Every serious minded fitness enthusiast knows that they key to building muscles is protein. Whether you’ve been pumping iron, taking a spin on a recumbent bike, or doing a few sets on the rowing machine, the quickest way to maximize your gains is with a good diet packed with protein-rich foods. While many choose to take some kind of protein supplements to achieve this, maybe that’s not really your thing. That doesn’t mean you’ll be left in the dust, though. Here’s a few simple tips on how to get your protein without any powders, pills, or supplemental vitamins.
Busting the 30 Minute Myth
The oft-cited idea that you absolutely need to eat protein 30, 45, or 60 minutes after a workout is what many athletes believe, but there being three competing time frames for this should start to make you suspect already. The fact of the matter is there’s no real evidence to support this claim or others like it. The “window of opportunity” myth relies on a lot of complicated science that people misrepresent that you can read more about if you’re interested, but the long and short of it is that there’s far more evidence to support pre-workout protein helping you build muscle more than post-workout.
While it is good to eat following an intense workout if for no other reason than to help replenish nutrients and water lost, it won’t be detrimental to your overall progress if you can’t make that 30 minute mark. To use an analogy, it’s more like a cushioned toilet seat – nice to have but ultimately not something you need.
Getting Post-Workout Protein
Now that we’ve cleared that up, we’ll move on to what you can actually do to help get protein following a workout without the use of any supplements.
For those who don’t really feel like cooking an entire meal immediately after they’ve just hit the gym (so, most of us), there are plenty of ways you can introduce protein into your body with little to no effort. Having a healthy snack after a shower is one such way. Fruits like bananas, apricots, and raisins are packed with protein and other beneficial nutrients, including carbohydrates. Nuts, too, are loaded with all kinds of good stuff with a salty crunch for anyone not too keen on sweet stuff. Juicing or making a smoothie to take with you ahead of time can also be a refreshing option.
As far as an actual meal is concerned, though, you need to be careful to balance all your nutrition and not just account for protein. A diet high in protein and nothing else is no more healthy than one entirely made up of ice cream and beer. Maybe a little healthier, but you get the point. Properly balancing your diet, either on your own or with the help of a nutritionist, is the key to getting the most out of your food and your workout.
When selecting which high-protein foods to eat following a workout, though, look for things low in fat. Lean meats like chicken, egg whites, tuna, and low fat milk are all good choices to incorporate into the things you eat. Leafy green vegetables have high protein contents, too, as well as iron and other vitamins. Long grain white rice (raw or cooked) is a great source of protein, too, plus carbs for energy and a good amount of fiber. Being health conscious is no reason to skimp on variety, after all.
Putting It to the Test
Now that you’ve got a decent idea of what you can do to help load up on protein after a workout, it’s time to put these tips to the test. Bring healthy snacks with you to the gym like bananas, nuts, yogurt, or fresh juices to help revitalize after a set. When making a proper meal for yourself in the aftermath, try to incorporate lean proteins and a variety of other vitamin-rich foods like leafy greens, rice, and low fat dairy products to get the most out of your gains. And don’t sweat the 30 minute mark too much. You should see results pretty quickly.