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Powering Performance: The DRYWORLD Guide to Protein Sources

For athletes, protein is the cornerstone for muscle repair, growth, and reaching your peak performance. No matter your sport, whether sprinting and track, heavy lifting at the gym, or yoga, every type of athlete requires appropriate protein to rebuild and reap the rewards for their efforts. Not all protein sources are created equal, so we're digging into the top protein sources for athletes, why you need them in your diet, and, of course, sources for different diets. 

“Most of my meals [I find] a protein source, find a good source of fats for my brain, and find some sort of fruit or vegetable. And then I do that three times a day.” — Bryan Danielson

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Here's the DRYWORLD guide for powering performance with protein. 

Animal Protein Powerhouses

Chicken Breast

Sure, plain chicken and blanched vegetables are a cliche for bodybuilders and a less-than-enticing meal, but there's a reason behind its popularity in the fitness crowd. Chicken breast is a lean protein source packed with essential amino acids for muscle repair. It also has minimal fat content, which is excellent for athletes focusing on their macros. Chicken breast provides a high-quality protein punch without the excess calories—this is a great option for those looking for lean muscle mass.

Salmon

While the idea of salmon can be scary for first-time chefs, it can be an exceptional protein source and well worth learning to cook. More than just high-quality protein, salmon is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce inflammation. You know what that means—faster recovery from intense workouts. Paired with protein-supported muscle synthesis, salmon is a powerhouse for any athlete.

Eggs

If the first thing that comes to mind with eggs and fitness is Rocky chugging raw yolks, take a moment to wipe that from your mind. Eggs are nature's perfect protein package, containing all nine essential amino acids. This means they are a complete protein source all on their own. They're also rich in other nutrients, such as choline, which is critical for brain health and muscle function. You can also cook eggs in many different ways, so you'll never get bored. One could say they're an egg-celent option for egg-ceptional athletes in the making.

Greek Yogurt

Also suitable for our vegetarian friends out there (don't worry, the vegan options are coming!), Greek yogurt is creamy, tangy, and packed with protein. It's another ingredient that is incredibly versatile in the kitchen, too. Besides protein, Greek yogurt provides calcium and probiotics that support gut health. Remember, an overall healthy immune system means fewer days off due to illness and injury. Overall well-being is critical for performance optimization.

Check out these recipes if you're looking for new and easy ways to boost your protein intake and incorporate some of these sources into your daily diet.

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Plant-Powered Performance

You don't need meat to fulfill protein requirements. These days, there are plenty of plant-powered athletes crushing the game, and vegan-friendly protein powders are widely available. Here are some top picks of vegan protein sources that even meat-eaters will benefit from adding to their diet:

Quinoa

A great addition to salads, quinoa is packed with more than just protein. Fiber, iron, and magnesium are all highly available in this grain, supporting muscle function, energy production (we love a slow burn), and overall recovery. 

Lentils

Not only are lentils vegan and vegetarian-friendly, they're also a budget-friendly source of protein. Lentils are incredibly versatile and also provide essential nutrients like folate and potassium. Put 'em in a soup, stew, or even a salad, and you'll be stocking up on tons of the good stuff you need to support your journey to peak athletic performance.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas are here to help athletes manage their weight, thanks to not just protein content but fiber content, too. Fiber helps aid digestion and promotes satiety… So, you can stop asking, "Am I hungry or just bored?" You're bored. Chickpeas are another good friend of those who like variety and versatility. They're as delicious roasted for a crunchy snack as they are blended into a tasty hummus.

Tofu and Tempeh

Thanks to being derived from soybeans, tofu and tempeh are complete protein sources (like eggs!). Both contain phytochemicals, which have been reported to contain phytochemicals that have anti-inflammatory properties. Tempeh is also fermented, meaning it contains some helpful probiotics to help promote gut health.

Are you thinking about switching to vegan or vegetarian and want to get it right? Time to start cooking! This is a great resource for plenty of vegetarian and vegan options that are protein-forward and guaranteed to support your journey. 

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Protein is Power

Whether you're vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, or eat it all, any athlete will benefit from incorporating various protein sources into their meals. Again, it is a cornerstone of achieving your peak performance. From animal-based options like chicken and salmon to plant-based alternatives like quinoa and tofu, each source offers unique benefits that contribute both to performance and recovery.

Of course, protein alone isn't enough. Aim to balance your meals to include protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats to fuel workouts and support your body's needs. Focus on whole foods. Talk to a nutritionist before making any drastic dietary changes to ensure you get everything you need. You can always look for items like protein shakes to help bolster your diet.

By prioritizing protein-rich foods and fueling your body with everything it needs, you'll be well-equipped to unleash your full athletic potential and conquer those goals.

“I focus on getting my calories, my protein, and making sure I get enough fiber.” — Layne Norton

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