Many of us are not getting adequate protein. If you exercise regularily (5-6 days a week for at least an hour) you might be one of these people. I’m certain I am. As an athlete, I am always on the lookout for good sources of protein to eat after a workout. Also, I am not a three meals-a-day girl. I eat more often than that; spreading my calories throughout the day, and so I find that getting enough protein can be difficult since I typically eat smaller meals.
I recently talked to Alan Tyson, physical therapist and owner of Architech Sports about finding good sources of protein. He suggests a ratio of 2 to 1 (carbs to protein) for a post exercise meal. He admits that this is harder to do than it is to say! Some of his suggestions are an apple with peanut butter (good source of fiber too), a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter, Greek-style yogurt with berries and nuts (almonds are great), or a protein shake (with skim milk) or bar with the above ratio. While Power Bars and other “energy” bars are great for endurance events or for before an extra long or hard workout, they are high in sugar and usually low in protein, and are typically not ideal for a post exercise meal.
It is important to eat something within 20 minutes post-exercise to help restore glycogen. This can be a carbohydrate/protein mix, ideally with a little fat and fiber, as well. I like the Zone bar because it is easy to grab, and it has 14 grams of protein, 23 grams of carbs, and a little fiber. Unfortunately the sugar content is fairly high (15 grams), but I’m sure that is why it tastes good too. We all know those low-sugar bars that may be healthy, but are seriously lacking in the taste department!
A rule of thumb that Alan uses to advise his athletes is to consume about .7 grams of protein per pound of body weight. That sounds like a lot, but Alan reminds me that is for the person who is working out hard almost everyday. Most of us can back up that number a little since we are not expending as much energy. The following is a list of some good sources of protein (with protein per portion size):
Yogurt, 8 oz., 8 g.
Peanut butter, Tbsp, 8 g.
Cheese, 3 oz., 21 g.
Eggs, 2 large, 13 g.
Fish and chicken, 3 oz., approx. 21 g.
Beans, depending on kind, approx. 18g.
The last on the list is one of my favorites, and beans also have a high fiber content. Edamame and soybeans are a great additions to salads. Soybeans pack almost 29 g. of protein per serving! I love to add the crunchy variety to a snack mix of nuts and raisins, too.
Alan explained why consuming protein after exercise is important for other reasons as well. Protein provides the amino acids necessary to rebuild muscle tissue that is damaged during intense, prolonged exercise. It can also increase the absorption of water from the intestines and improve muscle hydration. The amino acids in protein can also stimulate the immune system, making us more resistant to colds and other infections.
I know how important protein is, and so I’m currently seeking some good snack or post exercise meal ideas. What are some of your after-workout meals that are also high in protein? Do you have any other tips for getting adequate protein in your diet? Share them!