Muscles need protein to grow – and plenty of it. If you want to maintain muscle, add muscle size, and support your workouts in the gym, you need to be eating at least 1 to 1.5 g of protein per pound of body weight. Getting that much protein every day – while still keeping it interesting – can be a challenge. Which means you’ll need some protein ideas other than grilled chicken and egg whites.
Here are 8 alternative protein picks to keep things interesting and help you keep up your daily protein intake to keep those gains coming.
PROTEIN PICK #1: Peanut Butter
Peanut butter may be at the top of your favorite foods list already, but it’s more likely that you are using it as a source of fats, not protein. In fact, peanut butter is a great source of protein – two tablespoons delivers 8 g of protein, 6 g of carbs, and 16 g of fat. It’s also packed with potassium, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, niacin, folate and vitamin E. Peanut butter can be added to smoothies, whipped into your oatmeal or yogurt, or used to top your rice cakes. If you’re tired of peanut butter or need a quick fix on the road, peanuts are a great alternative – throw them on salads, or have them on their own.
PROTEIN PICK #2: Greek Yogurt
Non-fat Greek yogurt is yogurt that has been strained removing the whey, leaving only the casein protein – which means this thick, rich and creamy yogurt is packed with slow-digesting protein. Just one small container provides 17 g of protein per serving. Eat it plain, or bump up the protein content by adding a scoop of your favorite protein powder. Since Greek Yogurt is slow digesting, it is perfect as a nighttime snack, or even a breakfast option to fight off hunger pangs before lunch.
PROTEIN PICK #3: Pumpkin Seeds
These fall-time favorites can boost your protein intake easily. Each tablespoon delivers 5 g of protein and 126 calories. These rich, nutty seeds can be added to granola, protein pancakes, oatmeal, or blended into a shake. You can also add them to sautéed mixed vegetables, or toss them into a salad. Pumpkin seeds are also high in zinc, a mineral that is involved in hormone production including testosterone.
PROTEIN PICK #4: Quinoa
Tired of rice and oatmeal? Use quinoa 76instead. Quinoa has higher protein content than either of the first two, more traditional options, and can be used as either a breakfast cereal or a dinner side dish. Each 1-cup serving provides 8 g of protein, 40 g of complex carbs and 5 g of fiber. Cook red or white quinoa the same way you would cook rice. Mix in your favorite veggies to great a pilaf, or use in replace of oatmeal and create a breakfast bowl with dried fruit, nuts, cinnamon and berries.
PROTEIN PICK #5: Cottage Cheese
This salty curd protein provides 23 g of protein in a 1-cup serving. Just like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese is also loaded with slow-digesting protein. Cottage cheese can be blended into recipes to bump up the protein content in tasty options like protein pancakes, eaten with a slice of pineapple, or used as the base of your protein smoothies.
PROTEIN PICK #6: Kale
You probably weren’t expecting any vegetables on this list, right? Kale is not only a higher-protein veggie, its also full of antioxidants and anti-estrogen compound DIM. Just 1 cup of Kale provides 4 g of protein, and less than 70 calories. Kale delivers vitamin A, C, and K. Use Kale in green smoothies, eat it raw in salads, or sautée it with other veggies.
PROTEIN PICK #7: Chia Seeds
These protein-rich seeds are water soluble and form a gelatinous substance that adds thickness and texture to liquids – like water, yogurt or smoothies. Just a single tablespoon delivers 5 g of protein, and 7 g of polyunsaturated fat. Add them to oatmeal, your favorite beverages or protein shakes.
PROTEIN PICK #8: Protein Powder
Perhaps the easiest and most convenient source of protein, powders can easily supplement 20 to 30 g of protein to your diet quickly and easily. These days you are not limited to just one type of dairy protein either. Choose blended whey proteins, natural sources that have no added sugars, or a vegan source such as pea, brown rice or hemp protein.