Make your sweet tooth work for you
If you’re looking for a way to slip more protein into your diet but just can’t stomach the idea of another chicken breast or postworkout protein shake, get creative with your dessert. Protein powders can be mixed into plenty of recipes that will satisfy a sweet tooth while still packing healthy protein into each serving. Here, athletes share their favorite hacks for adding protein into recipes that make recovery easy—and tasty. Sub in your preferred protein powder, whether it’s whey, soy, pea, or collagen, but note that it may change the taste and texture of the recipes, so prepare for a bit of experimentation.
Sasha DiGiulian’s Protein Pumpkin Pie
Rock-climbing superstar Sasha DiGiulian spends her life training and tackling big walls, so she knows that getting enough protein is key to fast recovery. The 26-year-old sneaks her fix into a pumpkin-pie recipe that will fool even the pickiest eaters.
- 2 cups pecans
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 4 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 can pumpkin puree
- 2 teaspoons pumpkin-pie spice
- 2/3 cup agave
- 2 scoops Paleopro Pumpkin Spice protein powder
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons egg whites
- 1 can evaporated milk
- Optional: Whipped cream
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place pecans in a food processor, and grind until fine. Add melted butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and water. Continue processing until uniform. Press into a nine-inch pie pan. Bake for ten minutes or microwave at full power for six minutes. Pull out of the oven half-baked, and set aside. Bump the temperature to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the pumpkin puree and pumpkin-pie spice, making sure they are very well blended to avoid clumps of spice in the final product. Add agave, protein powder, and egg whites, stirring in between ingredients. Add the evaporated milk and whisk well. Pour the liquid mixture into the pie crust and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is set and a toothpick comes out clean. Refrigerate to set. You can add whipped cream on top (DiGiulian recommends coconut whipped cream) and sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve warm or cold.
Ryan and Sara Hall’s Classic Protein Pancakes
Professional marathoners Sara and Ryan Hall are always looking for ways to add protein to sweet treats. Their go-to for years has been Muscle Milk pancakes. Top them with a pat of butter.
- 1/2 cup teff flour
- 3 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Dash of Himalayan sea salt
- 1 scoop Muscle Milk chocolate protein powder
- Sugar (or stevia) to desired sweetness
Mix all of the ingredients. Then slowly stir in enough water until your preferred pancake-batter consistency is achieved—a thicker batter makes fluffier cakes. Heat a buttered or oiled griddle over medium heat, pour batter, and flip when air bubbles appear all over the pancakes. Eat them hot.
Reese’s Pieces Protein Cookies
Endurance athlete and former bodybuilder Rebekah Clementson mixes protein powder into an easy-bake cookie. This recipe only takes a minute to whip up and makes deliciously soft treats that are the perfect postworkout snack.
- 4 tablespoons coconut flour
- 1 scoop protein powder (Clementson loves PEScience Snickerdoodle flavor for bonus cookie taste, but choose your favorite flavor.)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 cup applesauce
- Handful Reese’s Pieces
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the first five ingredients thoroughly, portion into seven balls, and place them on a greased cookie sheet. Press two Reese’s Pieces atop each cookie. Bake for approximately ten minutes.
Super Simple Protein Bites
After spending too much money on premade protein bites, California-based ultrarunner Mandie Holmes recently decided to take matters into her own hands. “They’re all the rage in fancy grocery stores, but it’s so easy to make your own,” she says. You can play with all sorts of add-ins and flavor combinations based on what you have on hand, so Holmes recommends plenty of taste testing while you cook.
1/2 cup raw or roasted almonds
1 cup unpitted dates
Warm water as needed
- 1/4 cup unsweetened protein powder or collagen powder
- Optional: cocoa powder, cinnamon, fresh ginger to taste
- Optional fillings: dried cranberries or other dried fruit, chopped candied ginger, chocolate chips, or other chips
- Optional toppings: coconut flakes
In a food processor, coarsely grind almonds into a meal. Add dates and water gradually, and combine until smooth. Add protein powder and optional cocoa powder and blend. Add any chunky fillings, and pulse to distribute. (“I like to add so much that the dough is barely holding together, but that’s just me,” Holmes says). Cover the dough and chill it in the fridge for an hour. Then use a teaspoon or melon baller to make small balls. Roll them in coconut flakes and place on a wax-paper-lined cookie sheet. Freeze until firm, then store in a big container in the freezer. Stash a couple in a baggie and toss them into your backpack in the morning. They’ll be thawed by snack time.
Frozen Protein Popsicles
Not interested in turning on the oven? For a simple postworkout recipe on sweltering days, try these frozen protein pops from physical therapist, coach, and runner Nikki Buurma.
- 1 overripe banana
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter
- 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
- 1/4 cup water
- Handful of chocolate chips
Put ingredients in the blender and puree. Pour into a flat storage container or a popsicle mold. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Freeze until solid.