Whether you’re an elite athlete or a recreational weekend warrior, fueling your body will help you with optimal performance. Protein plays a critical role in muscle repair and recovery, making it essential for active folks. These 13 high protein snacks for athletes are great options for both at home and on-the-go, and will help support your fitness goals.
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1. Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt is a powerhouse of protein, providing around 12 to 16 grams in the 5.3-ounce single serving cups. Or course, you can also buy larger quarts of Greek yogurt, and portion out the amount that works best for your body.
Feel free to purchase lower-added-sugar varieties of flavored yogurts (like Siggi’s or Two Good), or you can purchase plain Greek yogurt and mix in your own fruit, sweetener, and any other toppings you prefer.
My favorite trick for making plain Greek yogurt taste good is to take a bunch of frozen berries, defrost them in the microwave so they start to release juices, then swirl in plain Greek yogurt. It’s a nice way to add flavor without added sugar. Plus, mixing berries with yogurt provides both the protein as well as antioxidants.
2. Hardboiled eggs
For a great meal prep snack, try making a big batch of hardboiled eggs that you can pull from the fridge throughout the week. Each large egg contains 6 grams of protein, while two eggs will clock in at 12 grams – and they provide essential nutrients like choline and Vitamin D.
Plus, these are one of the most affordable high protein snacks out there. If you estimate a dozen eggs at $3, you’re looking at just 25 cents per egg.
You can eat ‘em plain, pair them with some veggies (I like them alongside cherry tomatoes), or whip up some quick deviled eggs. I’ll often make a single-serve batch of deviled eggs by cooking two eggs, then mixing the yolks with plain Greek yogurt, mustard, pickle relish, paprika, salt, and pepper. Yum!
3. Beef Jerky or Beef Sticks
This is one of the best on-the-go options! Jerky and beef sticks are portable, shelf-stable, and perfect to throw in your gym bag or purse for when hunger strikes.
The exact amount of protein varies based on the brand, flavor, and type, but an ounce of jerky will usually provide 9-10 grams of protein, and a stick is usually around 5-9 grams.
A few great options that you can get from the store include:
- Tillamook Country Smoker Zero Sugar Beef Jerky
- Krave Chili Lime Jerky
- Chomp’s Original Beef Sticks
- Vermont Smoke & Cure Original Beef & Pork Stick
Or, try your hand at making your own beef jerky. It’s a fun weekend project you can do using an oven set to a low temp (no dehydrator needed).
4. Protein bars (store-bought or homemade)
There is no one “right” type of protein bar; the best choice for you depends on your particular fitness goals and health conditions. For example, an athlete doing heavy lifting or endurance training may want a protein bar that also contains substantial carbohydrates, while someone attempting to get into a lower weight class in a particular sport might want fewer carbohydrates in that bar.
In general, look for bars that contain at least 10 grams of protein; more if you’re using it post-workout. Choose protein options that align with any dietary needs (for example, if you’re vegan, you’d skip over any made with weigh protein).
You can also make delicious homemade peanut butter protein bars for everyday snacking by using this easy 4-ingredient recipe:
- 1 cup natural peanut butter
- ⅓ cup honey
- ⅔ cup vanilla whey or plant-based protein powder
- ¼ cup chocolate chips
Stir together all the ingredients, press into an 8×8 pan, and refrigerate for several hours. Cut into ten bars or squares and enjoy! Each bar or square will have 10 grams of protein.
Smoothies are an awesome way to add some protein to your day, especially after a workout. You can make them into a mini-meal or a hearty snack. You can get creative with the ingredients based on what you have on hand; the key is remembering to add at least one good protein source to the mix.
Here are some examples of protein sources that can be blended in your smoothie. If you’re using some of the options with less grams of protein, you can combine a few to reach the number of grams you’d like:
- Whey protein powder – Approximately 26 grams per scoop (amount will vary based on brand; I use NOW Whey Protein; they’re a client of mine)
- Plant-based protein powder – Approximately 22 grams per scoop (amount will vary based on brand; I use NOW Plant Protein Complex)
- Plain Greek yogurt – Approximately 11-12 grams per ½ cup (will vary based on brand)
- Milk – 8 grams per cup
- Peanut butter – 8 grams per 2 tablespoons
- Part-skim ricotta cheese – 7 grams in ¼ cup
- Almond butter – 7 grams per 2 tablespoons
- Silken tofu – 5.5 grams in 4 oz
The standard formula I use for smoothies is fruit + veggies + liquid + extras + protein. You’ve got your protein sources above; here are some examples from the other categories that might get the wheels turning about flavor combos:
- Fruit (generally frozen) – bananas (recommend for creaminess; if not using a banana try frozen avocado or adding nut butters for creaminess), raspberries, strawberries, mango, pineapple, peaches, cherries, etc.
- Veggies – cauliflower, kale, carrots, zucchini, spinach, beets, cucumber, etc.
- Liquid – milk, tart cherry juice, almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk, soy milk, coconut water, pomegranate juice, orange juice, water, etc.
- Extras – nuts, oats, chia seeds, chocolate chips, ground flaxseed, honey, cinnamon, fresh ginger, turmeric
Edamame are whole, immature soybeans that are still in their pods. You can either purchase them frozen and cook them, or you can purchase dried edamame snack packs. The former is great for snacking at home, while the latter is much better for an on-the-go option.
The protein content will vary based on the form. One cup of boiled and shelled edamame pods clocks in at around 18 grams of protein. If you buy a crunchy snack pack, those will generally pack in about 10-14 grams of protein, depending on the brand and size.
Here are a few dried snack pack options:
- The Only Bean Crunchy Dry Roasted Edamame, Sea Salt, Buffalo, and Sriracha Flavors
- Sincerely Nuts Dried Salted Edamame
- Seapoint Farms, Dry Roasted Edamame, Sea Salt Flavor
7. Protein Coffee
If you need a mid-morning pick-me-up, protein coffee is a great way to get your caffeine fix and a little extra protein.
Simply mix 12 ounces of black cold brew coffee with ½ scoop of chocolate whey protein powder (I use NOW’s Chocolate Whey). Shake well, and add any milk or cream if desired (I don’t add these; the chocolate whey protein gives enough sweetness for me).
The result is a delicious drink that packs in 12 grams of protein!
8. Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is another excellent source of high-quality protein, with a 1 cup serving of lowfat (2% milk) cottage cheese providing a whopping 27 grams of protein. It is particularly rich in leucine, an amino acid that is essential for building muscle mass.
Because cottage cheese is also rich in casein (a particular type of milk protein), it may be useful as a bedtime snack. Casein is absorbed more slowly than whey, so having that release of protein throughout the night may be beneficial for some athletes.
You can make an easy balanced snack by pairing cottage cheese with fresh fruits like pineapple, peaches, or strawberries. You can also use cottage cheese to make other snack options, like cottage cheese cookie dough (12 grams of protein per serving; a great dessert!) or cottage cheese bagels (11 grams of protein each).
9. Tuna pouches
Tuna pouches are a great on-the-go option (no can opener necessary!), and they’re shelf-stable so you can keep them in a gym bag or purse. Most pouches are around 2 to 3 ounces, and pack in around 15-23 grams of protein each (depending on the size and flavor).
Here are some great options for athletes:
- Safe Catch Elite Citrus Pepper Tuna (18 grams protein; this is a great option for pregnant or youth athletes, as they test to ensure low mercury levels)
- StarKist Tuna Creations Bold Buffalo (15 grams protein)
- Bumble Bee Spicy Thai Chili Tuna (15 grams protein)
- StarKist Yellowfin Tuna in EVOO (18 grams protein)
- Blue Harbor Tuna in Water with Sea Salt (23 grams protein)
You can eat it right out of the pouch, or you can pair it with some pita bread or whole grain crackers for a snack with both carbs and protein.
10. Roasted chickpeas
For a great plant-based high protein snack, consider roasted chickpeas. In addition to the protein, they provide fiber and complex carbohydrates too, making them an ideal snack to keep you full and support digestive health (so more of an option for everyday snacking rather than immediately post-workout).
You can buy snack packs of roasted chickpeas online or at most grocery stores. Here are a few favorite options:
- Biena Sea Salt Individual Serving Chickpea Snacks (8 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber per serving)
- The Good Bean Single Serve Sweet Sriracha Crunchy Chickpeas (8 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber per serving)
- Saffron Road Bombay Spice Crunchy Chickpeas (6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per ¼ cup)
You can also make roasted chickpeas yourself. A half cup of canned chickpeas (made into your own roasted snack) provides about 6 grams of protein.
Roasting your own chickpeas is easy. Drain the chickpeas and place ‘em on a baking sheet. Roast them at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes in the oven. Then toss them in olive oil and your favorite seasonings, and roast them again for another 15-20 minutes. Let them cool on the baking sheet for a while so they finish crisping up.
You can do savory versions with spices like salt, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne, or you can do sweet versions with cinnamon and brown sugar.
11. Higher-protein oatmeal packets
Oatmeal packets are a great cozy, winter snack option for athletes! Look for higher protein oatmeal packets that contain at least 10 grams of protein per serving. They’re super convenient to keep on hand at work, in hotel rooms, or on airplanes (pro tip, you can ask for hot water for tea to mix with them on a plane).
Here are some great options:
- Kodiak Cakes Instant Protein Maple & Brown Sugar Oatmeal in a Cup (14 grams of protein each)
- Quaker Cranberry Almond Protein Instant Oatmeal (10 grams of protein in a packet)
You can also make your own homemade “oatmeal packets” by portioning out rolled oats with protein powder and your favorite add-ins in zip-top bags, then using those for snacks.
12. Wilde Protein Chips
These are a more expensive option, but if you’ve got some extra cash lying around and want to try a new snack – give these a whirl! These are protein chips made from chicken and egg whites (among other ingredients), and each serving contains 10 grams of protein. They have a slight chicken flavor to them, but the salt and vinegar option masks that the best and honestly tastes great.
The only downside is really the cost; they clock in at about $5 per bag and each bag only has two servings.
13. Protein-Packed PB&B
When athletes need more protein and more calories in the day, this is one of my favorite snack options to recommend.
You’ll start with two slices of hearty higher-protein bread – my favorite is Dave’s Killer Bread Good Seed Bread, which packs in 5 grams of protein per slice.
Then slather on 2 tablespoons of peanut butter and 1 sliced banana. (If extra calories are needed, you can drizzle on honey too).
That sandwich will pack in 19 grams of protein, and is usually a favorite among athletes both young and old.
Why should athletes eat protein in snacks?
Now that you’ve got your list of snacks, you might be wondering – why should you include protein in them? While most people do get a good amount of protein each day, it’s often backloaded at dinner. In other words, many people eat little at breakfast, some at lunch, and most at dinner.
Instead, research shows it’s best to space protein intake more evenly throughout the day. In fact, a recent study found that dividing protein more evenly throughout the day resulted in a 25% higher rate of mixed muscle protein fractional synthesis.
The Bottom Line
Eating high protein snacks can help athletes support muscle repair and recovery, as well as building more muscle. Eating protein throughout the day is likely to be better for performance compared to eating it mainly at dinner. However, you don’t have to worry about making every single snack a high protein option – there’s room for flexibility and other choices sometimes too!
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