Eating after you exercise is almost as crucial as the workout itself. WebMD notes eating protein after exercising helps your muscles recover and grow and ensures all of the hard work you just put in doesn’t go to waste. This doesn’t mean you need to go home and make a large meal containing hundreds of grams of protein, though — the publication explains eating 10 to 20 grams of protein will suffice. Wondering which foods you should be reaching for after your next sweat session? Here are 10 high-protein foods perfect for your post-workout snack.
1. Greek yogurt
Yogurt is a great food to eat after workouts, just as long as it’s Greek. Men’s Fitness states Greek yogurt has twice as much protein as regular yogurt. “Mix it with cereal or fruit,” Dr. Louise Burke, head of Sports Nutrition at the Australian Institute of Sport, recommended in the story. You’ll then have a snack that’s the perfect balance of protein and carbs. We recommend pairing your yogurt with berries; they’ll help fight muscle soreness.
According to SFGate, fat-free Greek yogurt contains between 17 and 20 grams of protein for a 6- to 7-ounce serving. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determines you only need 20 grams of protein to promote muscle synthesis, which helps the body grow and repair its muscles.
2. Whey protein powder
Intense-Workout.com states whey protein powder is the best source of protein to eat after a workout. Your body can digest a whey protein shake much faster than solid foods, ensuring you get a nice dose of protein promptly after your sweat session. It’s also a great portable post-workout snack; simply have your protein ready to go in a shaker cup and add liquid to it when you’re ready to start sipping. You’ll get more than enough protein per serving, as some powders contain up to 80 grams of protein, per WebMD.
Looking to give your whey protein a tasty flavor boost? Body Fortress has plenty of great shake recipes.
Eggs are the perfect post-workout food for two reasons: They’re high in protein and are also a great source of many other nutrients, which help your body repair after an intense gym session. According to Livestrong, one egg has 6 grams of protein, or 15% of your daily recommended value. Furthermore, eggs contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs to digest and absorb protein.
Steady Strength recommends having hard-boiled eggs on hand for your post-workout snack. Consider pairing your eggs with a piece of fresh fruit; its carbs will replenish your glycogen stores, which are usually depleted after a tough workout.
4. Chocolate milk
Flavored milk, which includes chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, has a great carb to protein ratio and aids in muscle recovery and rebuilding, Rebecca Scritchfield, a District of Columbia nutritionist, tells The Washington Post. Your post-workout snack should have a ratio of 4 grams of carbs to 1 gram of protein. To compare, an 8-ounce glass of 2% milk has 12 grams of carbs and 8 grams of protein.
In order to meet the recommended ratio, The Washington Post recommends adding a few more carbs to your after-workout snack. You can easily do this by blending a banana with chocolate milk, or drinking/eating the two separately.
Kefir, a fermented milk product, is a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, per Livestrong. Interestingly, kefir is made the same way as yogurt: Milk combines with bacteria and is allowed to ferment. The main difference is that more and different types of bacteria and yeast are used to create kefir, which has a tangy taste and a texture similar to pourable yogurt.
A serving of this dairy product packs a serious protein punch. Livestrong notes one cup of kefir has 11 to 14 grams of complete protein. It’s also a good source of calcium and vitamin D.
Often when you try getting all your protein from plants, it can be difficult to find foods that fill you up. This is one of few foods that’s packed with protein and other nutrients to help you build muscle and stay satisfied. Quinoa provides 8 grams of protein per serving, which is more than most other grains. Unlike other plant-based proteins, quinoa is also a complete protein, meaning it contains all essential amino acids. According to MedlinePlus, complete proteins ensure your body can repair and make new cells. In terms of fitness, this is especially important when it comes to repairing and building muscle.
Protein isn’t the only notable benefit to quinoa. It also yields more fiber than the average grain, and is gluten-free. It’s a low glycemic index food, so it’s perfect for regulating blood sugar. Quinoa is a quick and easy way to fill up on nutrients that won’t leave you feeling hungry just hours after a good workout.
7. Navy beans
Navy beans are a cheap, versatile food you can incorporate into a number of meals and snacks throughout your day. These small white legumes offer 15 grams of protein per cup, and their fiber content makes them good for your heart and gut. They’re perfect for slow cooker recipes, so if you like coming home from the gym to a hot meal, give these a try.
The World’s Healthiest Foods suggests pairing navy beans with whole grains, such as brown rice, to create a heart-healthy, fiber-rich snack. You’ll get all the protein you need for post-workout muscle repair without the saturated fat that often comes with dairy products and red meat. There’s nothing wrong with eating these foods, but it’s good to vary your meals so you don’t get bored.
8. Canned tuna
If you’ve never considered tuna as a go-to, post-workout snack, it might be time to give it a try. It’s an excellent source of lean protein, which is ideal for anyone trying to build muscle and lose fat. Six ounces of tuna can give you up to 33 grams of protein and only about 2 grams of fat, according to Livestrong. You’ll also get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for keeping your heart healthy as you stick to your workout routine.
Don’t hesitate to get creative with your canned tuna snacks, either. You can stuff vegetables, bake mini casseroles, or even just eat tuna with crackers. You can also combine tuna with navy beans to create a protein-packed casserole.
9. Trail mix
Generally, trail mix is a combination of a variety of nuts and other dry ingredients. Traditionally, nuts and dried fruit were the only ingredients. Over time, various trail mix brands have also added chocolate pieces, like M&Ms, to their mixes. Because of this, you’ll need to steer clear of trail mixes that are too high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fats. You can easily toss together your own homemade mix using a variety of nuts and other ingredients while keeping the protein content high and everything else reasonably low.
10. Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is made from the curds of pasteurized cow’s milk. It’s an excellent source of casein, a protein just as effective at stimulating muscle growth as whey. However, because casein is slower to digest than whey protein, it is also more effective at preventing your muscles from breaking down after exercise.
According to Livestrong, casein protein can take up to seven hours to digest. This slow digestion process will keep you feeling fuller longer, so you’ll be less tempted to snack on junk food later on in the day. Eating dairy products instead of getting your casein from a supplement also has added benefits like boosts in vitamin D, potassium, and calcium. Do watch the sodium content, though. Check nutrition labels to find a brand of cottage cheese that is lower in salt, but still rich in protein and complex carbs.