By Nicole McPherson
Have you ever stopped and thought about how many protein shakes and bars you’ve consumed over the course of your bodybuilding career? Hundreds? Thousands? The number’s probably too high to even wrap your head around. For serious athletes wanting instant, high-quality protein, supplements just make sense. Still, like every bodybuilder, every once in a while you just want a snack that isn’t a shake or a bar, but that’s still high in protein. When it’s feeding time again and the only thought on your mind is having something hearty with a bit of extra flavor, try one of these eight high-protein snack ideas that’s either grab-and-go or can be ready in just minutes.
Variety is Key
The saying “change is a good thing” certainly applies to your nutrition plan. Varying your protein sources and bringing whole foods back into the mix are excellent ways to rev your metabolism and ensure you’re getting a full range of amino acids and other key nutrients needed for muscle growth.
“The truth is, we’re still discovering all of the chemicals and nutrients in our foods,” says Brad Pilon, author of Eat Stop Eat and How Much Protein? “So while protein supplements absolutely have their time and place in any bodybuilder’s diet, you just can’t beat the complexity of whole foods as staples in your meal plan.”
Protein Powerhouse: Soybeans
Why We Love ’Em
You may be more familiar with soy as a protein powder, but the actual whole beans (also called edamame) are an ideal snack option for bodybuilders. Soybeans contain the same protein quality as animal meats, with the full spectrum of essential amino acids, so they’re considered a complete protein source (according to the PDCAAS, or Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score). One cup of soybeans provides an impressive 33 grams of protein. These muscle-building legumes also contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and key minerals such as iron and magnesium.
In a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers demonstrated that soybeans elevate levels of nitric oxide in the body, which improves blood flow to muscles and transports oxygen, hormones and other nutrients necessary for growth.
Natural soy nut butter offers the same nutritional advantages, as it’s made from roasted soybeans. Just make sure you look for unprocessed versions without salt, sugar or other additives.
When to Eat ’Em
Soybeans are relatively high in fiber — containing about 11 grams per cup — so your best bet is to consume these snacks outside of the pre- and post-workout windows. For any other times of day, they make a handy on-the-go snack that’ll keep you satiated until your next meal.
Serve ’Em Up
Fresh soybeans can be found at most supermarkets and natural-food stores. To prepare, boil the whole pods (or shelled beans) in a large saucepan filled with water for 3–5 minutes. Drain and spread out on a baking pan to cool for a few minutes. Some grocery stores also sell precooked packages of edamame in the refrigerator or frozen food sections.