar and cocoa or vanilla extract.)

Unfortunately, the unflavored version “has a strong pea protein flavor, and a serving is 2 pretty large scoops, so I would definitely recommend starting with half a serving if you’re not used to pea protein,” according to Frieda Johnson, GGR editor who tried Naked Pea.

An image of Naked Nutrition Naked Pea in oatmeal

“It will make whatever you mix it with taste like pea protein unless you really double-down on the sweeteners,” she says, although it “blends fine.” Frieda used it to make protein oatmeal and says it gave the dish a rich, creamy texture.

If you can get past the distinct taste, you’ll love that this protein offers a whopping 27 grams of protein per serving, and is Informed Choice certified and verified dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, GMO-free, and vegan. 

Although pea protein is technically a complete protein, it is low in two essential amino acids: methionine and cysteine. To boost the amino acid profile, Naked Nutrition recommends mixing this protein powder with another vegan protein, such as their Naked Rice protein. 

Price per serving$0.76
Protein per serving27 g
Protein sourcePea protein
Third-party testingInformed Choice

Best Vegan Protein Powder for Runners: Vega Sport

Good for: Runners who eat a vegan diet

Best Vegan Protein for Runners

Vega Sport Premium Protein

GGR Score: 4.03 starstarstarstarstar

Product Highlights

  • Multi-source vegan protein powder
  • NSF Certified for Sport, vegan, and gluten-free 
  • Includes BCAAs, probiotics, and tart cherry

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • 30 grams of protein per serving
  • Contains all essential amino acids but two that are made by the body
  • 5 flavor options
  • Supports recovery with tart cherry, probiotics, and turmeric extract

Cons

  • Customers share new formula doesn’t blend well
  • Pricey at over $2 per serving

Bottom Line

The Vega Sport Protein has mixed reviews on taste and blendability, but a higher protein content than most other vegan protein powders.

For endurance athletes who are plant-based—or at least dairy-free—a whey protein powder just won’t do. We’ve tested nearly 50 vegan protein powders, and our team of expert testers—including endurance athletes—has strong thoughts about which ones taste the best. Vega Sport consistently ranks at the top of that list.

Anthony O’Reilly, GGR performance editor, tried the Mocha flavor and said while it tasted more like a brownie, it was actually quite pleasant and acted as an excellent addition to his morning coffee—that’s more than we can say about many plant-based proteins!

Vega Sport Protein mixed in shaker bottle

Vega Sport also packs a whopping 30 grams of protein per serving with a mix of pea, sunflower, pumpkin seed, and alfalfa proteins, making it a complete source of protein. Protein is vital for endurance athletes to help repair and grow muscle tissue, and the protein dosage in Vega Sport rivals even the best whey protein powders, so consider us impressed. 

The additions of tart cherry, which potentially has some merit for promoting recovery1, as well as probiotics, which are beneficial for digestion, make Vega Sport a robust formula. It’s also NSF Certified for Sport, meaning that it’s safe for athletes to incorporate into their diets. 

Read our Vega protein review for more of our in-depth thoughts. 

Price per serving$3.25
Protein per serving30 g
Protein sourcePea protein, pumpkin seed protein, sunflower seed protein, alfalfa protein
Third-party testingNSF 

Other Protein Powder We Researched

Our team has tested more than 70 products for our guides to the best protein powder. Here’s a snapshot of the products we’ve tasted so far. 

Orgain Organic Vegan Protein Powder: This is one of our favorite organic plant-based protein powders for its strong nutrient profile, but we ultimately decided on Transparent Labs Organic Vegan Protein Powder because we think the flavor is better, especially the chocolate.

Kaged Whey Isolate: Another whey protein up for consideration as one of the best for runners, Kaged is a worthy alternative. We went with Transparent Labs Grass-Fed Whey and Garden of Life Grass-Fed whey for this guide because they both contain slightly more protein per serving.

Naked Nutrition Naked Casein: Naked Casein would certainly fit the bill for a runner looking for a clean, slow-digesting protein. However, Legion Casein+ scored higher for taste and consistency. 

Momentous Essential Grass-Fed Whey: Our product tester loved the taste and quality of Momentous protein, but found it too expensive at about $65 for a 30-serving bag. 

Naked Nutrition Naked Egg Protein: This is a really good alternative to any of the above types of protein. Egg white protein has a pretty distinct taste, though, so it’s best used in smoothies or for cooking, such as in omelets. 

Transparent Labs Casein Protein: I like this casein protein powder for a lot of reasons, like Transparent Labs’ commitment to label transparency, but I find the powder to be really messy and the scoop is massive. I use this powder currently, and it almost always makes a mess when scooping it out of the tub.

How We Picked and Tested the Best Protein Powder for Runners

Our team has tested upwards of 70 protein supplements for our nutrition guides. We’re certified personal trainers, nutrition coaches, and athletes ourselves, so we understand the importance of sports nutrition for the demands of the activity, which we keep in mind when choosing products. 

For this guide to the best protein powder for runners, we took into consideration our normal criteria for judging protein powder—price per serving, sweeteners, additives, grams of protein per serving, essential amino acid content, branched-chain amino acid (BCAA) content, and source of protein—as well as factors that are especially important for runners. 

For example, since running can be tough on the digestive system (especially for long-distance runners who consume a lot of sugar via supplements like running gels), we looked for protein powders with minimal fillers, artificial sweeteners, and artificial flavors to avoid any further digestive distress. 

Additionally, we love plant-based protein powders for endurance athletes because they typically contain more carbs, which can help a runner with their overall daily nutrition targets and maintaining glycogen (stored carbohydrate) levels. 

We also included at least one pick for common diet types, including gluten-free, lactose-free, vegan, vegetarian, and non-GMO. 

Finally, at least one person on our team has tested each of the protein powders you see on this guide, with some powders having been used by multiple product testers. 

Benefits of Protein Powder

There are many benefits to increasing your daily protein intake via protein powder; here are some of the most significant. 

Muscle Protein Synthesis 

Whether you are trying to build muscle or you couldn’t care less about muscle growth as a runner, muscle protein synthesis is still a necessary process your body must undergo to recover from your training sessions. It is the “driving force behind adaptive responses to exercise,” according to a 2012 report in the journal Sports Medicine2.

When you consume complete proteins (proteins with all nine essential amino acids), your body incorporates those amino acids into skeletal muscle tissue to repair damaged tissue and create new tissue. 

The role of dietary protein for the endurance athlete is historically underappreciated, but more and more research is demonstrating a relationship between endurance exercise and muscle adaptations. 

Further research is needed, but several small-scale studies have shown that protein can indeed positively impact muscle protein synthesis following endurance training, according to a 2018 literature review in Frontiers in Physiology3.

Improved Performance

A 2019 meta-analysis in the journal Clinical Nutrition4 found that “Protein supplementation further increased aerobic capacity, stimulated lean mass gain, and improved time trial performance during chronic endurance training in healthy and clinical populations.” 

It’s also well-documented that protein supplements can increase strength and muscular endurance—and what do you think is getting you up those hills? Yup. Muscular strength and endurance. And aerobic capacity, of course. Nonetheless, a post-run protein drink could have big long-term implications for your incline workouts.    

Muscle Recovery 

Although total daily intake and long-term nutrition strategies play the biggest role in performance and recovery, a high-quality protein shake taken post-workout has been shown to reduce markers of muscle damage following exercise, according to a 2019 study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine5

With regard to endurance exercise specifically, a 2018 literature review in Frontiers in Nutrition6 states that protein supplementation in endurance athletes has been shown to reduce markers of muscle damage, such as creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase. 

In a 2014 trial published in the International Journal of Medical Sciences7, marathon runners were given either a protein supplement or a maltodextrin (carbohydrate) supplement 30 minutes post-training for five weeks. 

Based on blood samples taken at the beginning of the trial, one day after the marathon race, and one week following the race, the runners who took the protein supplement exhibited significantly lower levels of key bioindicators of muscle damage (creatine kinase and lactate dehydrogenase). 

RELATED: Marathon Training Plan

Weight Loss

If you’re trying to reduce your body weight or body fat percentage, increasing your daily protein intake might help. Protein can keep you full and satisfied thanks to its effects on appetite regulatory hormones. 

A protein shake paired with whole foods is a good way to bump up your intake and stay full for longer. Of course, successful and healthy weight loss requires an overall calorie deficit, so adding protein to your diet without changing anything else likely won’t result in weight loss. 

RELATED: High-Protein Foods to Add To Your Diet

Immune Health 

Getting enough protein each day is important for more than just muscle mass or performance. It’s important for your overall health, too, particularly your immune system. Running, especially at higher intensities, can be a stressor on the immune system over the long term—especially for those of us prone to overtraining. Bumping up your day’s protein content on the regular 

Dosing, Interactions, and Side Effects 

Protein supplements are often just straight protein with few other ingredients—especially whey protein powders. Some protein powders attempt to offer additional benefits with ingredients like probiotics, enzymes, or extracts that contain antioxidants. For those who take prescription or over-the-counter medications that may interact with such ingredients, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider before purchasing any supplements. 

Allergens like soy, peanut, tree nut, and coconut often appear in plant-based proteins. For people with known allergies, it’s important to very closely read the ingredients list instead of relying on the online product information to give you all of the details. 

Additionally, many protein powders include added sugar, artificial sugar, or alternative sweeteners like stevia, all of which can have mild negative effects depending on the individual. 

Third-Party Testing

Third-party testing is a process that supplements manufacturers can elect to go through in order to prove the safety and/or efficacy of their products. It’s not necessary, but it is highly preferred. People with allergies should look for products that are certified to be free of their allergen. Athletes who are subject to drug testing should look for products that are NSF Certified Safe for Sport or Informed Sport Certified. 

FAQs About Protein Powder for Runners

Do runners need to drink protein shakes? 

No one really needs to drink protein shakes unless they are clinically deficient in protein (see our guide, “How Much Protein Do I Need?” to learn more about daily protein requirements). However, most people can benefit in some way from drinking protein shakes, especially physically active people whose muscles undergo damage on a regular basis. 

Does extra protein help with endurance performance? 

Compared to the relationship between protein and resistance training, the relationship between protein and endurance training is vastly understudied. 

Most clinical trials show mixed results or are very small-scale studies. Some research is really promising, especially at the molecular level (AKA how protein intake affects the many inner workings behind adaptations to exercise). 

That said, it’s highly unlikely that protein will hurt your training in any way; it might help and it can support your overall health, so I view it as a worthwhile investment. 

What is the best type of protein powder for runners? 

The best type of protein powder is highly individual and depends on your dietary restrictions and preferences. Luckily, there are many different forms of protein powder from different sources to suit, for example, individuals who are lactose-intolerant, vegan, allergic to gluten, or prefer an all-organic diet.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

References

  1. Levers K, Dalton R, Galvan E, O’Connor A, Goodenough C, Simbo S, Mertens-Talcott SU, Rasmussen C, Greenwood M, Riechman S, Crouse S, Kreider RB. Effects of powdered Montmorency tart cherry supplementation on acute endurance exercise performance in aerobically trained individuals. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016 May 26;13:22. doi: 10.1186/s12970-016-0133-z. PMID: 27231439; PMCID: PMC4880859.
  2. Atherton PJ, Smith K. Muscle protein synthesis in response to nutrition and exerciseJ Physiol. 2012;590(5):1049-1057. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2011.225003
  3. Knuiman P, Hopman MTE, Verbruggen C, Mensink M. Protein and the Adaptive Response With Endurance Training: Wishful Thinking or a Competitive Edge?. Front Physiol. 2018;9:598. Published 2018 May 23. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.00598
  4. Lin YN, Tseng TT, Knuiman P, et al. Protein supplementation increases adaptations to endurance training: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Nutr. 2021;40(5):3123-3132. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2020.12.012
  5. Poulios A, Georgakouli K, Draganidis D, et al. Protein-Based Supplementation to Enhance Recovery in Team Sports: What is the Evidence?. J Sports Sci Med. 2019;18(3):523-536. Published 2019 Aug 1.
  6. Cintineo HP, Arent MA, Antonio J, Arent SM. Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Front Nutr. 2018;5:83. Published 2018 Sep 11. doi:10.3389/fnut.2018.00083
  7. Huang WC, Chang YC, Chen YM, et al. Whey Protein Improves Marathon-Induced Injury and Exercise Performance in Elite Track Runners. Int J Med Sci. 2017;14(7):648-654. Published 2017 Jun 22. doi:10.7150/ijms.19584

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