Resistance exercise breaks down muscle, so recharge with these protein-packed foods. Aim for 10-20 grams
Every guy in the gym knows he should consume some protein after a workout. But how much, and when? “When you work out, your muscles are primed to respond to protein,” says Jeffrey Volek, Ph.D., R.D., a nutrition and exercise researcher at the University of Connecticut, “and you have a window of opportunity to promote muscle growth.”
Volek recommends splitting your dose of protein, eating half 30 minutes before the workout and the other half 30 minutes after. A total of 10 to 20 grams of protein is ideal, he says. That’s because your body can process only so much protein in a single sitting. A recent study from the University of Texas found that consuming 90 grams of protein at one meal provides the same benefit as eating 30 grams. It’s like a gas tank, says study author Douglas Paddon-Jones, Ph.D.: “There’s only so much you can put in to maximize performance; the rest is spillover.”
Why fuel up? Resistance exercise breaks down muscle. This requires a fresh infusion of amino acids to repair and build it. “If you’re lifting weights and you don’t consume protein, it’s almost counterproductive,” says Volek. Protein also helps build enzymes that allow your body to adapt to endurance sports like running and biking. Next time you hit the gym, bring these 5 perfect protein-packed snacks along to fuel growth.
1. Chicken, Turkey, or Tuna (3 oz)
Wrap one of these standbys in a piece of bread. Four slices of chicken or turkey provide 14 grams of protein, while half a can of tuna has nearly 22 grams.
2. Eggs (three)
They’re still incredible after all these years. Hard-boiled eggs are most convenient, but it’s also easy to scramble a few in the a.m. and scoop them into a microwavable container. Don’t sweat the fat: It’s healthy and filling.
3. Chocolate 2% Milk (16 oz)
Refresh and rebuild at the same time. A study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition shows that chocolate milk may be the ideal postworkout beverage for building muscle.
4. Whey Powder (30g scoop)
This milk-derived product continues to rule the gym. Mix it with milk instead of water if you want a bit more protein. Try Nitrean; it has whey isolate for quick absorption, and casein, which is digested slowly.
5. Greek Yogurt (5.3 oz container)
Greek-style yogurt is a lifter’s dream: It’s easy to carry and packed with protein. Skip yogurts with fruit and sugar; to add flavor, drop in a few berries or nuts.