Most athletes know how important protein is for both building and maintaining strength. But you might be surprised to know that having healthy bones and getting sufficient sleep are key to strength and recovery, too. Here’s how to put it all together.

Protein’s many functions

  1. Body IN THE BODY

    Protein does a lot, but is best known for being a key nutrient for recovery. Exercise breaks down muscle and body tissues, stressing the system to rebuild before the next bout of training. Cue the protein!

  2. Food IN FOOD

    Protein-rich foods are made up of amino acids, small building blocks that help the body maintain health and performance.

  3. Icon recovery coloured IN COMPETITION

    Your body prefers to run on carbohydrates during exercise. It can be forced to use protein if necessary, but that leaves less protein to do its best job: recovery and repair. Eat enough carbs and fat so that protein can do its work to rebuild your body!

The big 3: Quality, Timing, Taste


1. Quality

Some proteins will react faster and have greater impact on your recovery than others. Different types of protein contain different packages of amino acids. Aim to include a variety of protein-rich foods throughout the day.

    • Dairy foods including milk, yogurt and cottage cheese
    • Beef
    • Poultry
    • Eggs
    • Fish
    • Soy
    • Quinoa
    • Nuts
    • Beans
    • Lentils
    • Whole grains
    • Seeds
Milk white

Did you know that dairy is a high-performance protein?

Dairy foods contain all of the amino acids needed for health and performance. A single serving of yogurt or milk is a great way to add quality protein to your day.

2. Timing

Experts agree that athletes should include protein-rich foods throughout the day. Start with breakfast! Don't miss this high-performing opportunity.

Aim to have high-quality protein in 4 to 5 doses spread throughout the day. Ideally, one of these “doses” would be within 30 minutes following a workout. An athlete’s day might look something like this:

    • 8:00 a.m. breakfast: 6 oz Greek yogurt, berries, granola and nuts (27g)
    • 10:00 a.m. snack: Orange and string cheese
    • 12:30 p.m. lunch: Turkey sandwich on whole wheat with veggies, cheese and avocado, pita chips and hummus on the side
    • 3:00 p.m. pre-workout snack: Banana and nut butter packet
    • 4:30 p.m. post-workout refuel: 12 oz chocolate milk
    • 6:30 p.m. dinner: 1 cup pasta with red sauce, 4 oz chicken breast and parmesan with a side of steamed veggies

3. Taste

It is best to focus on real food sources of protein and save powders, bars and other supplements for when you really need them.

Find ways to enjoy protein in lots of different forms. Here is some inspiration:

    • Make a high-protein smoothie with fruit, spinach, milk, yogurt and ice
    • Add shredded cheese to soup or salad
    • Mix beans into a favorite grain side-dish
    • Add nuts and seeds to oatmeal
    • Use Greek yogurt as an ingredient in baked goods
    • Bring boiled eggs or string cheese for a protein-packed snack
    • Prep a batch of tuna or chicken salad to eat with crackers or throw in a wrap

On the Run?

Try these high-protein grab ‘n go snacks and drinks:

    • Cottage cheese and fruit
    • Tuna sandwich with tomato
    • Jerky and grapes
    • Chicken/turkey and cream cheese tortilla roll-ups
    • Nut butter and apple
    • Steamed edamame
    • 8 to 12 oz white or chocolate milk
    • Whey protein & milk in a shaker bottle, or whey in a smoothie
    • Bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese
    • Yogurt and berries with granola
    • Boiled eggs and baby carrots
    • Cheese and fruit kabobs

Sports Nutrition Protein

Download Protein Handout

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