The building blocks of our body, proteins are needed for everything we do. They’re vital in the growth and repair of muscles, and also keep us fuller for longer compared with carbs. It’s important to have a balanced diet throughout the day, but one of the best times for a protein refuel is immediately after a workout, as it can quickly begin healing any ‘micro tears’ that exercise has created in your muscles. Between 46g and 56g a day is the recommended allowance, and regular exercisers can benefit greatly from a little more. So whether you’re veggie or just looking for a healthy protein alternative, the good news is that meat and fish aren’t your only options. Here are three of the best…
1 Eggs – the perfect protein
Eggs have long been the gold standard of high-protein snacks. A quick and portable source of high-quality energy, one hard-boiled egg will give you around 6g of protein, vitamins D, A, B2 and B12, and all 18 of the essential amino acids needed to repair exercise-weary muscles. Hard-boiled eggs make the ideal portable snack but you could also opt for a quick hot dish like a frittata, or whizz a raw egg into a fruit smoothie.
It’s all good: A recent study from Yale University confirmed daily consumption of eggs won’t increase your bad cholesterol levels, so don’t be tempted to skip the yolk. This is one of the healthiest parts of the egg, containing vital good fats that will help stave off hunger pangs.
2 Oats – a heart-friendly food
At just under three per cent complete protein, oats are just as valuable as a post-workout snack during the day as they are for a heart-healthy breakfast in the morning. For a healthy sweet treat, try making muffins or flapjacks, or use oats as the base for fruity breakfast bars. The unique balance of protein and slow-burning carbs in oats works to provide the perfect fuel for exercise. They also boast added benefits from rich levels of cholesterol-lowering nutrients, essential minerals for energy production and healthy muscle function.
Shake it up: Blend 1/2 cup of oats and a scoop of whey protein with a cup of water for a tasty all-in-one post-workout shake.
3 Almonds – for extra endurance
With 23g of protein per cup, almonds are an incredibly nutrient-dense food and an ideal snack for anyone exercising regularly. The combination of protein, monounsaturated fats and fibre you’ll get from a handful of almonds won’t just create a feeling of fullness, it can literally keep your body working for longer. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that athletes who ate 75g of almonds before their workout performed for a significantly greater distance and at a higher intensity than those who relied on carb-heavy snacks alone. Almond milk instead of cow’s milk is an easy way to get almond proteins into your diet, or try spreading almond butter instead of peanut butter on some rice cakes.
Keep it simple: Opt for unsalted, raw almonds for maximum nutrition. Fifteen to 20 should do the trick for a quick snack.