Katherine Baker

7 Protein-Packed Meals That Will Help You Power Through Your Workout


While some tout the apparent benefits of working out on an empty stomach, it's more commonly believed that your body needs a source of fuel to power through an intense workout.

But, it's perhaps not the brightest idea to stuff a large order of McDonald's fries or 20 Thin Mints in your face before heading to the gym.

Even if you justify that you'll "burn it off," the number of calories burned may not be what you expect. At least an hour before your workout, it's best to consume a meal with a combination of carbs and protein, preferably 75 percent of the former and 25 percent of the latter.

Listed here are some protein-packed dinners that most closely demonstrate this optimal proportion, as well as some suggestions of our own.

Note that the nutritional values are approximations, counting only the major ingredients in the recipe, using general nutrition data for each item and considering only one serving. It's for reference, loves.

For all you veggie-loving, no-meat-consuming people:

1. Protein-Packed Tempeh Kale Salad

Carbs are not the enemy. They are metabolized into muscle glycogen, which helps fuel you throughout a workout, while protein is used to repair and build lean tissue.

Like a good cop, bad cop combo, both are needed to get the results you want.

Katherine Baker

Protein: Tempeh, 20 grams. Chickpeas, 5.4 grams.

Carbs: Kale, 20.1 grams. Chickpeas, 17.1 grams. Lemon, 3.9 grams. Tempeh, 10.6 grams.

Ratio: 32.9 percent protein, 67.1 percent carbs

Move over, tofu. It's time for fiber-filled, protein-pumped tempeh. This lesser-known soy product is not only filled with antioxidants and other nutrients such as calcium, zinc and iron, but it's also fermented.

This process makes the nutrients more easily absorbable by the body and paves the way for easier digestion, which is a bonus for any meal. Plus, there's kale, which is, like, picked from the green, leafy forest that grows in the gardens of your soul.

2. Vegan Sweet Potato, Kale and Chickpea Bowl

Megan Prendergast

Protein: Sweet potato, 2.2 grams. Broccoli, 2.5 grams. Kale, 3.3 grams. Chickpea, 15 grams.

Carbs: Sweet potato, 23 grams. Broccoli, 5.8 grams. Kale, 10.1 grams. Chickpea, 47.9 grams.

Ratio: 20.9 percent protein, 79.1 percent carbs

Sweet potatoes are literally the absolute best. They're, like, that one friend who always has your back, ready to catch you when you fall. It's the Smith Machine of all friendships.

Want fries, but trying to be healthy? Sweet Potato. No oven? Microwave sweet potato.

So, you can even make this recipe in your dorm before your killer workout sesh. And again, there's kale.

3. Black Bean Burritos

Santina Renzi

Protein: Black beans, 6.1 grams. Tortilla, 1 gram. Avocado, 0.3 grams. Lime, 0.5 grams

Carbs: Black beans, 16.3 grams. Tortilla, 8 grams. Avocado, 1.2 grams. Lime, 7.1 grams.

Ratio: 19.5 percent protein, 80.5 percent carbs

Taco Tuesdays just got a whole lot healthier (not that you have to give up dinners of Chipotle or even Taco Bell, my loves).

But with black beans, which possess a mighty fiber-protein content, and avocados, which are basically goddesses entrapped in rugged, luscious fruits, you'll hardly miss your favorite burrito joint. And you get to fold it yourself, which makes you an origami master (basically).

4. Vegetable Stir-Fry With Tofu and Sesame Ginger Sauce

Katherine Baker

Protein: Brown rice, 7 grams. Tofu, 13.3 grams. Vegetables, 4 grams.

Carbs: Brown rice, 72 grams. Tofu, 2.7 grams. Vegetables, 12 grams. Sesame ginger, 10 grams.

Ratio: 20.1 percent protein, 79.9 percent carbs

You know when you're talking crap about that weird kid who puts orange juice in his cereal, and then you turn around to find him standing there, listening to your every word? Oh, hey, Tofu, funny seeing you here…

But in all seriousness, tofu is the bomb, making it an optimal choice for your pre-workout dinner. You can even use it to make protein smoothies, which, in my book, deserves a standing ovation.

Now, for the carnivores among us:

1. Avocado Chicken Salad

Paige Pulaski

Protein: Chicken, 11 grams. Avocado, 1.3 grams. Grapes, 0.3 grams. Almonds, 1.5 grams.

Carbs: Avocado, 5.9 grams. Grapes, 6.8 grams. Almonds, 1.5 grams.

Ratio: 49.8 percent protein, 50.2 percent carbs

Chicken is one of the leanest sources of protein and has been found effective in aiding weight loss. Chicken soup for the soul anyone? Or in this case, Chicken Avocado Salad for the gains.

Also, let us not forget the alligator pears, I mean the goddess trapped in leathery green fruits.

Vegetarian? Try avocado toast. The bread will supply those super cool carbs that your body burns like fossil fuel, making you power through that workout like one of those nifty race cars on TV.

2. Buddha Bowl

Hannah Cather

Protein: Spinach, 0.9 grams. Sweet pepper, 1.1 grams. Cucumber, 0.2 grams. Egg, 5.5 grams. Edamame, 16.6 grams. Rice noodles, 1.6 grams. Salmon, 25 grams.

Carbs: Spinach, 1.1 grams. Sweet Pepper, 7.3 grams. Grape tomatoes, 2 grams. Cucumber, 1.3 grams. Egg, 0.3 grams. Edamame, 14.1 grams. Rice noodles, 43.8 grams.

Ratio: 41.2 percent protein, 58.8 percent carbs

This bowl fuels your body with veggies, carbs and protein, so you have everything you need to feel wholesome and peaceful (perfect before a yoga workout).

Plus, it's a bowl, which is a circle, which is a symbol of totality, of eternity and of absolute perfection. Find your potential (and a really big bowl).

3. Chicken Fajita Salad

AmiLin McClure

Protein: Chicken, 26.1 grams. Bell pepper, 0.4 grams. Salad mix, 1.3 grams. Tomatoes, 1 gram. Corn, 3.3 grams. Black beans, 5.7 grams. Brown rice, 1.5 grams.

Carbs: Bell pepper, 2.1 grams. Salad mix, 5.3 grams. Tomatoes, 6 grams. Corn, 19.9 grams. Black beans, 14.7 grams. Brown Rice, 15.3 grams.

Ratio: 38.3 percent protein, 61.7 percent carbs

Free of unnecessary toppings and fattening, sodium-polluted dressings, this salad fills you up on the good stuff, namely lean protein, rich veggies and complex carbs from brown rice, which helps to release sugar more slowly and power you for longer.


Well, it depends on what you're looking for.

Before a workout, carbs are important to provide the energy you need to endure a long, arduous session. Afterward, you need protein to repair the muscles you've worked.

Overall, most of these were in the correct ballpark of our 3:1, carbs to protein ratio. However, we can note that (with my somewhat vague calculations) the Vegan Sweet Potato, Kale, and Chickpea Bowl was the closest.

Because, you know, sweet potatoes.

This article was originally published on Spoon University.