High Protein Foods for Runners

High protein foods might not be on the top of your list as a runner, especially a long distance runner training for a half or full marathon.

Your primary food macro will probably and should be carbohydrates! However, protein is crucial in helping your body repair and recover especially after those long training runs when you are suffering from mini muscle tears, total body stress and overall fatigue.

Therefore, I want to give you an idea of how much protein you should be eating as a runner and also a list of some high protein foods (meals and snacks) that are excellent sources of protein.

Think about making your own list that you can have on hand and incorporate after your runs!


How much protein should you be getting on a daily basis?

Protein, the building block of the body’s cells and tissues, is a very valuable and necessary dietary component.

This nutrient is an essential part of a runner’s and non-runners diet. When your body is not getting enough you can almost always tell the difference. You might experience headaches or a lethargic feeling because your body is missing out on this important element that builds and repairs your body’s cells.

In healthy diets it is good to take in about 25% of our food consumption as proteins.

25% might seem like a lot but many scientists argue that even that might not be enough and maybe we should be taking in as much as half of our body weight in grams. (So a 184lbs. man might need to take in as much as 92 grams of protein!)

At the very least we should be consuming about 1/3 of our body’s weight in grams. An average amount would be roughly 36 grams, give or take a few depending on how big or small you are.


When to eat protein as a long distance runner

As a runner, and particularly a marathon runner, it is vitally important to be taking in enough protein especially before and after a long run.

Before a long run:

Protein is not going to help much as far as energy metabolism goes. When you run you will be burning a large amount of carbohydrates and some fats. However, you will never burn through your protein stores. 

It is fine to eat something that has protein in it however, stay away from high protein foods such as protein bars and shakes. Focus on taking in carbohydrates. This is more important in runs that are greater than an hour in length. 


During a Run:

There is no need to take in protein during your run. Small amounts are fine, but the best method is to wait until after you are done running. 


After a Run:

The role of protein is escalated after a run. In order for your body to utilize protein to restore and recover damaged muscle cells to it's highest potential it is best to eat a snack high in protein no later than 30-45 minutes after a run, particularly a long run.

This is due to your protein transporters which are at their highest level after a run until about 30-45 minutes later. Your protein transporters take in protein for absorption and will be the most beneficial at this time in terms of repair work capacity.

A protein shake is a great way to replenish protein stores as it is easier on the digestive system then something like a protein bar.

Not only will it help to recover micro-trauma that your body has undergone but protein will also help to keep your strength up in order to take on the next run. 


Going on a Shorter Run?

If you are going on a shorter run of 45 minutes or less, you can also eat a protein snack before hand and still take advantage of the higher levels of protein transporters.


High Protein Foods List for Runners:

Here are the sources where you will find the most high protein foods (and that are extremely healthy for you!):

Remember, that it is always recommended to get your protein from whole food sources versus something like a whey protein powder although those definitely serve a purpose as well. 

  • Meats 
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and cheese
  • Beans, peas, lentils

A list of high protein foods snack/meal ideas that you can include in your eating:

  • Hard Boiled Eggs - make a great snack!
  • Any type of eggs - scrambled, over easy, soft boiled, etc.
  • Tuna - Tuna on Wheat Thin crackersis a favorite of mine. You could also make a tuna wrap, tuna pita pocket, or a good old tuna sandwich.
  • Peanut Butter (what’s your favorite combo? I think peanut butter and banana is the best! You might also like it on apple slices or on toast.
  • Deli Meat - no maybe this shouldn’t be your go too protein source but as a quick snack it’s something so easy to have on hand!
  • Turkey pepperoni! - So good, has a bit of a kick, maybe not as absolutely delicious as regular pepperoni but there is less fat and more protein. It’s great to eat plain or with cheese and crackers.
  • Lean meat sources such as Chicken, Turkey, and Pork! I realize that some people are not into chicken at all and that is hard for me to understand because I could eat chicken everyday! Throw it on a salad, put it in a soup, grill it, shred it, make a casserole out of it - the options are endless! It cooks fast, freezes well and is so versatile.
  • Fish - Salmon would have to be my favorite baked or grilled. So many healthy omega’s and one of the best high protein foods for you! An easy snack option of salmon are these Salmon Packets 
  • Tofu
  • Cheese - what’s your favorite? Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese or Gouda would have to be mine! Maybe you prefer cottage cheese with fruit or vegetables?
  • Summer Sausage - although high in fat content, they also are high in protein and make for a super quick and easy meal when traveling or on the road!
  • Greek Yogurt - whether you eat it plain or naturally flavored (berry, vanilla, etc.) You can really go far with Greek yogurt. Mix it with your oatmeal, put it on top of your waffles with berries instead of syrup, mix it with fruit and berries, or eat it plain. It makes for a very satisfying breakfast or snack!
  • Kodiak Protein Pancakes - if you love pancakes but do not like the high amount of simple carbohydrates and an almost guaranteed sugar spike after breakfast then the only pancakes you will ever want to buy are these Kodiak Power Protein Pancakes!
  • Nuts - such as peanuts, almonds, and pumpkin seeds!

High Protein Foods that also will help to keep your carbohydrate reserves up:

  • Beans - again, so much can be done with beans! Make into a burrito, serve them on top of nachos, put them in your salad (garbanzo beans) make a soup or chili, heat them up and eat them warm with cheese (if you buy them in a can). My favorite bean concoction is a can of black beans heated on the stove and mix in half an onion and a whole lot of cumin! Salsa and pinto beans is another quick and easy favorite.
  • Oats - oatmeal of course! And throw them into other foods such as your waffles, or pancakes, or even smoothies.
  • Quinoa - really great as a side, or made into a quinoa/bean burrito, as a base for toppings and sauces, etc!
  • RXBars- A lot of people either absolutely love them or think that they are the worst thing they have ever eaten. Have you tried one? 12 grams of protein and all clean ingredients make it hard to beat if you are in the camp that loves.
  • Protein Poppers - of course these would be mentioned! A high protein foods and a sweet treat!

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