Hitting the streets for a morning jog or evening trail run is an excellent way to get fit, reduce stress and breathe in some fresh air. To make your workout the best it can be, you also need to fuel your body with carbs, fat and protein before running.
Yes, you can drink a protein shake before jogging. Just make sure to add easy-to-digest carbohydrates in the shake or on the side.
Protein Before Running
Squeezing in a run before or after work can be a challenge, especially when you're trying to time your meals for optimum performance. Consuming a heavy breakfast, lunch or dinner prior to exercise is not always the best option since it can cause gastrointestinal disturbances such as bloating, gas and even diarrhea.
That's why the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends avoiding food immediately before a workout, and ideally, they recommend eating one to four hours prior to exercise. As to what you should eat, the Academy suggests both carbohydrates and protein should make up your pre-workout meal. Carbs for fuel and protein to prime the pump, so the right amino acids are available to the muscles and to help with rebuilding and repair.
With that in mind, it makes sense that some people turn to a protein shake before cardio exercises such as running. After all, they require minimal ingredients, are simple to make and they're portable. But, the type of protein and the base you use for your shake does matter.
However, since carbohydrates are your body's preferred source of energy and they play such a critical role in performance, according to the Mayo Clinic, it's essential that you include a healthy dose of carbs in your protein shake. For a carbohydrate-rich shake, add fruits and vegetables, along with low-fat milk or no-sugar-added fruit juice, to your protein powder.
Protein Shake Before Cardio
If you have a dairy allergy or any sensitivity to milk products, you will want to avoid whey and casein protein powder before running since they are the two main proteins found in milk. Instead of a milk-based product, you may want to try a plant-based powder such as rice, hemp or pea protein powder.
The same principles apply to the liquid you use. If dairy is an issue, milk is probably not the best liquid base, especially if you experience an increase in GI distress while running. For an easier-to-digest protein shake before cardio or running, consider using water, unsweetened almond milk or no-sugar-added fruit juice as your liquid base.
When it comes to the age-old debate of consuming protein before or after a workout, the American College of Sports Medicine says protein is beneficial both in the pre and post-workout windows. Supplementing with protein powder pre-workout, helps to improve the delivery of amino acids to the muscles, which can aid in the recovery process after your run. In the post-workout period, protein continues to do deliver the benefits of muscle repair and recovery and it also has a positive impact on muscle hypertrophy.
Protein Shake Before Marathon Training
Drinking a protein shake before marathon training is a quick and easy way to fuel up for long runs. Depending on where you are in the training process, you will likely need to increase the number of calories you eat in a day.
While protein is essential for recovery and repair, it's carbohydrates that should make up the bulk of the calories you consume pre-workout. In fact, several research reviews and studies cite improved performance as one of the benefits of consuming carbohydrates in the hours before endurance exercise, including this May 2014 article published in Nutrients.
If you find that a protein shake is not enough to fuel long runs, you can also add whole-food carbohydrates to your pre-workout meal, in addition to a protein shake. To boost blood glucose levels and enhance performance, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends 50 to 75 grams of easily-digests carbohydrates two hours before a long run. Some good examples include:
- Whole grains such as bread, pasta, quinoa, oatmeal, cereal (stick to a lower amount of fiber for easier digestion)
- Fresh fruit like bananas, strawberries, raspberries and oranges
- Sweet potatoes, red potatoes
- Nutrition/pre-workout carbohydrate and nutrition bars
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Timing Your Pre-and Post-Workout Nutrition"
- Nutrients: "Pre-Exercise Nutrition: The Role of Macronutrients, Modified Starches and Supplements on Metabolism and Endurance Performance"
- American College of Sports Medicine: "Protein Intake for Optimal Muscle Maintenance"
- The Mayo Clinic: "The Best Foods to Fuel a Workout"