protein for sprinters

Protein For Sprinters | Maximize Your Performance & Recovery With Proper Nutrition

Why Sprinters Need Protein

For years, I dealt with issues related to nagging injuries and lack of energy, which inhibited my sprinting progress. That is until I started to focus on prioritizing protein intake in my diet.

Sprinters generate an immense amount of power and strength from their muscles in a short time, which puts significant strain on the body's soft tissues. Because of the stressful nature of sprinting, sprinters must ingest adequate nutrients to train hard, recover properly, and achieve high-performance levels.

One essential nutrient that often goes underappreciated but plays a significant role in supporting sprinters' success is protein. This article dives deep into why protein is vital for sprinters' nutrition, how much they should consume, and the best sources for meeting their dietary needs.

What This Article Will Cover:

  • Benefits Of Protein For Sprinters
  • How Much Protein Sprinters Should Eat
  • Protein Intake Calculator For Sprinters
  • Tips For Optimal Protein Intake In Sprinters

The Benefits Of Protein For Sprinters

Protein plays a critical role in muscle repair and growth, energy production during exercise, and reducing muscle soreness and fatigue for sprinters.

Muscle Repair And Growth

When sprinting, athletes move as fast as they can, producing large amounts of force requiring high tension levels in muscles and tendons. This high-intensity nature of sprinting puts significant strain on fast-twitch muscle fibers, which causes microscopic tears that need repair for optimal performance.

Sprinting causes muscle fibers to be broken down at a cellular level. This damage activates the body's natural repair processes and signaling pathways, but these pathways can only effectively repair the body if athletes have ingested enough protein in their diet.

Consuming adequate protein is required to promote the regeneration of tissues, as protein is broken down into amino acids, which are then used in the process of protein synthesis to repair muscles and tendons.

If you find yourself sore for days after sprinting or if you have nagging injuries, it may be the case that you need to ingest more protein, especially in the hours before and after your sprinting workouts.

Energy Production

While carbohydrates are the primary energy source used to produce muscular work when sprinting, protein also plays a significant role in energy production both in terms of neurotransmitter generation and as a direct source of calories.

Protein contains amino acids, many of which are used in creating neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters like dopamine and epinephrine require amino acids such as L-Tyrosine to be produced, with inadequate protein intake leading to deficiencies in these compounds.

neurotransmitters and protein intake

By ingesting enough protein in their diets, sprinters can ensure optimal levels of stimulatory neurotransmitters, which help athletes get revved up and ready to sprint at high-intensity levels.

By increasing my protein intake, I have found that I do not need to take a bunch of pre-workouts to get motivated for a workout, as my brain has the stimulatory neurotransmitters it needs from eating enough protein.

Though not preferable, protein can also be used to produce carbohydrates when athletes are deficient in carbohydrate intake. Gluconeogenesis is a process where protein is used to create glucose, which means that ingesting high protein levels can sometimes help in situations where an athlete hasn't eaten enough carbohydrates.

Athletes should be sure to eat enough carbs and protein; that way, they do not need to break down protein in the body to deliver the glucose needed for training and competing.

Reduced Muscle Soreness And Fatigue

One of the main benefits of protein that I have found from increasing the amount of protein in my diet is less soreness and fatigue following intense sprint training sessions.

Muscle protein breakdown (MPB) occurs during workouts, causing microscopic damage to the fast-twitch muscle fibers responsible for explosive power in sprints.

To stimulate muscle protein synthesis (MPS), protein should be ingested before and after workouts. The combination of protein intake and intense exercise upregulates the processes which build muscle and repair the body after training.

Optimal Protein Intake For Sprinters

Factors such as body weight, training regimen, and muscle mass should be considered to determine optimal protein intake.

According to the International Society Of Sports Nutrition, sprinters should consume 1.4 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily.

You can use the protein intake calculator in this article to determine how much protein you should eat as a sprinter.

Factors Affecting Protein Requirements

Protein requirements for sprinters vary depending on several factors, including:

  • Body Weight: Sprinters may require more protein if they have a higher body weight or muscle mass.
  • Training Volume: The more intense and frequent a sprinter trains, the higher their protein needs.
  • Training Goal: If the focus is on building muscle mass, protein needs will be higher than maintenance of existing muscle mass or endurance training.
  • Protein Quality: Proteins with high bioavailability and essential amino acid composition, such as whey or casein protein, are more effective at stimulating protein synthesis than lower-quality proteins.
  • Carbohydrate Intake: Consuming adequate carbohydrates can help reduce the need for dietary protein for energy, and it can help enhance muscle protein synthesis.

By considering these factors when determining their individual protein needs, sprinters can optimize their performance and recovery from workouts.

Recommended Daily Intake

Sprinters have higher protein requirements than the general population due to the intense demands placed on their muscles and tendons during training and competition.

The following table shows the ranges of protein intake that athletes should aim for, depending on their body weight:

Body Weight (lbs)

Recommended Protein Intake (grams/day)


70 - 100


80 - 120


95 - 140


110 - 155


125 - 175


140 - 195


These recommended daily protein intakes are based on a general guideline of consuming 1.4-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, which has been shown to be optimal for speed and power athletes.

Remember that individual protein needs may vary based on factors such as training intensity, duration, and personal goals. If you need more specific recommendations, you can work with a sports nutrition specialist to build a diet optimized for you.

Protein Intake Calculator For Sprinters

You can use this simple calculator to assess your required protein intake based on your body weight.


Calculate Your Daily Protein Intake for Sprinters


Top Sources Of Protein For Sprinters

Some of the top sources of protein for sprinters include lean meats and poultry, plant-based options like beans and nuts, dairy products such as Greek yogurt, and protein supplements like whey protein powder.

By ingesting protein from various whole-food and supplement-based sources, you can ensure your body has the protein it needs for the intense demands of sprinting.

Lean Meats And Poultry

Consuming lean meats and poultry is an excellent way for sprinters to source high-quality protein.

animal based sources of protein

These protein sources are essential for muscle repair, growth, and energy production during training and competition.

Here are some examples of lean meats and poultry that can help provide the necessary protein for sprinters:

  • Chicken breast - one 3-ounce serving contains approximately 26 grams of protein.
  • Turkey breast - one 3-ounce serving contains approximately 25 grams of protein.
  • Bison - one 3-ounce serving contains approximately 24 grams of protein.
  • Venison - one 3-ounce serving contains approximately 23 grams of protein.
  • Beef sirloin steak - one 3-ounce serving contains approximately 23 grams of protein.

Consuming lean cuts of meat such as these ensures that sprinters receive adequate amounts of complete proteins, which contain all nine essential amino acids necessary for muscle growth and recovery.

Sprinters should aim to consume a variety of sources from both animal and plant-based options to meet their daily recommended intake for optimal performance.

Plant-Based Protein Sources

Plant-based protein sources are a great option for sprinters who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet or those who simply want to reduce their consumption of animal products.

plant based sources of protein

Some top plant-based protein sources include:

  • Legumes: beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas are all excellent sources of protein. They can be cooked in various ways and added to meals such as salads, soups, and stews.
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, peanuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are all high in protein and healthy fats. They can be enjoyed as snacks or added to smoothies and oatmeal.
  • Whole grains: quinoa, brown rice, oats are all nutritious whole grains that provide a good amount of protein. They can be used as the base for grain bowls or added to salads.
  • Vegetables: dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale contain decent amounts of protein along with other essential vitamins and minerals. They can be used in salads, sautéed as a side dish, or blended into smoothies.

Plant-based proteins are generally less protein-dense compared to animal sources; hence the recommended daily intake might be higher for vegans/vegetarians than non-vegans/non-vegetarians athletes.

Nonetheless, studies also show that gains in strength were similar between the two groups (plant-based vs. animal-based).

Dairy Products

Dairy products are another source of protein for sprinters as they are rich in essential nutrients and amino acids necessary for muscle recovery and growth.

Here are some top dairy options that can help fuel your performance:

  • Greek yogurt: With twice the protein content of regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein for sprinters. It's also low in fat, making it a healthy snack option.
  • Milk: Low-fat milk is an affordable and convenient way to get protein, calcium, and vitamin D- all essential for optimal muscle function.
  • Cheese: While cheese can be high in fat, it's still a good source of protein for those who want to build lean mass.
  • Cottage cheese: This dairy product is packed with casein protein – a slow-digesting protein that ensures your muscles get the nutrients they need even during long periods without food intake.

Incorporating certain dairy products into your diet alongside other sources of lean proteins, like chicken breasts, or plant-based options like lentils or soybeans, you can ensure that you're getting enough fuel for optimal performance.

Remember to spread out your consumption throughout the day for better results!

Protein Supplements

Protein supplements are a convenient way for sprinters to meet their daily protein needs, especially when whole food sources may not be available. I have found it tough sometimes to eat enough protein when only sourcing it from whole foods, so protein supplements have helped me get an extra 20 to 40 grams of protein per day to ensure my protein intake is up to par.

Here are some important things to know about using protein supplements:

  • Timing Matters: Consuming protein supplements pre- or post-workout can help support muscle recovery and growth. Aim to consume your shake within 30 minutes of completing your workout.
  • Choose Wisely: Not all protein supplements are created equal. Look for high-quality powders that have undergone third-party testing for quality and purity, such as Ascent Whey Protein or Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides.
  • Watch Portions: While protein is important, it's easy to overdo it with supplements. Stick to the recommended serving size and limit yourself to no more than two shakes per day.
  • Supplement, Don't Replace: Whole food sources should always be the main source of protein in your diet. Use supplements as a supplement rather than a replacement for meals.
  • Know Your Goals: Different types of protein supplements are better suited for different goals, such as muscle building or weight loss. Research what kind of powder will best support your individual needs.

Remember that while protein supplements can be helpful, they should not replace whole food sources in your diet. Focus on getting most of your nutrients from nutrient-dense foods like lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, and legumes for optimal performance as a sprinter athlete.

Pre-Workout And Post-Workout Nutrition

Proper pre-workout and post-workout nutrition is crucial for sprinters to fuel their performance and facilitate muscle recovery.

Here we will discuss the importance of carbohydrates, hydration, and protein powder as a convenient option in this section.

Importance Of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are a crucial fuel source for high-intensity athletes, including sprinters. Carbohydrates are broken down into energy through glycolysis, which is required to turn glycogen (carbohydrates stored in muscle) into ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

Carbs provide the body with the energy it needs to perform at its best during training and competition.

According to Burke et al, athletes need to consume enough carbohydrates to meet their daily energy demands, with recommended intake ranging from 5-7 g/kg body mass per day. However, not all carbohydrate sources are created equal.

Whole-food sources such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains also provide necessary nutrients like fiber and phytochemicals that support overall health and performance. Avoid sourcing most of your carbohydrates from sugary foods, fried foods, or otherwise highly processed sources.

Hydration For Optimal Performance

Proper hydration is crucial for sprinters to perform at their best. Dehydration can lead to decreased performance, increased risk of injury, and delayed recovery from workouts.

To determine how much water they need to consume, athletes can measure the amount of fluid lost during exercise by weighing themselves before and after a workout. For each pound lost, they should aim to drink 16-20 ounces of water within 30 minutes of completing the exercise.

Proper hydration also plays a role in reducing muscle soreness and fatigue after intense workouts. Drinking 8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after exercise can aid in recovery by replenishing fluids lost during the workout session.

Protein Powder As A Convenient Option

Protein powder has become increasingly popular among athletes as a convenient and effective way to supplement their protein intake. This is especially important for sprinters who require higher levels of protein to support fast twitch muscle fiber growth and recovery from intense workouts.

One of the benefits of protein powder is that it provides a high concentration of protein without excess calories, making it an efficient option for those looking to lose weight or maintain a lean physique.

Additionally, protein supplements like whey protein can increase muscle protein synthesis more effectively than some whole-food sources, making protein supplements a convenient and effective way to kick your body into recovery mode right after a workout.

After a workout, mix 20 to 30 grams of quick digesting protein with or without a carbohydrate source like Karbolyn or dextrose to maximize recovery from your workouts.

Frequently Asked Questions About Protein Intake For Sprinters

Why do sprinters need protein in their diet?

Protein is crucial for sprinters as it provides the necessary building blocks for muscle growth, repair, and recovery after intense workouts. Sprinters require a significant amount of lean muscle mass to generate explosive bursts of speed, making protein an essential nutrient in their diets.

What sources of protein are best for sprinters?

Sprinters should focus on lean sources of protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs, as well as plant-based options like tofu, lentils, and quinoa. These foods provide the right balance of amino acids needed to support muscle growth and repair without adding unwanted fat or cholesterol.

How much protein does a sprinter need daily?

The recommended daily protein intake varies based on body weight and activity level.

Still, most athletes require at least 1 gram per pound of body weight per day to support optimal performance. For example, a 150-pound sprinter would aim for around 150 grams of high-quality protein each day.

Can too much protein be harmful to a sprinter's health?

Consuming excess amounts of protein can strain the kidneys and lead to dehydration if not accompanied by sufficient water intake. Ensure you ingest adequate amounts of protein and drink enough water, but you don't have to go overboard with it.


  1. Slater, G.J., Sygo, J. and Jorgensen, M. (2019) Sprinting. . . dietary approaches to optimize training adaptation and performanceHuman Kinetics. Human Kinetics. Available at: (Accessed: April 26, 2023). 
  2. Cintineo HP, Arent MA, Antonio J, Arent SM. Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Front Nutr. 2018 Sep 11;5:83. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2018.00083. PMID: 30255023; PMCID: PMC6142015.
  3. Slater, G.J., Sygo, J. and Jorgensen, M. (2019) Sprinting. . . dietary approaches to optimize training adaptation and performance, Human Kinetics. Human Kinetics. Available at: (Accessed: April 26, 2023). 
  4. Tipton KD, Jeukendrup AE, Hespel P; International Association of Athletics Federations. Nutrition for the sprinter. J Sports Sci. 2007;25 Suppl 1:S5-15. doi: 10.1080/02640410701607205. Erratum in: J Sports Sci. 2009 Apr;27(6):667. PMID: 18049979.
  5. Tyler Becker, M.S.U.E. (2022) Why is protein, carbohydrate and fat important for athletic performance?, Food & Health. Available at: (Accessed: April 26, 2023). 
  6. Sporting performance and food (no date) Sporting performance and food - Better Health Channel. Available at: (Accessed: April 26, 2023). 
  7. Davis, J.K. et al. (2021) In-season nutrition strategies and recovery modalities to enhance recovery for basketball players: A narrative review - sports medicine, SpringerLink. Springer International Publishing. Available at: (Accessed: April 26, 2023). 
  8. Jäger R, Kerksick CM, Campbell BI, Cribb PJ, Wells SD, Skwiat TM, Purpura M, Ziegenfuss TN, Ferrando AA, Arent SM, Smith-Ryan AE, Stout JR, Arciero PJ, Ormsbee MJ, Taylor LW, Wilborn CD, Kalman DS, Kreider RB, Willoughby DS, Hoffman JR, Krzykowski JL, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Jun 20;14:20. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8. PMID: 28642676; PMCID: PMC5477153.
  9. Dietary protein requirements and adaptive advantages in athletes (no date). Available at: (Accessed: April 26, 2023). 
  10. Kato H, Suzuki K, Bannai M, Moore DR. Protein Requirements Are Elevated in Endurance Athletes after Exercise as Determined by the Indicator Amino Acid Oxidation Method. PLoS One. 2016 Jun 20;11(6):e0157406. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0157406. PMID: 27322029; PMCID: PMC4913918.
  11. Protein intake for athletes and active adults ... - Wiley Online Library (no date). Available at: (Accessed: April 26, 2023). 
  12. Packer, J.E. et al. (2017) Variable-intensity simulated team-sport exercise increases daily protein requirements in active males, Frontiers. Frontiers. Available at: (Accessed: April 26, 2023). 
  13. Purcell LK; Canadian Paediatric Society, Paediatric Sports and Exercise Medicine Section. Sports nutrition for young athletes. Paediatr Child Health. 2013 Apr;18(4):200-5. doi: 10.1093/pch/18.4.200. PMID: 24421690; PMCID: PMC3805623.
  14. Roberson, P.A. et al. (2018) Protein supplementation throughout 10 weeks of progressive run training is not beneficial for time trial improvement, Frontiers. Frontiers. Available at: (Accessed: April 26, 2023). 
  15. Perishable (2023) Carbohydrates - the master fuel, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Available at: (Accessed: April 26, 2023). 
  16. Ormsbee MJ, Bach CW, Baur DA. Pre-exercise nutrition: the role of macronutrients, modified starches, and supplements on metabolism and endurance performance. Nutrients. 2014 Apr 29;6(5):1782-808. doi: 10.3390/nu6051782. PMID: 24787031; PMCID: PMC4042570.
  17. Emily Gelsomin, M.L.A. (2020) The scoop on protein powder, Harvard Health. Available at: (Accessed: April 26, 2023).
Back to blog