Adding protein to your diet is a challenge for any brooding lifter. Everyone wants more recovery, muscle, and/or performance out of their workouts. Yes, the long-time, reliable sources of chicken, fish, and beef should be staples, but what about adding some variety, alternative, and convenient options?
Some of these protein sources may be extremely familiar, while others could be new to your palate. Below is a short list of a few foods that are quick, convenient, and effective when it comes to adding protein to any meal at any time. Hopefully this will help you avoid the drudgery of forcing another dry chicken breast down your gullet, and breathe a little life into your daily protein menu.
1. Chia Seeds
Mostly described as tasteless but with a slightly nutty texture, chia seeds contain a whopping eight grams of protein per two ounces. Additionally, they are high in fiber and contain fat from the healthy category. Since they boast no strong flavor, they can be added to virtually any food to instantly add to the benefits of muscle building and faster recovery.
Add this protein-dense superfood to Greek yogurt, oatmeal, salads, on top of chicken, lean ground beef, or fish. Chia seeds are a beneficial fiber choice for those who wish to decrease calorie consumption for dieting and/or health purposes.
2. Cottage Cheese
Now, before you stop reading and shout “no duh,” hear me out. Sometimes certain foods are forgotten about, regardless of their high impact on muscle-building or performance recovery needs. I believe cottage cheese has taken a backseat to other alternative forms of protein. Aside from its high protein ranking of 25 grams per cup and a healthy dose of vitamin D, cottage cheese contains the ever-sought-after casein protein; the type of slow-digesting protein needed for a steady flow of amino acids into the bloodstream to help with long-term recovery.
Top off whole wheat pasta, combine with fruit, add to whole wheat pancakes and waffles, or just simply eat it plain as a late night snack with a handful of nuts, and you’ll instantly add this powerful, slow-digesting protein to your daily regimen.
Mostly looked upon as a fiber superfood, beans aren’t just for vegans. Yes, they are integral in the construction of complete proteins when combined with other foods, but they also boast high protein content by themselves. On that note, some combinations, such as with rice, can be very effective toward recovery without ever touching a piece of meat.
Pinto, garbanzo, black, and red beans all hover around the 20 grams of protein per half cup. Add them to salads, rice plates, pasta, or simply as a solo dish. Additionally, the identity of beans as a high-fiber food enables slower digestion, a healthier metabolism, and a more stable energy output.
4. Whey Protein
After you are done rolling your eyes at this one, have an open mind when it comes to supplementing your protein needs with, well, a supplement. Not only is this a convenient way to boost your amino acid needs, it also provides a superior complete protein. An average serving of one scoop provided by the manufacturer gives you around 20 to 25 grams of quality, fast-acting protein.
Whey protein can be added to many healthy foods such as oatmeal, whole wheat pancakes, homemade smoothie concoctions, and other simple foods that need a shot of protein, and possibly a little more flavor. A small word of caution: be sure to start with unflavored whey, or go with simple flavors such as chocolate or vanilla, to be sure you aren’t competing with a flavor already included in the food.
As the ultimate convenience food, nuts are one of the most versatile and nutritious foods around. Normally looked at for their healthy fat properties, nuts are also packed with muscle-building protein that can provide up to 6 grams per ounce—not bad for about a handful-size.
Not only can you have them as a snack by themselves, nuts can also be added to many foods to boost their muscle punch. Add them into oatmeal, top salads, encrust on fish, and blend in smoothies or yogurt. Almonds, peanuts, walnuts, and pistachios are a few of the more common, healthy options.
6. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt, although seen as yet another obvious option, is highly versatile when it comes to adding protein grams and flavor. It also can be a healthy alternative to more fatty, high-calorie foods. Many name brand options can contain anywhere from 12 to 16 grams per cup, all the while providing you with critical active cultures to aid digestion and create a better gut environment.
Add either plain or vanilla Greek yogurt to smoothies, top with fruit, blend into healthy alternative salad dressings, and even mix with oatmeal. Again, be privy to the flavor of the yogurt to make sure it compliments the food you are adding to.
What’s a protein list without mention of the edible egg? Slated as a perfect protein food, a single whole egg contains around six grams of protein and a host of other nutrients. They’re also a convenient food when low carbohydrate intake is in order. Easy to prep, and even easier to eat, eggs are a perfect and portable addition to any diet.
Chop up some hardboiled eggs over a salad, add to rice, or scramble with peppers, onions, spinach, or serve on a sandwich with avocado. Also, don’t think eggs are only a breakfast food. The classic steak and eggs dish, served with plenty of vegetables, can become a new go-to protein powerhouse meal at any time.
Protein Doesn’t Have to Be Boring
Adding protein into your diet doesn’t have to mean just adding more of the same. Mixing sources with already established protein meals is an easy and tasty way to bring more variety and punch to your sometimes boring protein fare.