Are you ready to take your workouts outdoors? For those of you who are lacing up your running shoes or taking your bikes out for a challenging ride, fueling your body for these activities requires consuming a combination of nutrient-rich foods and fluids. You may have heard that “carbing up” before, during, and after a workout with breads, pasta, and fruits can help maintain blood glucose levels, maximize performance, and improve recovery time. But protein—a key nutrient for growth and development—is also linked to exercise and athletic performance.
Protein is made up of 20 amino acids: your body creates 11 them, and you consume the other 9 “essential” ones through your diet. Muscles are mainly made of protein so when muscles get damaged after a hard workout, consuming foods or beverages with protein can repair them. Protein can also provide a small amount of fuel for exercise if needed; about 10%.
What type of protein is the best for exercise?
Muscles require all the essential amino acids, however consuming branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) can increase muscle growth, and reduce both muscle soreness after a workout and exercise-induced fatigue. Protein-rich foods that are high in BCAAs include meats, eggs, dairy products, and protein powders. Healthline provides a helpful chart that lists the amount of BCAAs in one serving of various protein options. If you consume enough protein in your diet, whey protein and BCAA supplements will not provide any additional benefits. Occasionally, I enjoy the Trader Joe’s chocolate and vanilla flavored whey protein supplements, which are great for adding to smoothies.
How much protein do you need per day?
The DRI (Dietary Reference Intake) for an average “non-athlete” person is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or .36 grams per pound. A person weighing 150 pounds, would require a minimum of 54 grams of protein each day. Gender, age, intensity, and amount of physical activity performed affects the amount of protein needed. You can use this Protein Calculator to determine the amount you need.
How much protein should you consume after a workout?
To help recovery, you should consume 20-30 grams of protein, along with carbs, after your workout. If you want a quick and delicious source of protein and carbs, try low-fat chocolate milk. A 16-ounce serving contains about 22 grams of protein—and twice as much carbohydrates as white milk, which helps tired muscles. And it tastes good!
You can also try one of these three post-workout combinations:
- A smoothie made with low-fat milk and your favorite fruit (bananas, peaches, berries)
- Turkey in a whole-grain wrap with veggies
- Greek yogurt with berries