Protein shakes are a means to an end.
After a particularly gruelling workout, where you’ve barely been able to crawl into the sheds, the last thing you want to do is rustle up a #cleaneating-packed plate of food. So, like the majority of us, you drop in a scoop of powder, shake it up, and away you go. Easy.
But, is it the best thing for your muscles?
Are you giving your body enough protein? For those who work out to eat (and, conversely, eat to work out), the best part of a regular gym routine is the post-workout hunger that comes with it, so it pays to do it right.
Here, we digests the five foods that out-perform your protein shake – in taste and in numbers.
Alongside their sweeter cousins, potatoes are the real MVP of muscle food. Just one potato packs a cool 10% of your protein RDA – that could be up to 8g of protein per potato. Double up for the perfect partner to your shake. Throw a tin of tuna on top for a 25g hit of protein, or – for a dose of healthy fats – a scoop of cottage cheese, topped with a splash of chilli sauce.
Tuna rules when it comes to seafood – the cream of the crop. When endless Tupperware-housed chicken breasts get boring (trust us, they will), tuna is there to save the day.
A single 160g tin of tuna contains around 25g of protein a hit. Serve with a boiled egg and you’ll be nearing 30g. What’s more, tuna can help reduce blood pressure and any associated risk of heart disease, while the omega-3 content boosts your immune system and energy levels.
A muscle-fuel must-have.
Think you can’t enjoy a sweet dessert when you’re training? Think again. 200g of greek yoghurt can pack up to 20g of protein, while the plain variety also contains a third of the sugar you’d find in flavoured types.
Throw in some blueberries for their cancer-busting properties and a dollop of peanut butter for even more muscle fuel.
If, quite rightly, you don’t particularly fancy chowing down on a handful of cold, hard-boiled eggs first thing in the morning, then oats are your likely savour.
Around 100g of oats contain 17g of protein, with half a cup of oats packing around 30g of carbs – the perfect pre-workout fuel. After a workout, it won’t quite match your turbo-gains-mega-muscle shake, but once you slop on a tablespoon of peanut butter and a handful of pistachios, you’ll be hitting your mid-twenties.
Rice is boring. Fact. Pasta is boring. Double fact. Quinoa, the hipster go-to, is anything but.
Not only will it bring a welcome change to your lunchtime palate — with a splash of chilli to fire-up your metabolism — it also offers far more protein (and significantly less sugar) than its carby cousins. A single serving of quinoa packs half of your protein RDA, so you can make your grains work for your gains.
A version of this story originally appeared on Menshealth.co.uk