Guest Post by Rachel O'Conner
When you go to the gym, you probably have a very clear goal in mind. You want to shed fat, build muscle, or do a combination of both. A good, sweaty workout at the gym can be amazing for blasting through calories and helping you get stronger. However, if you’re not properly nourishing yourself afterward, you could be missing out on a huge part of the equation.
The fact is that if you want those awesome gains when you work out, you’ve got to eat protein. Protein is an extremely important macronutrient. Your body uses protein in a lot of different ways, such as growing thick hair, healthy skin, and even in your blood. But your body needs protein to build muscle, too.
Research has indicated that you need an average of 1.3-1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to help build strong muscles. For a 68kg person (or 150 pounds), that averages out to around 88 to 122 grams of protein per day. Of course, your needs may vary depending on your fitness goals. That said, some proteins are simply better than others for muscle synthesis.
An Introduction to Complete Proteins
When looking at your protein options, there are two main kinds that stand out: complete proteins and incomplete proteins. A complete protein is a type of protein that has all twenty essential amino acids. (Essential amino acids are the ones your body can't produce on its own, and you must get from food.) On the other hand, an incomplete protein does not have all of these amino acids. They may have some of them, but they may be lacking one or two.
Some foods that contain complete proteins are typically animal proteins, such as meat, milk, and eggs. Soy, a popular plant-based protein, is also a complete protein. Incomplete proteins include legumes (like peas and beans), vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. Just because a protein source is incomplete, however, doesn’t mean that it’s not worth eating.
Combining proteins – which means eating two incomplete proteins together to make a complete protein – is an excellent way to get a plant-based complete protein source. For instance, a meal of beans and rice makes a fantastic complete protein source!
Which Proteins Are The Best for Post-Workout?
Many people believe that protein powders and shakes are ideal after a workout. However, despite being a quick and easy source of protein, they pale next to whole-food protein sources.
Sure, while it may be easy to whip up a protein smoothie in your blender after you work out, you’d be much better off reaching for an actual food source of your protein.
Many of the popular ingredients in protein powders (such as whey, casein, and soy) are all available as real foods, anyway. If you’re looking for the best proteins to consume after a workout, these four proteins can help you grow strong, healthy muscles.
Dairy tends to be a little bit of a catch-all for protein. That said, it shouldn’t be overlooked as an incredible source of complete proteins. Both casein and whey are considered great sources of protein. While some people may prefer one over the other, they’re both proven to have amazing muscle-synthesis benefits after a strenuous workout.
Enjoying a glass of milk after you exercise can absolutely be beneficial, but if the thought of chugging it after you work out makes you queasy, you also have other options. You can also reach for some cottage cheese post-workout. Try mixing it with diced tomatoes and fresh cracked black pepper for a filling, savory meal. Or, if you want something slightly sweet, a portion of low-fat Greek yogurt with fresh berries, almonds, and a touch of honey is also a great option!
Bodybuilders and fitness buffs swear by chicken, and for a good reason. Chicken is an incredible source of lean protein, which means that it’ll help you get the gains you want in the gym… without adding on unwanted body fat! Chicken is also a complete protein, holds a myriad of reported health benefits, and has a whopping 26g of protein per four-ounce serving.
You can serve your chicken breast over a bed of brown rice with some steamed broccoli or spinach (both of which are high in antioxidants) to maximize your health benefits from this highly versatile protein!
Fish isn’t just an impressive source of lean protein. It’s also high in omega-3 fatty acids, too. Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important for your health, for a number of reasons. For starters, they have been shown to help promote muscle synthesis after a workout. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish have also been shown to reduce inflammation. That means you can recover much faster from a strenuous workout.
Incorporating fish into your post-workout diet is a breeze. Try it mashed with some avocado on whole-grain toast. Or try some baked salmon on barley with sautéed kale. Not only is it very good for you, but it’s also delicious, too!
One of the best proteins that you can eat post-workout is not only extremely good for you, but it’s also both omnivore and vegan-friendly! Soy proteins are an excellent choice for post-exercise consumption. As a very low-fat source of protein, it can give you all of the essential amino acids you need. It’s also highly anti-inflammatory, which means you’ll bounce back from a serious workout in no time!
If you’re looking to increase your soy consumption after a workout, then there are a few ways you can do this. A simple stir-fry with tofu is a great way to get a filling and healthy soy-rich meal after you work out.
Soy yogurt is also a fantastic option, especially for those with a dairy allergy. Try it with a little bit of granola and sliced fruit for a protein-packed, yummy treat after you’re done exercising!
Staying Strong and Lean:
If you want a lean and attractive physique, and you’re already eating a healthy diet, then you need to do just two more things. One, you need to exercise. Many people swear by strength-training, but you can also get a slim and healthy build through regular cardiovascular exercise, too.
Two, you need to refuel your body with the right proteins after you work out, too. Experts suggest that you consume up to 35 grams (give or take, depending on your weight) of readily bioavailable protein after your workout. While protein powers can do in a pinch, you should always reach for nutritious whole foods first. Not only are they better for you in general, but they're also great after a workout, too.
By making sure you exercise regularly, and you fuel your body after you're done working out, you can ultimately have the strong and healthy body you desire!