Best Protein Foods for Optimal Recovery

If you’re working out to create a leaner, stronger physique, you need the best protein foods to get there.

Strive to get 1 gram protein per pound of lean body mass (or your goal weight) each day and  15 to 25 grams of high-quality protein at your meals as well as after working out.  While there is no specific “window of opportunity” within the first few hours post-workout to hasten recovery with food, research does show that eating protein at each meal and including protein in your between-meal snacks may enhance strength gains.

Here are five great protein-rich choices to help you build the body of your dreams!

Greek yogurtNonfat or Lowfat Greek Yogurt (8 oz)—24 grams protein

Greek yogurt is a must-have in most athletes’ diets because it provides more protein per calorie than most other foods.

In addition, it provides a combination of casein and whey protein, and because most of the lactose in yogurt is removed, it’s still a viable option for most people who are lactose intolerant.

Flavored varieties of Greek yogurt contain more carbs per serving (from added sugars), so stick with plain or vanilla, and add berries or other fruit to get more antioxidant-rich, lower-calorie carbohydrate sources.

For ideas of what to do and how to cook with Greek yogurt, check out our 10 tips.

chocolate milkLow-fat Chocolate Milk (8 oz) — 8 grams protein

It’s great because it provides a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein so it helps to replace muscle and liver glycogen (stored carbohydrate sources) as well as provide the essential amino acids your muscles need. Research shows that chocolate milk is as good as sports beverages in enhancing recovery among endurance athletes. An 8-ounce serving provides about 8 grams of protein so studies show improvements in recovery with about 20-25 ounces of chocolate milk enjoyed post-exercise.  It also provides a blend of both whey and casein proteins which may provide advantages to products that are a single-source of protein.

cottage cheeseCottage Cheese (8 oz) — 28 grams protein

Nonfat cottage cheese packs in more protein per calorie than virtually any other food, making it a great option for athletes concerned about weight or trying to lean out for a competition. In addition, is one of the most naturally rich sources of the muscle-building amino acid, leucine. For example, a cup of cottage cheese packs in 2.9 grams leucine compared to 1.4 grams in yogurt and .3 grams in an egg. The essential amino acid is considered the “limiting” factor for muscle gains and it’s why many protein supplements contain added leucine.

brown eggsEggs (1 large)—6 grams protein

As the gold standard for protein, eggs are on the must-eat list of most amateur and professional athletes.  A medium egg has just over 6 grams of protein of the highest biological value (read: complete with all amino acids in the most digestible form), and they also contain 13 other vitamins and minerals—virtually everything you need minus vitamin C.  Here are great protein-packed ways to enjoy eggs: Baked Eggs in Canadian Bacon and Protein Pancakes.

pistachiosPistachios (1 oz/49 pistachios)—6 grams protein

They’re a nutritious on-the-go-recovery choice because they don’t require any refrigeration, unlike most other protein-rich foods. Pistachios also provide antioxidants that may speed up recovery as well as potassium and sodium, two electrolytes lost in sweat. A serving of roasted and salted pistachios has 310 mg potassium and 160 mg sodium compared to 35 mg potassium and 95 mg sodium in popular sports drinks.



Leave a Reply