I’m sure you’ve heard of this dairy craze that has made its way into everything from salad dressings to cream cheese spreads. Basically it’s just regular yogurt that’s been strained, resulting in a thickened consistency and increased protein content. One cup made with skim milk and live and active cultures (a pretty simple ingredient list) has 22 grams of protein and 6 grams of sugar, which is comparable to many powdered protein supplements. The difference: it’s not made of highly processed whey protein isolate or have an ingredient list that takes five minutes to read. It’s also real food.
Now, picture yourself post-workout. Your arms are wrecked, your back is covered in sweat, and you’re ravenous. You could get your 20-25 grams of post-workout protein for optimal recovery from a gritty powder that you dump into your Nalgene or Blender Bottle or from a bar that tastes like cardboard and fake chocolate, or you could eat a small meal consisting of real food that tastes good and doesn’t have to be rehydrated. I’ve tried several types of protein powders and even used Vega’s recommended smoothie combos, but most of them made me feel sick–possibly because I tend to drink them too fast–and each was like drinking a beach sand smoothie. I didn’t enjoy any of them, no matter what I mixed them with.
Greek yogurt, however, I enjoy. To add in your recovery carbs and sweeten the tangy flavor of plain yogurt, you can add fruit or maple syrup if you’re looking for a treat. Mixed into a fruit smoothie, Greek yogurt retains its smooth texture and makes for a creamier mixture instead of adding grit like protein powders. You can also make a fruit, nut, and granola parfait if you’re hungry for, and your stomach can handle, a larger “meal” post-workout. Running late? You can grab Chobani fruit on the bottom cup–Chobani uses 40 percent less sugar than other brands–or grab a cup of plain Greek yogurt and some raisins and/or a banana to toss in.
Another benefit of Greek yogurt is that you can make it at home for relatively little money. Either purchase a “Greek yogurt maker” that will strain regular plain store bought yogurt (which is often half the cost of Greek yogurt) or make it from scratch in your kitchen for greater savings.
The downsides: Greek yogurt is not vegan- or nondairy-friendly. It does, however, have less lactose than milk, so if chocolate milk makes your stomach funky after a workout, you might be better off eating strained yogurt. It also needs remain relatively cold, thus requiring some type of cooler or it being made into a smoothie with lots of ice if you’d like to have it at the end of a long, hot day outside.
The takeaway: We spend so much time looking for the perfect protein supplement and concoction to make it palatable that we often forget about real foods that taste great and contain complete proteins to fuel our bodies. I’m a foodie, so any time I can eat something delicious, I do. And, after a hard workout, the last thing I want to do is chug a gritty shake to congratulate myself for a job well done. I’d rather refuel my body with Greek yogurt topped with strawberries and maple syrup. No adding water or vigorous shaking required.