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Recovery snacks: collagen vs. protein powder

Collagen powder is a trendy food, but how does it stack up against protein powder?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. It’s a major component of your connective tissue that you’re able to take in a powder form as a protein supplement. Lots of runners are using collagen powder as part of their post-workout routine, but what’s the difference between collagen and protein powder, and which is better for your recovery? 

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Melissa Piercell, ND, says that collagen and protein powder are similar, but there’s a slight catch. “They’re similar in that they’re both a powder with amino acids, but collagen only has 19 amino acids and you need 20 to have a complete protein. Each serving of collagen has somewhere between 10 to 13 grams of protein, which isn’t quite enough to repair and recover well.” Peircell suggests putting collagen in a shake with a few other ingredients to up the protein intake and get that final amino acid. 

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Piercell explains that collagen is the connective tissue that makes up many things, including your joints. Healthy joints are key for runners. “The body has to have some sort of shock-absorbent. To some degree, we will all have osteoarthritis one day. Collagen is lovely for delaying that.” If you’re looking to give collagen powder a try post-workout, just make sure you add a few extra ingredients to a smoothie or have a snack alongside your shake. 

The four main kinds of plant-based protein powders are hemp, soy, rice and pea-based powders. Piercell suggests that hemp is the most hypo-allergenic of the options. “It’s paleo, so it’s safe for anyone following that diet,” she adds. Protein powder is typically a complete protein and you only need to add water. This makes it easy to take with you. Pair a protein shake with an apple and you’ve got a great recovery snack.  

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Depending on what workout you’ve done, runners have slightly different requirements for fueling. Runners should observe the 30-minute recovery window and aim to eat a 200-300 calories snack in that time. If you’ve done a speed or weights session, you should look to consume a 3:1 carb to protein ratio. If you’ve done a distance-style workout, then be sure to up your carbs to a 4:1 ratio. This means that for a marathoner, you’re looking for roughly 80 grams of starch to 20 grams of protein. 

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