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Portable protein for the picky
October 26, 2011 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Inexpensive, low-carb, no-effort, portable protein supplement?

So, now that I'm pushing 40 and fighting diabetes, I'm starting to exercise for the first time in my life, despite my utter loathing for the very idea. And I've actually been good about it--my secret has been to go to the gym at the office at about 9 PM, when nobody's there to judge, jeer, or worst of all, jolly. But after three months of mixed cardio and weight training, all indicators point to my having lost zero fat and some 5 pounds of muscle.

I'm attempting to combat this by taking protein after each workout, but I can't find a protein supplement that meets my needs. Can you recommend something I can ingest after a workout that meets all of these requirements? No compromises on any of these items are acceptable.
  • 20g or more of protein
  • Low or no sugar
  • Under 8g net carbs
  • NO sugar alcohols seriously omg you do not want to be around me if I have ingested any sugar alcohols ew ew
  • Easily transportable
  • Does not require refrigeration (will live in a gym bag pocket)
  • Does not require any cooking, mixing with liquid, or other preparation
  • Costs less than $2 per serving
Some things that would also be nice, but are not required: low fat, low calorie, tastes ok.

I'm on the brink of buying 6 pounds of beef jerky online for $93.41 (woo bulk discount), which would satisfy all of the above requirements, but somehow I have a feeling that is a course of action that could, in only a few moments of self-indulgence, go horribly wrong. I need some alternate viewpoints.
posted by darksasami to Health & Fitness (43 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Can of tuna?
posted by quodlibet at 2:59 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually you can get tuna in packets now, which are lighter and easier to deal with than a can. Also (sort of) resealable if you don't finish it all in one go, unlike a can. At least you could put the opened packet into a ziplock. Salmon also comes this way.
posted by tractorfeed at 3:05 PM on October 26, 2011


Can of tuna?

Interesting idea, and one I hadn't considered. Pouch of tuna is even better, as it requires less draining and fewer tools. However, fear of mercury limits tuna consumption to something like twice a week, last I heard, plus the whole fish-ethics thing. So while that's not out the door, it's something I'd have to do in limited quantity. Thanks though!
posted by darksasami at 3:06 PM on October 26, 2011


How about nuts? They've got protein, calories, good kind of fat, and they're filling.
posted by mareli at 3:10 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


How long will it live in a gym bag pocket? Can it be refrigerated before and just left out a couple of hours?
posted by quodlibet at 3:11 PM on October 26, 2011


How much time without refrigeration -- are you working a full shift and then going straight to the gym at 9pm, or is there a break in there? 'Cause I was going to suggest a couple of hard boiled eggs, which would be fine for several hours in your gym bag, but maybe not an entire day.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:12 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nuts?

Also, you may be able to get a small insulated container that you can put a cold-pack into, which would let you expand to include small refrigeration-requiring items. Greek yogurt is something I see used for this purpose.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:12 PM on October 26, 2011


How about nuts?

Unfortunately, I was surprised to learn that nuts have more carbs than protein.

How long will it live in a gym bag pocket?

Weeks at a time. In the trunk of a car. No fridges involved.
posted by darksasami at 3:13 PM on October 26, 2011


Is there any flexibility about the "weeks at a time" issue? How about an office fridge?
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:21 PM on October 26, 2011


What is wrong with good ol' whey protein?

I am a diabetic and I regularly lift. This protein supplement has 1g of carbs, .3g of fat and 25g of protein, and costs 86 cents per serving if you buy it in the smallest size from here.

Only criteria it doesn't meet is taste. It doesn't taste bad. It just doesn't taste like much. So just put a scoop in an empty bottle and throw that in your gym bag. When you are done working out fill it with water, drink it, and rinse it out in the sink. Or, if it needs to be in your trunk just fill the bottle in gym and put a scoop in from your trunk.

Nutritionally it is awesome. Economically it is unbeatable.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:24 PM on October 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Hardly anything worth eating can last that long without refrigeration, in my opinion. Plus all that sodium and msg...however, the only other thing I can think of is that Pork Rinds come pretty close to your standards.
posted by quodlibet at 3:28 PM on October 26, 2011


Pure Protein Bars? I haven't tried them but they look like they would meet your criteria, and you can buy them in bulk online.
posted by jabes at 3:29 PM on October 26, 2011


Is there any flexibility about the "weeks at a time" issue?

Nope. If that had been an option, I wouldn't have had to turn to Ask for ideas.

What is wrong with good ol' whey protein?
  • Does not require any cooking, mixing with liquid, or other preparation
Does it come in capsules maybe? I could get a capsule maker. Is a scoop sized such that I'd have to swallow 30 capsules? Got to admit the price is right.

And Pure Protein Bars, on checking, contain sugar alcohols. You would not believe the gaseous explosions those cause in me. Seriously, I've lived through them and I still don't believe it.
posted by darksasami at 3:33 PM on October 26, 2011


Unfortunately, I was surprised to learn that nuts have more carbs than protein.

What source did you learn this from? I don't think it's correct, especially in terms of net carbohydrates. Nuts are generally great for needs like yours, some types more than others, and so are seeds (pepitas are fantastic, but so are sunflower seeds).

The biggest problem with nuts as a snack is portion control, and if you're bringing it with you you can only eat what you've got.

Trader Joe's stocks a few types of nut in "Just a handful" sized packets, if you don't trust yourself to scoop out a scant ounce at a time.
posted by padraigin at 3:45 PM on October 26, 2011


Pork Rinds come pretty close to your standards.

You may be on to something here. You've reminded me of a product I had forgotten existed.

Lowry's Bacon Curls Microwavable Pork Rinds come to $1 a bag at Amazon, less with the Subscribe and Save exploit, and, unlike regular pork rinds, aren't deep-fried. I did say no cooking, but these may make a liar of me, since the amount of effort is equal to microwaving popcorn. They're not fried like normal pork rinds, so they're much lower in fat. A whole bag of them, according to the nutrition information, has 210 calories, 7g fat, negligible carbs, 31.5g protein, and a little over half the RDA of salt--but I'm a salt fiend and have never had a blood pressure problem.

The bags are flat like popcorn bags, wrapped individually in plastic, and would fit easily into a gym bag. This could work.
posted by darksasami at 3:49 PM on October 26, 2011


And Pure Protein Bars, on checking, contain sugar alcohols.

Oops, sorry about that. Quest Bars are sugar alcohol free.
posted by jabes at 3:49 PM on October 26, 2011


Canned sardines?
posted by blargerz at 3:52 PM on October 26, 2011


if you're worried about fish consumption, they sell chicken in those same little pouches. no clue how it tastes.
posted by juliapangolin at 3:54 PM on October 26, 2011


If peanuts don't work for you, that's cool of course, but I just looked up their nutritional value and they definitely have more protein than carbs, but still have more than 8g carbs per 20g protein. They also have an excellent glycemic index if that's something you're concerned about.

(Not trying to convince you that peanuts are the best, I just eat them by the pound and wanted to check out their nutritional info, and thought you might be interested.)
posted by auto-correct at 3:56 PM on October 26, 2011


About nuts, I was looking at this site, and it looks like I was, in fact, reading it wrong. Yay! Still, at 8 net carbs, they're right at the maximum I allowed, plus high-calorie. I would imagine that incorporating them into my diet on a limited basis would be a great idea, what with the other benefits of eating nuts.
posted by darksasami at 3:58 PM on October 26, 2011


If you're going to stretch your "does not require any cooking, mixing with liquid, or other preparation" rule, I'd strongly recommend whey protein over the bacon curls. With a blender bottle your protein-powder prep, consumption, and cleanup will take a lot less time and effort than the five-plus minutes it'll take to prepare and consume those bacon curls.
posted by vorfeed at 3:58 PM on October 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


You have no idea how much of my life is arranged around not having to wash dishes. :(
posted by darksasami at 4:02 PM on October 26, 2011


Ya, if I'm remembering right, my diabetic dad could have nuts because they were low on the glycemic index. A search for low carb snacks on dlife has things like gingered almonds, glazed hazelnuts, rosemary nut mix.
posted by biscuits at 4:03 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, Carb Solutions High Protein Shake
posted by biscuits at 4:07 PM on October 26, 2011


I searched for shelf stable protein and came up with some interesting ideas you might want to check out like toasted soy beans/edamame and bacon in a can, but mostly I came here to say ZOMG MICROWAVE PORK RINDS HOW COME I NEVER KNEW ABOUT THESE?? Ordered... Thank you!
posted by thatone at 4:10 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aside from the sodium, is there a benefit to the whey protein over the pork rinds other than "no you cannot eat PORK RINDS after a workout are you crazy"? People seem to feel pretty strongly about it.
posted by darksasami at 4:19 PM on October 26, 2011


jabes, those Quest bars. Holy cow. 18 grams of fiber per bar.

For comparison, Metamucil has 5 grams of fiber per dose.

I want to try these, if for no other reason than to see if something amazing happens.
posted by darksasami at 4:36 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Supposedly the nutritional quality of the protein in pork rinds isn't so good.
posted by evisceratordeath at 4:39 PM on October 26, 2011


Ah! Of course, once again we see that anything that might possibly taste good cannot possibly be healthy. More evidence of an omnipotent and malevolent God.
posted by darksasami at 4:44 PM on October 26, 2011


I have mentioned Power Crunch bars previously, but they have around 10 grams of carbs, so are a bit out of your range. My husband really enjoys ISS Oh Yeah protein wafers, which have 14 grams of protein, but only 8 grams of carbs, and, as far as I can see on the label, no sugar alcohols. (sorry for the lack of links, but I'm away from my laptop at the moment)
posted by blurker at 5:42 PM on October 26, 2011


Oh, and they're both about $1.50 each.
posted by blurker at 5:45 PM on October 26, 2011


Seconding salmon -- plus you don't have the mercury worries that tuna does due to their fresh-waterness. My low-carb breakfast of preference is a can of salmon (the tuna-tin sized ones, without bones) mixed with cottage cheese. That's more preparation than you want, but salmon is good enough to be eaten straight out of the can.
posted by AzraelBrown at 6:24 PM on October 26, 2011


Whey powder. You can mix it with sugar-free Jello and water, and while it doesn't taste great, it's not terrible. Easily digested, absorbed, portable.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:18 PM on October 26, 2011


We actually just buy the bulk beef jerky online like you mentioned, 3-4 pounds at a time. It is fantastic and well worth the money; it's truly a keystone resource in our low-carb ecology. We buy it in 1/2 pound bags, and they are vacuum-packed to last awhile on the shelf (weeks and weeks should be fine, I think). There's even a lower salt version that is pretty good. Portion control is definitely an issue, though! Putting it in little baggies helps, but seriously, it's beef jerky. Having to open another little baggie doesn't always stop me.
posted by dialetheia at 7:55 PM on October 26, 2011


Could you mix the whey protien into plastic disposable waterbottles? So, can of whey protien, 24 pack ok bottled water in the trunk? Open water, drink 1 tbsp, use funnel to add protien, shake, drink, trash/recycle?
posted by mercredi at 8:00 PM on October 26, 2011


Could you mix the whey protien into plastic disposable waterbottles?

I could, but having lived in the Pacific Northwest for 15 years, buying bottled water in a first world country is now abhorrent to me. Then again, my alternatives all involve discarding wrappers, or sorting jerky into individual baggies, and you can't recycle those. I think I need to think it out again.

Regarding salmon: again, having lived here for so long, it is one of my keenest regrets that I can't stand the taste of salmon. I want to like it so much, but it always tastes like rotting bacon to me.

Canned sardines?

Sardines! You know, I've bought sardines to have around as a snack for years, but it never occurred to me, even after the tuna suggestion? And now I go and do research and it would seem that not only are sardines highly sustainable, they are also at the bottom of the food chain, which means they're some of the least likely fish to pick up mercury. The only drawback I can see is that I'll have to be a little more careful with my gym bag, lest I have a nasty accident. There are worse things to smell of than sweat.
posted by darksasami at 8:24 PM on October 26, 2011


I was surprised to learn that nuts have more carbs than protein.

Depends which nuts, and what you mean by carbs. Almonds and macadamias are both quite high-protein nuts, and most of the carbs in both are indigestible dietary fibre.
posted by flabdablet at 2:02 AM on October 27, 2011


I could, but having lived in the Pacific Northwest for 15 years, buying bottled water in a first world country is now abhorrent to me.

Then get a reusable bottle and tap water.
posted by futz at 4:18 AM on October 27, 2011


a reusable bottle

There is some other kind?
posted by flabdablet at 4:34 AM on October 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


They're selling sardines in pouches now too (the protein count on these is a little low, on the other hand you get a nice shot of good fat and of course the calcium from chomping up their little bones, which could possibly aid your fat-burning efforts as well.)
posted by nanojath at 12:44 PM on October 27, 2011


Oh, I don't have a suggested online source because the only place I ever got it was at a farmer's market and I don't recall the maker but I used to eat this bison jerky that was off the chain (they had this habanero jerky that was... man, now I just want to eat hot bison jerky which is, like, totally out of the question, thanks a lot). Anyway I've always been told that the bison has a higher protein-to-calorie ration than beef so it might be worth investigation.
posted by nanojath at 12:52 PM on October 27, 2011


Nthing Quest bars - they taste fantastic. I've only ordered their two original flavors (peanut butter and vanilla) and they're a staple now. You get a discount if you order on a monthly schedule, and make sure to try microwaving the bar for ~10 seconds for some gooey this-can't-possibly-be-low-carb bliss.
posted by bookdragoness at 12:52 PM on October 27, 2011


nuts are more of a fat source than a protein source. i would go with a pouch of tuna, can of sardines, or grass fed no sugar added jerky. (but that jerky is expensive.)

also, if you're doing a paleo/primal gig, peanuts aren't either paleo or primal.
posted by thatgirld at 2:29 PM on October 27, 2011


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