Do you immediately supplement with protein powders after a workout? STOP. Next time, reach for real food sources of this essential macronutrient. Real food = better fuel and better recovery. No need to buy expensive, processed supplements when nature has everything for you!
Everyone knows it’s important to get in adequate nutrition after a tough workout. Protein is especially crucial if you’ve lifted heavy or done an intense cardio session. Most people tend to reach for a protein shake or protein bars as their go-to post-workout supplement. For a long time, these types of snacks have been touted as the best form of recovery after a workout, but current research is showing something quite different. While it’s still key to get protein in post-workout, it’s even better to get it from real food sources rather than bars, powders, or shakes.
Protein powders are chemically isolated. It’s changed from its natural state and thus our body does not know how to properly absorb and utilize it in the best way possible. In addition, protein powders have an exorbitantly high amount of protein in proportion to their fat content. Protein cannot be properly used by the body without adequate fat intake and thus consuming just protein after a workout is not efficient and can actually cause harm to your body in the form of vitamin depletion. So what is an athlete or avid gym goer supposed to do for their post-workout protein?
Well, we’ve got 5 real food alternatives that not only deliver a great source of protein for your nutritional needs but also contain a host of other vitamins and minerals that protein powders lack. It’s a fallacy that protein requirements cannot be met thru real food options and this list proves that!
Eggs, especially hard-boiled ones, are easy to make in bulk and great for a post-workout nosh! When you eat the yolk and the white together you’re getting a complete source of protein as well as healthy omega-3 fatty acids and good cholesterol.
Greek Yogurt, Cottage Cheese, or Kefir
Fat-free or low-fat dairy is an awesome post-workout snack, especially if you train at night. Cottage cheese is especially helpful because it’s high in casein, which is a slow-digesting protein that slowly feeds your muscles instead of dumping all the protein into your digestive system at once. It’s also extremely low in fat like Greek yogurt and kefir (look for the fat-free and low-fat varieties!), and won’t spike your blood sugars like many protein supplements. Have at least a cup and add some nuts or seeds on top for an extra hit of protein.
Chicken or Turkey Jerky
Who wants to cook a whole chicken breast after a workout? Even though a serving of chicken would be a great way to refuel, turkey or chicken jerky is much more convenient. Just make sure you’re looking for low-sodium versions that don’t have added sugar. I like Nick’s Sticks the best. For the amount of protein you’re getting, jerky is low in calories and fat, making it a great post-workout option if you don’t mind having something salty/savory.
Sardines or Tuna
Sardines are an incredible source of protein and so is tuna fish depending on your preference. One ounce contains over 7 grams of real food protein as well as a ton of omega 3 fatty acids so that protein is properly absorbed. Sardines also help reduce inflammation in your muscles and can decrease soreness. Mix sardines or tuna with plain greek yogurt, dill, lemon, juice, white balsamic vinegar, and Dijon mustard for a quick n’ delicious seafood salad!
Whole Grain Toast with Peanut Butter
After a hard sweat sesh it’s important to refuel with carbs as well. By pairing toast with peanut butter you’re getting complex carbohydrates, plant-based protein, and healthy fats. This key mix of nutrients is perfect for muscle-building and replenishing glycogen stores.
Protein powder can be good in a pinch….but whole, real foods are more nutritionally dense than protein powders and will always be superior. They also take longer to consume and are thus more satisfying. To maximize the effects of your workout, make your next post-workout meal full of real food as opposed to processed protein powders or bars!
Do you use protein powder after a workout?
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