Whether you're an athlete or just always on the go, you need energy to get through the day. And the best place to get that boost is not from some insanely sugary drink—it's from protein.
Even if you think you're getting enough protein throughout the day, you may be missing the mark if you're not getting the right protein in your diet. It's important to get all nine essential amino acids—the ones your body can't make on its own. Not every protein you consume must be a complete protein in its own right; that's a pretty common misconception. But if you focus on eating a variety of different proteins, you'll invariably get the complete protein you need, and have a lot more options.
Much attention is being paid lately to branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) for their ability to stimulate protein synthesis, build muscle and aid in recovery. There are plenty of complete proteins and BCAAs in red meat, dairy, eggs, and seafood such as tuna and salmon. The trouble with these animal-based options is that they contain high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol. Animal proteins can also be prohibitively expensive, time-consuming to prepare, and subject to short shelf lives, so there aren't many convenient on-the-go options. Not only that, they require a lot of resources to produce and have harmful ecological impacts.
So how do you maintain a healthy protein intake when you're constantly rushing out the door? It's actually simpler (and less expensive) than you might think.
Giving the Green Light to a Greener Source
Thankfully, plenty of options are available for convenient, protein-rich foods. The challenge is getting enough high-quality protein from both a nutritional and environmental standpoint.
The solution? Plant-based proteins.
From beans to nuts and grains, these options are both environmentally friendly and affordable. Some of the best and most convenient sources include:
- Peas: Pea protein is easily assimilated into the body, making it an efficient source of energy and a great way to build muscle. Peas contain a nearly complete protein rich in BCAAs. Just one cup of raw split peas contains a whopping 48 grams of protein.
- Lentils: Lentils are a great source of fiber and B vitamins, and one cup contains 18 grams of protein.
- Seeds: Just a quarter cup of seeds, such as chia, flax, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, contains 7 to 9 grams of protein. Hemp seeds are an especially good choice; they're complete proteins and contain omega-3 acids, fiber and antioxidants.
- Nuts: Nearly all types of nuts are nutritious, and just a quarter cup can provide up to 9 grams of protein.
- Quinoa: Along with sorghum, spelt and kamut, quinoa is a healthy source of plant-based protein, containing up to 8 grams per cup. Better yet, it's a complete protein with all the essential amino acids.
- Beans: Beans are a nutritional powerhouse. They include iron, magnesium, potassium and a wealth of other vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants. A cup contains up to 15 grams of protein. Just because you're on the go doesn't mean you can't be healthy. A combination of seeds, grains, lentils, nuts and protein bars will keep you powered up to tackle the day, lessen your environmental impact, and keep your wallet happy.
- 3 High-Protein Sources You're Missing
- 9 Foods You Didn't Know Have as Much Protein as Peanut Butter
- 20 Delicious Ways to Add Protein to Your Diet
- Why Protein Is Important for Athletes
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock