As a muscle-building nutrient, protein is important for recovery, especially for athletes. We wanted to learn more about how athletes can best use protein, so we spoke to Hive dietician Kelly Jones.
1. Don’t Count on Protein for Energy
Protein is a vital nutrient, but it does not provide a quick jolt of energy. Instead, it is part of the body’s repair and recovery process. Jones says, “Unlike carbohydrates, protein is not well-suited to being an immediate source of energy. And while the majority of Americans eat enough total daily protein to support their needs, adjusting timing of intake may be helpful to optimize performance,” says Jones.
2. High Quality Protein Matters
High quality protein sources help your body make the most out of the protein you consume. Cow’s milk is considered the highest-quality protein source for muscle repair. Whey protein is the easiest way to benefit from this source. Jones explains, “Whey protein, the milk protein most rich in leucine and known for quick-acting muscle repair, is the most widely used protein in sports nutrition products.”
Combining multiple protein sources can form quality proteins. Jones continues, “For those following vegetarian diets or looking for more diversity in their protein sources, soy protein has long been known as a high quality plant source, with pea protein emerging as a great option, too. Choosing high protein items such as beans or lentils and including a ‘complementary’ food, such as a high protein grain with nuts or seeds as a garnish, can increase the protein quality of the meal.”
3. Know When to Consume Protein
Your body best uses protein in the first 30 minutes after exercise. This window is critical for optimizing recovery. To meet this window, it often requires some dedicated effort to get high-quality protein soon after a workout.
Jones says, “It’s no secret that ingesting protein post-workout is important to begin the repair process. Still, some people miss their opportunity based on poor appetite, and others prioritize their intake after training so much that they take the emphasis off of intake the rest of the day.”
“To maximize muscle recovery, aim to eat at least 10 grams of high-quality protein within 30 minutes of completing exercise. Then, aim to eat a balanced meal within 2 hours.”
Honey Stinger Protein Waffles are a perfect option for post-workout recovery. They contain 10 grams of whey and pea protein and only 150 calories. The calories and protein save your appetite for a complete meal later on. The waffles are light and portable, allowing you to take your recovery with you, wherever your workouts take you.
4. Make Protein Work for You
Protein is the body’s natural building block for muscle and tissue. It matters for everyone from power lifters to endurance athletes to active individuals who use exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Jones concludes, “Honey Stinger Protein Waffles are a delicious post-workout snack after intense exercise to begin the muscle repair process before you’re able to eat a full meal. They can also be eaten as a snack before moderate to intense strength training workouts to provide energy, preserve muscle and prevent hunger.”
To learn more about how protein works in your body and the science behind how much you need, read Kelly Jones’ full article How to Use Protein to Optimize Athletic Performance.
Interview with Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, a consultant sports dietitian for Honey Stinger and owner of Kelly Jones Nutrition, a nutrition communications and sports nutrition business that serves athletes at every level from high school and collegiate to weekend warrior and pro.
** The information and suggestions written above are for general educational purposes only. It should not be considered individual medical nutrition therapy or advice. Always seek the advice of a physician before beginning any physical fitness activity program or a dietitian before implementing new nutrition practices.