Does it ever seem like your favorite snack just doesn’t fill you up? Do you find yourself crashing from a sugar high between meals? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate those favorite snacks and learn about the benefits of snacking on protein!
The Benefits of Snacking on Protein
Unfortunately, many snacks that are easy to choose are full of sugar and empty calories that will leave us feeling less than our best. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. If you use snacks to help tide you over between meals, meet your daily needs, or when you’re too busy to eat a meal, then it becomes more important to find a good nutritional balance. As it turns out, fueling our snacks with a healthy mix of the 3 macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) can be a sure way to feel our best! The benefits of snacking on protein in particular can really help you maintain your blood sugar, weight, or feel satisfied longer.
Tip: It often seems quicker and easier to reach for those carbohydrate loaded snacks instead of the protein ones. Check out QUICK and convenient protein snacks I recommend (don’t worry- some of them require NO preparation) at the bottom of this post!
Protein satisfies hunger.
Many studies have found that high protein snacks help us feel full and satisfied longer. One study found that snacking on a high protein greek yogurt as opposed to lower protein yogurts increased feelings of fullness, while another study found that high protein snacks (as opposed to high fat snacks) were linked to appetite control.
So, if you are grabbing a snack because you are hungry; trying to delay a meal; or even manage your weight, then you should reach for or at least pair your snack with some protein.
Protein snacks help avoid a dreaded sugar crash.
We all know that a sugar crash generally leaves us feeling drained and downright hungry. We snack to satisfy our hunger and make it to our next meal feeling good, but often our snacks leave us hungrier than we were before we ate.
Protein slows down the digestion of carbohydrates and sugars. Therefore, if you are having a snack that is high in starch or sugar, a great way to help combat a sugar crash is to up your protein game!
Build and maintain muscle mass.
Athletes are known for following high protein diets and eating to maintain their muscle mass and perform well. However, protein helps to maintain muscle mass in a variety of other populations. For example, protein helps maintain muscle mass during weight loss. So, eating protein throughout the day is a great way to ensure you are losing the right kind of weight – not lean muscle weight! Not to mention, since it keeps you full longer it can be a great way to stay satisfied.
As we age our lean muscle mass starts to decrease. In fact, generally, our lean muscle mass begins to decrease somewhere in our 30s. Research is showing that eating meals balanced in protein can help maintain this muscle mass as we age (especially when paired with strength training.)
Ensures you are getting protein throughout the day.
As a nation, I think we generally assume we are getting plenty of protein (think: large hamburgers and steaks galore) but I’ve noticed a definite trend that many people may get protein in one large lump sum once or twice each day. Although a specific number isn’t completely agreed upon, we know that our bodies can only absorb so much protein at one time. Therefore, if we were to load up on too much protein in one sitting, our bodies may not even be able to utilize it all.
Having a protein snack (along with reasonable portions of protein at meals) may help our bodies to fill in the gaps if we miss out at a meal and help to spread our protein intake out throughout the day.
Snacking on Protein FAQs:
How often should I snack on protein?
Honestly, how often you even snack depends on your daily habits. Some people do better with 3 solid meals. Others may find that they need a snack to help fill in the gaps, especially if they have long intervals between meals. And there may be times you need a post workout snack to replenish before you have a chance to eat a full meal.
There really isn’t a one size fits all approach to how often you should snack on protein or anything else for that matter. Learning to gain a sense of eating intuitively with your body, noticing how snacking on different food items (including protein) leaves you feeling, and considering your protein needs are a great place to start.
Having protein snacks readily available (like the ones on my list in my resource library) will help you to feel more fulfilled by choosing snacks that satisfy your hunger.
How much protein do I need?
How much protein you need in a day really depends on several factors including your weight, activity level, and even athletic goals.
The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (or 0.36 grams per pound of body weight.) So, if you are sedentary and weigh 130 pounds this means you need a minimum of 47 grams of protein per day. However, this number is very modest as RDA’s are based on the amount you need to minimally maintain health and keep from getting sick.
Athletes generally need much more protein than a sedentary individual and in fact, this number can even be more than twice the RDA. Athletes need anywhere from 1.2-2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (or 0.54 – 0.9 grams per pound of body weight.) Therefore, an athlete weighing 130 lbs would need somewhere between 70-120 grams of protein each day.
So, should my snacks always include protein?
Not necessarily. While there are certainly benefits to snacking on protein, there are times a non protein snack is also beneficial. Making any snack more nutrient dense is always a win and the nutrient doesn’t have to be protein. For example, you could munch on some veggies or drink a green smoothie, neither of which likely have a significant amount of protein.
However, you will notice that protein snacks leave you feeling more satisfied and you can certainly start to work protein into more snacks by adding hummus to your veggies, nut butter to your fruit, or simply eating a hard boiled egg alongside your favorite snack.
Exercise and High Protein Snacks
One of the best times to have a high protein snack is after a strength training workout. Often we find ourselves busy right after a workout, especially if you exercise in a gym or away from home. Getting a meal ready within the timeframe that would best allow your muscles to recoup isn’t always practical. In this case, the benefits of a high protein snack become very obvious in that it’s a quick way to fuel our muscles before having time to eat a full meal.
A Note on Plant Based Protein
Plant based protein is a always a great choice too! Many may worry that it isn’t as “complete” as animal sources, but many studies have shown that we don’t need to worry about combining complementary plant based proteins for that complete protein source. For more details be sure to check out this popular article, “Are complementary proteins really necessary?”
My Favorite Quick and Convenient Protein Snacks
Now, you may be wondering how you will find time start reaping the benefits of snacking on protein in your busy life. Trust me I know, after you hit the gym or before you run out the door to take your kids to soccer practice you are simply short on time. That is why I’ve created a list of my favorite quick “grab and go” protein snacks! I have snack ideas that literally require no prep and aren’t loaded down with sugar or .
Be sure to grab my QUICK and CONVENIENT protein snacks by signing up for our newsletter in the form below.
If you’re looking for more great packable and non-perishable snacks check out my favorite snacks you can pack in the car (this is how we spent a summer day and weekend tripping through Montana and Wyoming and still avoiding fast food.)
Now tell me, what are your favorite QUICK AND CONVENIENT protein snacks?! What keeps you full and satisfied? Leave your ideas in the comments below!