Get Stronger with Protein-Rich Foods

From eggs and beef to quinoa and soy, these nutrient-rich recipes provide the perfect amount of protein to support your workout and build healthy muscle. By: Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC

Protein-Rich Foods: How much do you need?

Protein-Rich Foods: How much do you need?

Trying to eat right to support your workouts? More isn’t always better when it comes to protein in your diet. While the body relies on protein for muscle health, hormone production, and immune function, you can overdo it. Unlike carbohydrates and fat, protein isn’t stored for energy production so taking in too much at once can be a waste. Active individuals should aim for an average of 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight each day. That comes out to roughly 80 grams a day for a 150-pound person. Another way to estimate protein needs are to figure on 20% of total calorie intake – that’s about 90 grams for an 1800-calorie diet.

Spread out protein intake throughout the day instead of mega doses just once or twice. A serving of protein along with healthy carbs after a workout is a must to help tired muscles recover. Here are some tantalizing ways to work protein into your meals and snacks no matter what time of day you exercise.

Egg-cellent Protein Option

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Egg-cellent Protein Option

For breakfast, brunch, or even a quick weeknight dinner, eggs are one of the easiest protein dishes to prepare. Use both the yolks and the whites to take advantage of all the pure protein – a large egg contains 6 grams.

Recipe: Summer Vegetable Frittata

Plant-Based Protein

Plant-Based Protein

Legumes like beans and lentils provide a healthy trifecta of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber making this recipe a good pack-ahead option for a post-workout lunch. The combination of protein and carbs helps refuel tired muscles and replenish energy stores.

Recipe: Sautéed Escarole, Corn, and White Bean Salad

Steak and Salad Protein

Photo: Randy Mayor

Steak and Salad

Choose flank steak for a lean yet flavorful beef option. Besides its high protein content, red meat is one of the most highly-absorbable sources of iron – also important for healthy muscles. Not a fan of beef? Make this recipe with chicken breast instead (a 3-ounce portion will pack in 24 grams of protein).

Recipe: Hoisin Flank Steak with Asian Cucumber Salad

The Soy Exception

Photo: Randy Mayor

The Soy Exception

Unlike most other plant sources of protein, soy contains all the building blocks (also known as “amino acids”) that the body needs. Pair up this dip with some whole grain crackers for a satisfying afternoon snack before heading to the gym or spread on a sandwich for a mid-day protein boost.

Recipe: Edamame Dip

Protein-Packed Pasta Bowl

Photo: Kana Okada

Protein-Packed Pasta Bowl

Team up pasta with lean pork plus more protein from creamy almond butter for a meal fit for a champion. Pork is also an excellent source of thiamin – a B-vitamin the body needs to convert carbohydrates into energy.

Recipe: Noodles with Roast Pork and Almond Sauce

Fitness-Friendly Fish

Photo: John Autry

Fitness-Friendly Fish

Prepare this effortless fish dish after coming home from a tiring workout. A 6-ounce portion of halibut contains over 35 grams of protein and 800 milligrams of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fats.

Recipe: Halibut with Leeks

Silken Tofu Protein

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Sip on Silken Tofu

Don’t make the mistake of working out on an empty stomach. Give your metabolism and muscles a boost with this low-fat smoothie. Silken tofu makes it creamy while adding 4 grams of protein per serving.

Recipe: Blueberry Power Smoothie

Quinoa Protein

Photo: Andrea Dorsey

Curious About Quinoa?

Higher in protein than any other grain, nutty and chewy quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”) has unbeatable flavor and fabulous texture. Use it in place of rice for stir-fries and toss with fresh vegetables and herbs for a quick and easy side dish.

Recipe: Quinoa Parsley Salad

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