There's no hangriness like post-workout hangriness. You know, the kind where you could house an entire pizza no problem.
If you really don't want your exercise efforts to go to waste or to suffer an energy crash later, it's important to refuel the right way—and that means lots of protein. While other nutrients are important for overall strength and wellness, registered dietitian Elizabeth Jarrard says the amino acids in protein can replenish muscles in a way that carbs, fats, and micronutrients can't on their own. Twenty to 30 grams of protein post workout is essential, she says.
Worried that means resorting to chicken and broccoli several nights a week? We're here to assure you there are so many other meals that can satisfy your high-protein requirements. From lean meat burgers to plant-based bowls, here are 20 power-packed, real food recipes for all your post-workout protein needs.
15 Grams of Protein or More
It's hard to improve on good guac, but the one thing we don't get in everyone's favorite dip is protein. This recipe makes it happen with the addition of black beans and tuna, and it takes guacamole from snack status to full-blown meal.
Protein per serving: 29 grams
If a formal recipe isn't giving you the protein you need, simply throw a bunch of protein-rich ingredients in a bowl and call it a meal. This recipe does that exceptionally well, using quality produce, tempeh, beans, nuts, and farro—yup, it's totally vegan!
Protein per serving: 26 grams
In Partnership With Boca
This colorful, veggie-filled dish packs 17 grams of protein thanks to Boca veggie ground crumbles and Colby and Monterey Jack cheeses. Even better: It takes just 15 minutes to prep and 30 minutes in the oven, so it's totally doable, even on a weeknight.
Protein per serving: 17 grams
Hemp hearts, two types of beans, and nutritional yeast deserve the credit for pushing these vegan enchiladas up to 21 grams of protein per serving without meat or cheese. Don't be intimidated by the homemade enchilada sauce here, either—along with the rest of the recipe, it's incredibly easy to put together and tastes super fresh.
Protein per serving: 21 grams
Egg whites are the quintessential post-workout food, but turkey bacon and shredded cheddar are what kick up the protein count to an impressive 23 grams. Throw in some veggies for some extra color, fiber, and flavor.
Protein per serving: 23 grams
30 Grams of Protein or More
These plant-based, portable protein powerhouses are ideal for a post-workout meal on the go. They freeze well, so make on a Sunday, and refueling after exercise will be a no-brainer all week.
Protein per serving: 32 grams
Quinoa is one of the most protein-heavy grain substitutes out there, so swapping it out for rice is a great way make your meal higher in protein. Add to that some tofu tossed in a peanut butter sauce, and you've taken care of most of your protein requirements for the day.
Protein per serving: 34 grams
Lentil, tempeh, and cheese might be an unusual combo, but they make an unbelievably delicious way to switch up your lettuce wrap fillings. Meaty and satisfying, a few of these power-packed parcels are just as good as regular chicken lettuce wraps.
Protein per serving: 35 grams
For a lower-carb alternative to pizza or pasta, scoop the watery seeds out of a zucchini and stuff with a mix of cheese, sauce, and chicken. The taste will satisfy any craving, while the protein will help refuel those sore muscles.
Protein per serving: 38 grams
Since it's packed with beans, chili is a great way to get a lot of protein at once. But if you're looking for extra nutrients, throw in some tempeh. The fermented, high-fiber soy provides volume and a chewy texture that tofu doesn't have, and it stands up well to the bold spices in the dish.
Protein per serving: 30 grams
40 Grams of Protein or More
If the idea of boiling uncooked lentils doesn't exactly have you jazzed, let the slow cooker do the work for you so you can still reap the protein-rich benefits. All you have to do is let them simmer for several hours with chicken and a citrus-herb green sauce. The recipe yields a big batch, so your post-exercise meals are covered for several days.
Protein per serving: 42 grams
Take care of that hangriness fast with this quick Thai-inspired recipe. A speedy sauté of veggies and beef, plus a low-sugar sauce and a small bunch of basil gives you fresh, fragrant flavors and a whopping 48 grams of protein.
Protein per serving: 48 grams
A cilantro-lime marinade takes the meat in this recipe above and beyond what your favorite fast food can deliver. Pair it with beans, sautéed veggies, and your favorite burrito bowl fixins, then serve over rice or greens. It's delicious either way.
Protein per serving: 41 grams
Animal and plant-based protein sources come together in this recipe to create a seriously substantial burger. Use canned lentils to cut down on cooking time and lean turkey to cut down on fat. All that protein (plus the carbs in the whole-wheat bun) will help replace those drained post-workout energy reserves.
Protein per serving: 40 grams
Despite the recipe's name, you don't actually need a slow cooker to make this dish. Thirty minutes in the oven will get the salmon flaky and tender, and it will absorb the garlicky juices from the greens and chickpeas. Don't just make this for a post-workout meal—we'd say it's tasty and beautiful enough to serve to company.
Protein per serving: 41 grams