You pound pavement and lift like a pro—and yes, that's half the battle—but perhaps you still haven't nailed your nutrition. And who could blame you? Unless you're an elite athlete with RDs on speed dial, it's tough to know how to eat for your workouts to optimize performance. Whether your meals just aren't cutting it, or those extra lbs won't melt away, or you lack energy throughout the day, being improperly nourished could be the culprit. In this series, we share our top Spartan-approved, nutritionist-recommended healthy-snacking hacks to power you up so you can stride out strong. No. Matter. What.
Sponsored by our partner, Gone Rogue
Protein is the most efficient macronutrient to rehab sore muscles and support your body's recovery process. Every Spartan knows that to bounce back from intense workouts and return to flipping tires and scaling walls ASAP, regular post-exercise protein consumption is a must.
“You want to get in enough protein so that your muscles can repair, maintain integrity and build muscle tissue,” says Annalee Althouse, RDN, CYI at Bayfield Hospital in Dover, DE. Muscles build mass and synthesize protein when there’s a positive net protein balance in the body, overall. That’s why she recommends consuming a protein and carbohydrate snack within two hours after your workout or obstacle course race. (Protein for recovery, carbs to replenish energy stores.)
In addition to muscle growth, protein also supports tendon and ligament repair and skeletal strength, boosts immunity, and bolsters neurotransmitter production (which impacts your mood and hormone balance), according to Kylee Van Horn, RDN in Carbondale, CO, who coaches runners, triathletes, OCR athletes and nordic skiers in nutrition. “It’s important for athlete injury prevention and feeling good overall when you increase your training volume,” she says.
But, if you're not a fan of choking down protein powders (we don't blame you… some are chalky AF) there are other options to get your daily dose. In fact, these Gone Rogue protein snacks just about cover it all: a sprinkle of salt replenishes electrolytes lost in sweat and they’re chock-full of protein, sans empty carbs and trans fats. Consider this healthy snacking made easy. You're welcome.
Why The Kind of Protein You Eat Matters, And How Much (Hint: It’s About Amino Acids + Enough Grams)
It’s crucial to know not all sources of protein are equal. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein which the body metabolizes to nurture its rehab efforts. Without a complete amino acid profile (via smart food pairings or full spectrum powders) protein-promising labels can be misleading. In other words, while you may eat many servings of protein, your body may not fully utilize it if you aren’t getting all of the aminos, too.
“Complete proteins are foods that contain all essential amino acids (most commonly found in animal products),” says Althouse. “Eating complete proteins ensures that you are supplying your body with nutrients essential to recovery.” One way to maximize protein intake is to pair foods like rice and beans together to complete the amino profile. “The amount of protein you get matters, but the quality of it is important as well,” she says.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that athletes get 1.2-2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight daily. (That’s almost twice what it recommends for non-active adults, so yeah… taking in enough of the right kind of protein is vital to optimize performance.) To figure out how many grams of complete protein you should consume each day, simply weigh yourself, translate your weight from pounds to kilograms, then multiply that by two.
Protein Chips: The Epic Power Snack for Endurance Athletes
When you hear the word chips, you probably think: empty carbs and trans fats, and rightly so. Most chips are processed that way. But Gone Rogue’s high-protein chips are no ordinary snack. These crunchy chips made from all-natural cuts of lean chicken which are then smoked, air-baked and perfectly seasoned, pack a whopping 17+ grams of protein and only two grams of carbohydrates per serving. And sourced from animal protein, they provide a full amino-acid profile for maximum bang-for-buck recovery benefit.
“Protein chips are an ideal nutrient-dense snack option, especially when you’re on the go,” says Althouse. “A chip made with animal protein will provide you with an easy, complete protein to munch whether you’re traveling with a team, running a trail or packing it in your gym bag.” She suggests pairing Gone Rogue chips with dried fruit or nuts and seeds to create a balanced, macro-rich snack of carbs, fat and, of course, protein. “You could also use them as a chip substitute to dip into hummus or guacamole,” she says.
Bottom Line: Snack Smarter, Get Results
Fiercely seasoned in six bold flavors (Taco Style, Ranch Style, Chicken Bacon, Teriyaki Chicken, Buffalo Style and BBQ) these high-protein chips deliver a satisfying crunch for days when you’re dying for tasty bites, but refuse to hand fitness gains over to empty-carb setbacks.
“High-protein chips would be beneficial to helping athletes reach protein needs and keep you fuller, longer,” says Van Horn. Plus, you get the added bonus of a more stabilized blood sugar level (think: avoid the crash/spike cycle) because protein slows down the release of carbohydrates into the bloodstream, she says. So level-up your snacking game and consider our new Spartan-approved go-to THE recovery win-win you need to support your training regime—and achieve your goals. Period.