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Whether you’re trying to gain some muscle mass in the most epic bulk to end all bulks or you are just trying to maintain a balanced diet, it’s important to ensure that you get enough protein every day. This is bodybuilding 101 and definitely one aspect of training that many young/new lifters under-value.
Eating approximately your bodyweight in protein a day is optimal when bulking, and eating .8 grams per pound of bodyweight while cutting is recommended. For most people, especially hard gainers and ectomorphs, this is easier said than done, and that’s not even taking into account busy work/lifestyles that mean time is a commodity for most adults.
The good news is you can get much of your protein intake from whole foods, like your favorite comfort dish-pasta! Yes, we know, pasta is typically strictly forbidden from protein-rich diets because it’s packed with carbs. But, there are loads of protein-rich pastas that’ll help you reach your macros while keeping your full and satisfied over a long period of time.
What about protein powder?
The problem with depending solely on protein powders and bars for hitting your daily minimum protein req’s is they get expensive real fast, and the flavors get disgusting over time. If you’re serious about bodybuilding and train with a high frequency you will inevitably get to the point where you force yourself to stop tasting the shakes you are drinking and instead just slam them quick just so you’re hitting your protein requirements.
When your wallet is empty because you spent your last $40 on some whey isolate and when you look at your shaker bottle with disgust rather than anticipation you know it’s time to start mixing in more tasty natural whole foods to hit your minimum protein requirements instead of just drinking shakes.
Outside of the standard chicken breast and broccoli there are other, NEWER whole foods that are being sold that put protein in the spotlight which can make hitting your dietary goals much easier.
Pasta makers are re-inventing the wheel by packing their products full of pasta in a bid to entice more athletic types to get back into pasta, which has forever been labelled as “evil” due to their typically high carbohydrate count. Well, times are a changing and today there are a wide variety of pastas with reasonable carb levels and very impressive protein levels.
Yes, it is finally time to give the protein shakes a rest and make yourself some pasta!
What Are Protein Pastas?
Most of the dried pasta you see in stores becomes nutrient deficient once you cook it. This means it offers more calories instead of valuable nutrients. That’s why a lot of people are forced to give up on pasta or relegate it to a “cheat day” meal. But, it doesn’t have to be like that.
There are lots of available alternatives that you can turn to in order to fulfill your daily protein requirement. This includes nutrient-dense, plant-based options like lentils, chickpeas, and beans. These are just some of the protein-rich ingredients that can be used to make protein pastas.
*It’s still important to look at the other nutritional facts on the labels as protein pastas that still feature primarily wheat-derived ingredients will have higher carb counts than some of the other enriched varieties.
Protein Pasta Ingredients
Eating protein pasta is an easy and delicious way to incorporate protein into your diet. Plus, you can mix it up with a wide variety of different pastas that are made from superfood ingredients like:
- semolina wheat
- spelt oats
- durum wheat flour
- folic acid
- thiamine mononitrate
Benefits of Protein Pasta
Protein pasta offers a convenient and healthy based for balanced meal preparation. You can pair it with most vegetables and other foods like healthy fish, beans, and legumes. You can also pair it with sumptuous tomato sauce that’s rich in antioxidants, lean meats, and poultry as well as different cheeses.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the benefits you can expect from protein pasta:
Fuel for Particularly Intense Workouts
A good quality carbohydrate like protein pasta is worth consuming because it provides complex carbohydrates that give you a slow release of energy over a longer period of time. they’re perfect for brain and muscle support and you don’t have to worry about the ebb and flow of energy that often comes with sugar-packed carbs.
So as long as you’re not in contest-prep-mode, then a more carb dense meal BEFORE a workout is a great option especially protein-dense pastas because you will have plenty of slow-digesting complex carbs to fuel the intensity in your workout and you’ll also have the aminos from the protein to help support muscle recovery afterwards.
Protein pasta can help to keep bad cholesterol at bay because it doesn’t contain any cholesterol and it’s extremely low in sodium. Plus, protein pasta is packed with beneficial B-vitamins and iron among other nutrients. If you’re in a strict cut cycle or just prepping for a contest and are worried about salt then there are plenty of great low-sodium/high protein pasta options out there.
If you’re bulking and want that salt you can always sprinkle a bit into your sauce and you’re good to go!
Folic acid is an essential nutrient for young adult women as well as athletic males and a single serving of protein pasta provides 25% of your recommended daily intake of folic acid. If you haven’t read up on the benefits of having folic acid, also known as vitamin B9, then you’re missing out.
Best Protein Pastas in 2020
Not all protein pastas are created equal and this is a relatively new niche within the fitness food industry so many brands are still testing the waters and working to perfect their recipes.
Lucky for you we here at Skinny Yoked have been on the “pasta train” for quite some time (who needs to cut!) and so we’ve been able to test quite a few out, which has been mostly a pleasure and sometimes a bit of a chore, depending on the brand.
We’ve excluded the poor performers and instead just compiled a list of some of the best tasting and most protein-dense pasta options that you can either find at your local grocery store (although may have to go up-market a bit) or which you can order directly online from the manufacturers or from a retailer like Amazon, which is great if you have a Prime membership for free shipping.
So, let’s kick things off!
5. Orgran Buckwheat Spirals
The Orgran brand has been around since the 1950s and they’re known for offering a wide range of gluten-free food alternatives. Like their other products, this buckwheat spiral pasta is free from artificial preservatives, flavors, and colors.
Plus, it’s made from two simple, organic ingredients namely buckwheat and rice flour. As such, it’s free from both gluten and wheat because buckwheat is actually made from a rhubarb like plant. Not only that but Orgran’s pasta spirals offer 50g of protein per 100 grams.
- Free from artificial additives and ingredients
- High protein content
- Suitable for vegans and vegetarians
4. Ancient Harvest POW Red Lentil & Quinoa Pasta
This high protein pasta from Ancient Harvest is made from red lentils which tastes pretty similar to real, authentic Italian pasta, except without all the gluten, extra carbs and empty calories. Instead you get tons of juicy protein to fuel your gym gains.
- Contains 6 - 8 ounce boxes of red lentil & quinoa rotini pasta
- Featuring the nutrient-rich combo of red lentils and quinoa, each serving contains 25 grams of plant-based protein and 7 grams of fiber
- Our POW! Penne has irresistible flavor and super satisfying texture in a versatile & easy to prepare pasta
- Get creative & mix in your favorite cheeses for a healthier mac & cheese option; make with chickpeas & garlic in tomato sauce; or try overnight baked pasta in a white sauce
This allergen-free pasta gets its high protein content from a combination of red lentils which are naturally super protein-dense as well as quinoa which also is a healthy natural source of protein and minerals. An added benefit of using lentils and quinoa is that each serving has over 7 grams of fiber, which will help keep you regular and insure your body has a chance to digest all the protein over and extended period of time.
- There are 25 grams of protein in each serving, more than most protein bars!
- Contains 55% less carbs than conventional pasta
- Made with non-GMO red lentils and quinoa
- The package is a bit small for the price. Texture is slightly different than traditional wheat pastas.
3. Clearspring Organic Chickpea Pasta
This tasty chickpea pasta from the Clearspring Organic company will have dinner guests asking for seconds at your next cookout. It’s made from a combination of wheat flour and 20% cricket. Yes, that’s cricket the insect.
This pasta has a distinct earthy taste that adds a certain richness to any dish. This chickpea pasta is packed with protein, Omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, iron, and calcium.
- First pasta in the world containing 20% cricket flour
- Rich in protein and vitamin B12
- Good source of fiber and iron
- Sustainable and environmentally friendly
It’s not just good for your body but for the planet as well since crickets are an organic and non-intensive source of protein. And if the idea of eating insects makes you feel uncomfortable, consider the fact that research shows insects are the future of protein intake.
- Tastes great
- Rich in iron, fiber, vitamin B12 and protein
- Made from 20% cricket flour and 80% wheat flour
- Some people might feel uncomfortable at the idea of eating insects
2. Banza Chickpea Pasta
As the name implies, the main ingredient in this pasta are chickpeas. It’s a non-GMO product with a low rating on the glycemic index. It’s chalk-full of protein and fiber, with 40% less carbs than conventional pasta.
- Banza chickpea pasta is a high protein, lower carb, gluten free alternative to traditional pasta. Each serving has 2x the protein, 3x the fiber, and 1/2 the net carbs of traditional pasta. Try substituting Banza for an easy and healthy family meal.
- Picky eaters? No problem! Banza chickpea pasta tastes, looks and cooks more like traditional pasta than other alternative pastas, including lentil pasta, quinoa pasta, black bean pasta, edamame pasta, brown rice pasta, and whole wheat pasta.
- Chickpeas make delicious pasta and are great for an easy vegetarian or vegan meal. Banza chickpea pasta is also low glycemic and high fiber. If you’re searching for an easy family meal, Banza’s non-GMO chickpea pasta is the pasta for you!
- A favorite among Kristen Bell and Robin Roberts, Banza has been featured in TIME Magazine’s 25 Best Inventions of 2015, the New York Times, Food & Wine Magazine, the Today Show, Huffington Post, Good Morning America, and Generation Startup.
This pasta tastes wonderful and has a satisfying texture similar to that of whole wheat pasta. The best part is that it cooks fast and you can allow it to simmer for a few more minutes while you finish up the sauce without worrying that it’ll fall apart. Each serving of this pasta comes with 25 grams of protein and it works really well with oriental flavors.
*This is our favorite contender, mostly because we have been able to find it at local grocery stores so we don’t have to wait for online delivery, but we’re not Prime members so this may not matter for some of you.
- Great protein source for vegans
- High in fiber and protein
- It has an acquired taste
1. Explore Cuisine Organic Edamame & Mungbean Noodles
If you’ve ever tasted mungbeans then you’ll know they have a rich and malleable taste. That’s what makes this versatile pasta that you can pair with pretty much any type of sauce. This particular pasta offers a fiber content of 14 grams per serving. The addition of edamame protein means you’ll also be getting a high dose of natural vitamins and minerals found in this protein-dense vegetable.
- USE YOUR NOODLE - Explore Cuisine Organic Edamame & Mung Bean Fettuccine is lower in carbohydrates than traditional pasta. Each serving is loaded with 24 grams of protein and 14 grams of fiber, making it a healthy alternative.
- AN ORIGINAL BLEND – This unusual fusion of Asian ingredients provides a tasty base for your favorite dish! Its wider, fettuccine shape makes it easier to pick up sauce and seasoning
- EASY AND NUTRITIOUS - Explore Cuisine Organic Mung Bean Fettuccine cooks just like regular pasta, making it an easy family vegan or vegetarian meal
- INNOVATIVE FOODS - Explore Cuisine markets and distributes foods using plant-based, clean, organic ingredients of the highest quality. All our pasta are USDA Certified Organic, Gluten Free, Vegan, Kosher and Non-GMO
This mungbean penne is great for preparing quick 5-minute meals during the week because it cooks fast and it’s made from just two ingredients – mungbeans and edamame! You get 24 grams of protein for each 10 gram serving of this pasta, similar to those expensive bodybuilding-focused protein bars at GNC.
- No added preservatives of any kind
- Made from one simple ingredient
- High in protein, iron and fiber
- Not everyone likes the taste of mung beans & edamame
Skinny Yoked Conclusion
If you’re going to skip conventional past in lieu of protein pasta, you might as well go all out and get yourself the best on the market. Hopefully, this short guide has made it easier for you to find your favorite protein pasta.
If not, we recommend either Banza or Pow! because we’ve purchased them multiple times and are happy with the product’s protein count, the fiber, the price, the availability and the flavor.
Protein noodles definitely aren’t cheap, but ounce for ounce they definitely hold their own when it comes to hitting macros, especially when bulking, and at the very least, should be rotated into any serious bodybuilders meal plan once and a while just so you can take a break from the chicken/rice and protein shake gulag.
Last update on 2020-01-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API