Eating Carbohydrates & Protein Together

Combining carbs with protein at mealtime is often a good idea -- especially after you exercise. Of course, choosing healthy carbs and protein is a must to look and feel your best. However, you don’t have to eat protein and carbs together at every single meal, as long as you’re meeting your daily nutrient needs over the course of the day.

Satiation Benefits

Adding protein to carbs often causes you to feel full and satisfied because carbohydrates provide your body with energy and protein increases satiety. Furthermore, eating a combination of protein plus carbohydrates after resistance or endurance workouts helps stimulate muscle repair and growth, according to studies published in 2009 in the “Journal of Applied Physiology” and in 2007 in “Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism. 12

Protein and Carb Recommendations

You don’t have to eat protein and carbs together at each meal as long as you’re still meeting your daily protein and carb requirements. Women need at least 46 grams of protein daily and men require at least 56 grams of protein per day, notes the Institute of Medicine. All adults should get at least 130 grams -- the recommended dietary allowance -- of carbohydrate each day. However, athletes often need higher amounts of protein and carbs to maximize lean body mass and athletic performance.

Protein and Carb Combos

Choosing healthy carbs and protein at each meal helps meet your daily nutrient needs and keeps your chronic disease risks low. Examples of nutrient-dense protein-rich foods include:

  • legumes
  • egg whites
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • nut butters
  • low-fat dairy foods
  • soy products
  • seafood
  • lean meats
  • skinless poultry

Healthy carbs include oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole-grain cereal and whole-grain bread. Nutritious protein and carb combinations include whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk; brown rice and broccoli with legumes, tofu or grilled chicken; grilled salmon with steamed asparagus and quinoa; egg whites on whole-grain bread; low-fat cottage cheese topped with fruit; or oatmeal made using low-fat milk topped with nuts.

Adding Fat to the Mix

In addition to protein and carbs, dietary fat is the other macronutrient your body requires daily. Fat is important for proper vitamin absorption, healthy skin and hair, and brain development in kids.