6 Meals & Snacks That'll Help You Burn More Calories

Recent research reveals that high-protein foods can boost your workouts -- and your weight loss!

March 31, 2014
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"Food is fuel," they say, and it turns out "they" might be on to something, particularly if that fuel is packed with protein: A new study in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found that eating a high-protein meal before you exercise can boost your metabolism, helping you burn more calories.

The researchers discovered that women who ate a high-protein meal (45 percent protein) an hour prior to working out burned more calories per minute than women who ate nothing. The additional calorie burn amounted to 185 calories over the following 24-hour period.

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The key is having "fuel" in your body to burn once you start exercising. The study showed that your body will use more calories when you have more to expend. Makes sense, right? So before you head out for your next workout, be sure to have some good protein in your tank and, not only will you feel the burn, but you'll actually get a calorie-burn boost (and really, who doesn't want that?).

This study serves as the perfect excuse for a pre-workout smoothie date with your workout buddy, but when you can't make it to the blend bar, you can easily whip up a protein-packed meal or snack at home. Need some nutritional inspiration? We reached out to some of our favorite food pros for a few simple, healthy, protein-filled snack and meal ideas.

From Keri Glassman, RD, nutrition expert and author of the The New You and Improved Diet: 8 Rules to Lose Weight and Change Your Life Forever:

1. Protein-packed fuel: Low-fat cottage cheese (½ cup)
Not only does cottage cheese provide calcium (super important for active females), but it also contains a high level of tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin -- AKA the “feel good” neurotransmitter. With this high-energy snack you can power through any grueling work out with a smile on your face. (Well, not exactly, but you get the idea).

2. Protein-packed fuel: All natural hummus (4 tablespoons) with celery sticks Hummus is a great vegetarian protein option and celery helps relieve stress due to its satisfying crunch. It also aids in blood vessel relaxation, which lowers blood pressure, making the toughest of workouts feel effortless(ish).

3. Canned tuna fish (3-4 oz) mixed with brown rice (⅓ cup)
In addition to the high amount of protein, this snack also contains niacin, B6, and B12, all of which give us energy, which is crucial for any exercise.

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From Rania Batayneh, MPH, nutritionist and author of The One One One Diet:

1. Protein-packed fuel: Mini whole grain bagels with a hard boiled egg, veggies (peppers and carrots are great options), and hummus.
The carbohydrates from the bagel give you energy, the hummus and veggies add fiber to keep you full, and the hardboiled egg is an excellent source of easy-to-absorb protein. (Glassman adds that hard-boiled eggs are also the perfect portable protein snack—just throw 'em in a baggy and toss 'em in your gym bag!).

2. Protein-packed fuel: String cheese, dried fruit, and almonds.
This fit-friendly mix is the perfect balance of protein (from the cheese and nuts), antioxidants, and good fats to keep you full and fueled.

3. Protein-packed fuel: Homemade yogurt parfaits.
Combine Greek yogurt, which contains 15-20g of protein per serving (!), with a whole-grain, low-sugar granola like KIND Fruit & Nut Clusters ($32 for 6 pouches, kindsnacks.com) for the perfect crunchy, sweet-but-not-to-sweet pre-workout snack.