The best way to hit your macros might be to engage in an hour or two of food prep on Sunday, but let’s be honest — this doesn’t always happen. As much as we all hope for a break on the weekend, it may be just as chaotic and action-packed as the Monday-to-Friday grind.
If keeping diligent track of your macros is important for your goals, you need a Plan B to keep you on track once the weekly crush begins anew. Otherwise, you risk sabotaging your best-laid plans by grabbing foods loaded with low-quality protein, sodium, processed fats, and surplus calories. These foods can definitely serve their delicious purpose, but you might also be on the hunt for yummy but easy protein-packed weeknight meals.
Easy Weeknight Meals With Over 25 Grams of Protein
Keeping a reasonably well-stocked pantry and some lean protein and veggie options in the freezer dramatically increases the average human’s chances of making healthy choices. Research shows that eating more frequently at home, regardless of your goals, leads to healthier outcomes. (1)(2) Even so, sometimes we all have to have the “we have food at home” talk with ourselves.
These single-serving recipes are quick and easy, perfect for those weeknights when you are too tired to cook an elaborate meal. Still, they’re packed with enough protein — and tastiness — to fuel your performance in and out of the gym. They feature flavor and variety with simple, minimally processed, and convenient products. You’ll also find a balance of the big three macronutrients: protein, carbs, and fats.
- Beef Taco Bowls
- Lazy Tuna Arrabbiata (AKA Spicy Italian Tuna)
- Buffalo Chicken Baked Potatoes
- Pork Fried Rice
- Vegan Sausage, Greens, and White Beans
Beef Taco Bowls
Tacos are incredibly versatile and allow you to manipulate macros very easily. If you want a lower-carb option for your performance goals, swap the rice for a couple of corn tortillas (saving about 20 grams of carbs). Easily increase the protein by adding more beef or additional toppings such as shredded cheese or beans.
For convenience, this recipe calls for taco seasoning. But if you have a decently-stocked spice rack, you can avoid the extra potential sodium bloat by making your own with chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and a little cayenne pepper.
Macros Per Serving
- 475 calories
- 33g protein
- 43g carbs
- 17g fat
- 5-ounce 93% lean ground beef
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium taco seasoning mix, or make your own
- ½ cup salsa
- 2 cups lettuce, chopped
- ½ cup frozen microwavable white rice, prepared
- ¼ of an avocado, diced
- ½ cups prepared pico de gallo
- 1 tablespoon light sour cream
Brown ground beef in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add seasonings and salsa. Simmer until reduced to preferred thickness. To assemble, add beef mixture, salsa, lettuce, cooked rice, avocado, pico de gallo, and sour cream to a large bowl. Add additional toppings as desired.
Lazy Tuna Arrabbiata (AKA Spicy Italian Tuna)
This Roman-inspired dish is destined to become a weeknight staple. It is equally delicious with pre-cooked chicken sausages — but the sodium count on those bad boys can be astronomical, so take heed.
To cut the carbs, you can opt for zoodles, or even add some in with the pasta for an added veggie burst and volume boost. You can opt here for a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil for flavor and satiety. However, if you’re interested, you can eliminate 119 calories and almost 14 grams of fat by eliminating the oil and just using cooking spray.
Macros Per Serving
- 532 calories
- 38g protein
- 58g carbs
- 16g fat
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (note: using cooking spray eliminates 119 calories and almost 14 grams of fat)
- 1 clove garlic, crushed (or a dash of garlic powder added with the other spices)
- 1 (5-ounce) can tuna in water, drained (low sodium preferred)
- 1 cup tomato puree
- ½ cup water
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 cup cooked, thin spaghetti or any pasta of your choice
Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about a minute). Toss in the tuna and saute for another minute. Add puree, water, and herbs/spices. Simmer for about five minutes and fold in your cooked pasta.
Buffalo Chicken Baked Potatoes
The humble potato is really a dynamic hero, transforming itself into almost endless variations of satiating deliciousness.
Although oft-vilified by waves of anti-carb diet frenzy, the potato is an easily digestible source of energy. The potato boasts substantial servings of potassium, iron, magnesium, folate, and Vitamins C and B6, with a little fiber and protein to boot. It is warm. It is filling. And it goes with everything.
Macros Per Serving
- 425 calories
- 34g protein
- 31g carbs
- 19g fat
- 1 medium russet potato
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 4-ounce rotisserie chicken, shredded
- 1 ounce crumbled feta cheese
- 2 cups baby arugula
- Hot sauce to taste
Pierce the potato several times with a fork. Place in a 400-degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes or microwave for seven to 10 minutes, turning the potato halfway through cooking time. When a fork goes into the potato easily in the thickest part, it is done.
Cut open the potato and fluff up the interior with a fork, season, and mix in butter. Place a bed of arugula on a plate and top with chicken, feta, and hot sauce. Serve on the side or on top of the potato.
Pork Fried Rice
When the craving for take-out hits, remember that you can make this dish in less time than it takes for a delivery service to drop off an over-priced version of it. You can add whatever veggies you have on hand and can make it even simpler by using a store-bought stir fry sauce. Just remember to check the label for added sugars and sodium if that’s a concern for you.
If carbs don’t sit well with you, sub frozen veggie “rice” for the white rice. In that case, use a tablespoon less water in the sauce, as cauliflower and other veggies excrete excess liquid.
Macros Per Serving
- 539 calories
- 34g protein
- 44g carbs
- 25g fat
- ½ tablespoon sesame oil
- 4-ounce lean boneless porkchop, cubed
- ¼ cup onion, chopped
- ¾ cup frozen microwavable white rice, prepared
- 2 cups chopped baby spinach
- 1 large egg, scrambled
For the sauce:
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos
- 2 tablespoon water
- ½ tablespoon sesame oil
- Fresh or ground ginger to taste
- Optional: sliced green onions, red pepper flakes, sriracha
Heat oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add pork and onions. Stir fry until pork is browned and almost cooked though. Add rice, spinach, and sauce, tossing to coat. Make an empty spot in the center of the pan and pour in the egg. Scramble until cooked though and fold into the rest of the ingredients in the pan. Top with sliced green onions and hot pepper flakes or a dash of sriracha if you like it spicy.
Vegan Sausage, Greens, and White Beans
If meatless is your jam, this Tuscan-inspired dish may be your new weeknight go-to. It is simple to make multiple servings at once and save for lunch or dinner the next day.
You can sub any greens for the chard; broccoli rabe is more time consuming to prepare, but is a complementary accompaniment. Cannellini beans — or white beans — will turn to mush if you add them too early in the process, so be sure to gently fold them in at the end of preparation to preserve the texture and bite of this delicate, buttery legume.
Macros Per Serving
- 581 calories
- 37g protein
- 25g carbs
- 38g fat
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, halved
- 2 links Italian vegan sausage
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 bunch Swiss chard
- ¼ cup cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Pan fry the sausage links in ½ tablespoon of oil over medium heat until crisp and heated though. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the remaining oil and garlic to the pan and saute for 30 seconds. Add Swiss chard and saute for two to three minutes, adding a little water if necessary to soften the chard.
When the chard is cooked through, gently fold in the beans until just heated though. Slice the sausages and serve alongside the greens and beans.
Macros, or macronutrients, are the most essential nutrients that the body needs in the largest amounts: protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Your body also needs many other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber. So it is important that when you are fulfilling your daily macro goals, you opt for foods that are rich in these micronutrients as well. You can generally do this by focusing on whole, unprocessed, or minimally processed foods when possible.
The ratio of macros that one should consume is highly specific to the individual’s body composition goals, metabolism, activity level, and other factors. Some athletes might find that their body runs optimally, builds muscle, and maintains their desired fat ratio best when they allocate an equal split of 35 percent of their daily calories to protein and carbs, and the remaining 30 percent to fats.
Your macros may vary during different periods of your training cycle, as you age, or even as your priorities and goals shift.
Getting Your Macros
Keeping macros in check doesn’t have to be complicated. Tweaking your regular shopping list, staying well-stocked with essentials, and having these simple protein-centered recipes under your belt will open up a whole new world of weeknight culinary delights.
General High-Protein Recipe Tips
With each dish, you should spray your pan with cooking spray as needed (if you avoid nonstick cookware, this step is crucial) and season with salt and pepper to taste as you go.
You can easily substitute a different protein or whatever veggies you have on hand in a given recipe. Maybe you have ground turkey that you need to use up in your taco bowls instead of beef. If you are not a fan of tuna but want a tasty seafood dish, toss a frozen codfish filet into the arrabbiata sauce while it simmers. Prefer beef fried rice? Use flank steak instead. Just remember to adjust your macros accordingly.
What Counts as a “High Protein” Meal?
Although the myth that one cannot efficiently utilize more than 30 grams of protein at a sitting has been largely debunked, it is still generally accepted that 25 to 30 grams is a good benchmark for a high-protein meal, assuming your goal is to consume the recommended 1.6 to 2.2 grams per kilogram of body weight per day to build muscle. (3) Can you go higher if your body needs it? Absolutely.
Lean Protein Favorites
If you build your meal around a protein source rather than starting with a starch, you are more likely to get the balance of macros that you seek. When food prep doesn’t make it into the schedule, it is essential to have protein sources available in the kitchen so you can make dishes like these on the fly.
Keeping a freezer or fridge stocked with tofu, beans, or lean cuts of poultry, beef, pork, and seafood ensures that you always have an essential cornerstone of a meal at hand.
Boneless, skinless chicken breast, ground chicken or turkey breast, pork tenderloin, lean ground beef, eye of round or top sirloin steak, pork tenderloin, and tofu are all fantastic lean protein sources lend themselves well to a variety of preparations. Frozen wild fish, such as salmon, is quick and easy to prepare (you can pop it into the air fryer frozen and it’s done within 20 minutes) and will often fulfill your protein and healthy fats quota in one delicious filet.
Side Dish Staples
A well-stocked freezer and pantry make building a balanced meal around a protein a breeze. Pre-cooked frozen rice or other grains, frozen veggies that hold their texture well, such as Brussels sprouts and asparagus, and vegan protein sources, such as frozen meat substitutes and legumes, make chaotic weeknights easy to conquer and protect you from that wilted produce walk-of-shame to the garbage can.
Canned tuna, beans, and pasta can be cooked and tossed together in under 15 minutes. Couscous cooks in a snap and is delicious with just a hint of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. A handful of pumpkin seeds can add protein, magnesium, and healthy fats to a salad topped with chicken or a vegan quinoa bowl. Find your favorite go-to sides and always have them at the ready.
You know that feeling the day after a meal out on the town when it feels like your pants shrunk in the wash? Contrary to popular belief, you didn’t gain five pounds from eating your body weight in pad Thai overnight — but sodium will make you feel that way.
With convenience comes salt, and lots of it. Keep this in mind when stocking that pantry and freezer. Opt for frozen veggies without sauces or added flavorings, proteins without breading or marinades, and low-sodium or no-salt-added canned goods.
Benefits of High-Protein Recipes for Strength Athletes
Why is the “high protein” label so widely touted on food labels? Because you can’t build muscles without it. If you like to lift heavy things, you need to be lifting ample amounts of protein to your mouth on that fork.
Muscle Growth and Repair
When you engage in heavy lifting, your muscles are taxed and stressed. Consuming adequate protein provides the amino acids necessary to repair muscle tissue and promote the synthesis or growth of new muscle fibers. So if you want to grow in size and strength: lift heavy, eat protein. Rest. Repeat.
It’s emotionally draining — to say the least — to be hungry, cranky, and limiting your calories. Especially when paired with healthy fats, foods high in protein provide more satiety than simple carbohydrates. Protein takes the body longer to digest and leaves you satisfied for an extended time.
Just look at all of the carby “100-calorie snack packs” you see at the grocery store register — there’s a reason why people tear through them and are still hungry a moment later. Protein is a solid ally if you are trying to stick to a caloric deficit but don’t want to feel that way.
Blood Sugar Stabilization
Protein is just as important to consume before you lift as it is afterward. Eating protein in concert with carbohydrates and healthy fats helps to protect you from the blood sugar spikes that can leave you feeling sluggish and depleted, as it slows digestion and the absorption of carbohydrates.
Nothing kills motivation to crush a workout faster than fatigue, so keep your energy levels stable throughout the day by incorporating protein into every meal or snack. Don’t just grab an apple; grab an apple and a cheese stick.
You might be in the mood for take-out, but if you want to do your wallet a favor, try rummaging through those cabinets. It won’t take long to whip up a delicious, high-protein weeknight meal to help you refuel from the day and prepare for tomorrow.
Even if you swap out different veggies or proteins according to preference and availability, you can use these high-protein recipes as your baseline for nutritious dinners that won’t slam your wallet. Get to your goals in the gym by getting fueled up in the kitchen — without all the meticulous meal prep.
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