There's more to losing weight than just working out. And while you should be proud of yourself every time you leave the gym or roll up your yoga mat, the work doesn't stop as soon as your exercise does. We hate to break it to you, but if you're not putting just as much thought into your post-workout eats, you might be wasting your time.
So pack on the protein! There's no better way to recover after a sweat sesh and preserve muscle mass, and on top of that, a protein-rich diet can increase both your calorie burn and your satiety. But make sure you're not ingesting too much or too little. We tapped Jim White, RD, ACSM, and owner of Jim White Fitness Nutrition Studios, to tell us just how much protein you need after a workout.
When you hit the grocery store with his magic number in mind, don't forget that all proteins aren't created equal. Look out for best proteins for weight loss as you shop for your post-pump food.
How Much You Need
Just ripping open a protein bar or spooning out some Greek yogurt isn't going to cut it if you want to get cut. According to White, you need to pile on at least 20 grams of protein after a workout, but you've got to watch that number carefully because it's easy to go overboard. That's why White caps optimum protein intake at 30 grams — any more, and your body may start unraveling all the reps you just did, storing the protein as excess fat.
Don't let that scare you away from including protein-rich foods in the rest of your meals; 20-30 grams is just a fraction of how much protein to eat a day for weight loss. So if you're ingesting the right amount of protein after exercising, make sure you incorporate other protein-rich foods throughout the rest of your snacks and meals to hit your daily goal.
How To Get It
20-30 grams may sound like a lot, but incorporating that much into your diet is easy — especially compared to the workout you finished right before. There are endless options to get you there, so feel free to switch things up each time you step off the treadmill.
One way to get your protein is in liquid form. You can knock out 8 grams with just one low-fat chocolate milk from Horizon, and if you've got time to make a protein-rich smoothie, you can whip one up with Aloha chocolate protein powder, peanut butter, and frozen bananas. The powder packs 18 grams of protein alone!
When it comes to eating your protein, the numbers will quickly add up if you combine any of these quick and easy choices. A 3-ounce can of StarKist tuna has 16 grams of protein, string cheese ranges from 5-10 grams, and a hard-boiled egg is usually 6. Greek yogurt, beef jerky, and granola bars are high in protein as well. Enjoying just one of these snacks with a shake will help you reach that 20-30 range. If you're overwhelmed by all of the protein powders at the store, don't worry. We tested 10 protein powders and this is the best.