As an athlete, finding easy protein sources that work for you and your routine is a must. We all know that good nutrition makes the difference when it comes to our abilities on the field or in the weight room.
But eating the same things can get repetitive, and the body generally benefits from variety. For sure, we all need to hit our protein goals, but no-one said that all your protein should come from the same source.
What you need are some easy protein sources to turn to, and that’s what we’re here to provide. Let’s quickly review some protein basics, like what it is and what it does, then we’ll get to the list of easy sources of protein you can add to your diet.
Understanding the importance of protein
Protein is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in the life of athletes and non-athletes alike. You can think of protein as the building blocks of your body. It is made up of tiny units called amino acids, which are vital for muscle growth, repair, and recovery.
How can protein help my workouts?
When engaging in intense physical activities like training, weightlifting, or participating in sports, your muscles undergo stress and tiny tears appear. That’s normal, and this is where protein comes into the picture.
Consuming an adequate amount of protein helps repair these micro-tears and promotes muscle recovery. Over time, this leads to stronger, more resilient muscles.
That’s the traditional role of protein, and why easy protein sources are valuable. But protein has other functions in the body too.
Additional protein functions
As well as muscle and ligament reinforcement, protein is involved in the production of enzymes and hormones, which regulate various bodily processes, including your metabolism. Protein also contributes to maintaining a healthy immune system – crucial for avoiding illnesses that could cause you to miss game day.
Getting the right amount of protein
As an athlete, it's important to ensure that you're getting enough protein in your diet. The exact protein requirements for athletes can vary based on factors such as body weight, training intensity, and specific goals.
A general guideline is to consume about 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (or around 0.7 grams per pound). It's important to distribute protein intake throughout the day, including meals and snacks, to optimize protein synthesis.
While protein is crucial, it's also important to maintain a balanced diet. For an active adult, only 10%-30% of calories should come from protein. Ensure you're also consuming an adequate amount of carbohydrates and healthy fats to fuel your workouts and support overall performance.
23 easy protein sources to add to your diet
So you’re looking to hit your protein goals, and need some easy sources of protein to vary things up a bit. What are some easy-to-digest proteins? We’ve got you covered:
1. Chicken breast
An obvious option to start with perhaps, but chicken breasts are popular for a reason. Chicken is a lean source of protein that’s low in fat (as long as it’s not fried) and rich in essential amino acids.
Chicken breast is a great, easy protein source because of its versatility. It can feature in a range of meals, making it a convenient option for athletes.
Eggs are a nutrient-rich protein source that contains all essential amino acids, making them a complete protein. They’re a great value option, as they’re generally one of the most affordable and readily-available proteins. They’re an easy protein source because you can prepare them quickly in many ways.
3. Greek yogurt
Another non-meat protein option, greek yogurt is an easy protein source. It is a thick and creamy source of protein that is packed with calcium, probiotics, and essential amino acids. It can help support muscle growth and recovery, promote gut health, and provide a satisfying snack option for athletes.
4. Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is an easy option that is low in fat and high in protein. It's rich in casein, a slow-digesting protein that provides a steady release of amino acids, making it beneficial for muscle recovery and maintenance.
Tofu is a plant-based protein source made from soybeans. It is a versatile ingredient that can be used in stir-fries, salads, or smoothies, and it provides many essential amino acids, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health.
Tofu is one of the best easy protein sources for vegetarians and vegans.
A legume that is rich in both protein and fiber, lentils offer a sustainable source of energy, promote satiety, and provide essential nutrients like iron and folate, making them a nutritious option for athletes.
Chickpeas are a versatile legume that can be used in various dishes like salads, soups, or roasted as a crunchy snack. They are high in protein, fiber, and essential nutrients such as iron and folate, so they support muscle recovery and overall health.
Quinoa is a gluten-free grain that is considered a complete protein source, as it contains all nine essential amino acids. It's also rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making it a nutritious and filling protein option.
9. Turkey breast
Back to meat options, turkey breast is a lean protein source that is low in fat. It provides important nutrients like selenium, which supports the immune system, making it a healthy choice for athletes.
Salmon is a fatty fish, but in a good way. It’s an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. It supports heart health, reduces inflammation, and aids in muscle recovery, making it a valuable protein source for athletes.
11. Beef & Pork
Beef and pork are great, easy protein sources, and they definitely deserve a place on our list. They come with a warning however, that many popular ways of preparing beef and pork negate their protein benefit. Try to stay away from beef and pork dishes that are fried and fatty.
12. Peanut butter
Perhaps a lesser-known protein source, peanut butter is convenient and easy to store. Unlike beef and pork, its fats are generally considered healthy fats, but be careful of peanut butter that has too many additives.
Peanut butter is versatile too. Try pairing it with fruits as a dip, or add it to your protein shake. It’s one of the best easy protein sources as most people love the taste.
Almonds make our list of easy protein sources because they’re a nutrient-dense snack that provides protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants. They also contain vitamin E, which is beneficial for muscle recovery and reducing exercise-induced oxidative stress.
14. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are like a tiny powerhouse of protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. They make our list of easy protein sources because they can also absorb liquid and form a gel-like consistency, providing sustained energy and aiding in hydration during exercise.
Edamame are young soybeans that are high in protein, fiber, and antioxidants. They offer many essential amino acids and important minerals, which makes them a nutritious snack for athletes.
16. Black beans
A versatile legume that provides protein, fiber, and essential nutrients like iron and magnesium, black beans can be added to salads, soups, or used in various plant-based recipes. Most people enjoy their taste and texture, and they don’t tend to weigh you down after eating them.
17. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds make our list of easy protein sources as they are a nutrient-dense snack that offers protein, healthy fats, and important minerals such as zinc and magnesium. They also support immune function and aid in muscle recovery, which is something we all need: athletes and non-athletes alike.
18. Hemp seeds
Hemp seeds are a complete plant-based protein source that also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They provide a range of essential amino acids, making them beneficial for muscle repair and overall health.
19. Green peas
Perhaps a less-obvious entry on our list of easy protein sources is green peas. Nevertheless, peas are a versatile vegetable that provide a moderate amount of protein along with dietary fiber and essential nutrients. They are an excellent plant-based protein source and can be easily incorporated into salads, soups, stir-fries, or enjoyed as a side dish.
Have you ever tried bison? We wanted to add something a little different to our list of easy protein sources. Bison meat is a lean and flavorful protein source that is lower in fat and calories compared to beef, making it a great option for athletes who prefer red meat while maintaining a balanced diet.
Returning to the classics, milk is a tried-and-true protein source, and it combines its protein with calcium and vitamin D. It offers a good balance of protein and carbohydrates, making it an ideal post-workout recovery drink for athletes.
Although not a viable option for those who are lactose-intolerant, milk is an easy protein source that can help you hit your protein goals.
22. Whey protein powder
Supplements are generally good, easy protein sources, as long as the supplement is high quality.
Whey is a protein powder that’s derived from milk, so it’s not suitable for people with lactose intolerance, and some people complain of bloatedness after taking whey. That being said, whey protein does contain a quick and concentrated source of amino acids.
23. Collagen protein powder
Collagen is one of the best easy protein sources for a variety of reasons. Collagen protein supplements can do everything whey protein does – without the side effects.
Collagen is more abundant in the body than any other type of protein, so a collagen protein powder is an easy protein source that the body digests quickly and puts to use. It is also what your body naturally uses to repair and strengthen muscles, tendons, and ligaments, making it extremely valuable for recovery and injury prevention.
Combining sources of protein
The foods on our list are not purely proteins – they contain other important macronutrients and vitamins. It’s important to get your protein from a variety of food sources to make sure you get enough macronutrients and vitamins.
A second reason why mixing protein sources is recommended is that not all protein is the same. Plant and animal proteins differ, and most provide some, but not all, of the amino acids needed to build muscle and repair damaged tissues.
You should try to eat more complete vs incomplete proteins, to ensure you’re getting all the amino acids you need.
If we’re focused on hitting our protein goals with complete proteins, supplements can complement your diet and give you the peace of mind that you’re never short of protein.
For optimal muscle and ligament recovery and reinforcement, the body should have a steady source of protein from food, but can benefit from a protein boost before or after a workout via a protein supplement such as collagen.
Taking supplements as easy sources of protein may make all the difference to your workout, and collagen leads the way as a versatile, powerhouse protein.
Collagen for joints and ligaments helps give athletes confidence on the field or at the gym, and many doctors even use collagen for wound healing to help injured players return to the field sooner by supporting tissue regeneration.
Perhaps the easiest way to take collagen protein is through liquid collagen supplements. Hitting your protein goals could be as simple as unscrewing the cap, and drinking! But it’s important to make sure your supplement is hydrolyzed.
What is hydrolyzed collagen? Hydrolyzed collagen has been broken down into smaller pieces, and therefore the body can digest it and put it to use faster. Protein absorption rates and digestion matter when your body is looking to fix the micro-tears caused by exercise.
The most easy-to-digest protein
At Frog Fuel, we offer a nano-hydrolyzed liquid collagen supplement. This collagen has gone through the process of hydrolysis multiple times to ensure full digestion in just 15 minutes or less. No indigestion, no fuss, just a swift and simple dose of your daily protein needs.
Frog Fuel collagen protein has tryptophan added in, making it a complete protein supplement. Best yet, Frog Fuel offers liquid protein shots that are pre-portioned and ready to drink. You don’t need to mix them with anything.
Just throw the single-serving pouches in your gym bag, or put them in your pocket, and you’ll have easy access to easy-to-digest protein whenever you need it.