Yogurt's touted health benefits typically refer to active probiotic cultures, low fat and high calcium, but if you're a bodybuilder, yogurt's high protein content might hold the most appeal. Protein minimizes muscle mass loss when you diet, maximizes muscle growth when you work out and helps your muscles repair themselves when you rest between workouts. Because it's a compact snack, yogurt also is effective as a preworkout or post-workout food that won't leave you feeling stuffed.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines recommend a protein intake of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Bodybuilders and athletes need more than this baseline amount. Heavy lifters might need as much as 2 grams per kilogram -- almost a gram per pound -- for optimal muscle growth. While protein isn't the only macronutrient you need for bodybuilding, it's essential to the process. Proteins are the bricks with which your body builds muscle.
Protein Content of Yogurt
The type of yogurt you choose determines its protein content. Standard nonfat yogurts, whether plain or flavored, have between 7 and 10 grams of protein per 8-ounce serving, depending on the brand you select. Greek yogurt -- yogurt that goes through a straining process after its fermentation to produce a thicker, creamier product -- ranges from 15 to 20 grams of protein per 8-ounce serving. For a 180-pound bodybuilder, that works out to as much as 10 percent of your daily protein needs in one snack.
Bodybuilding stresses your body. The stress has beneficial results, but it's stress nonetheless; lifting on a full stomach or eating too quickly after a workout can lead to stomach discomfort, cramps or nausea. Eating a lightweight snack such as a cup of yogurt provides fuel for your exercise, allowing you to stay focused on your workout instead of your next meal. Yogurt with fruit also contains carbohydrates to burn for quick energy during an intense workout.
Some bodybuilders combine their resistance training with endurance workouts. If that describes you, you might like a balance of carbs, fat and protein in your preworkout or post-workout snacks. Add a drizzle of honey and some fresh berries to plain low-fat yogurt for a complete snack. Yogurt also enhances a fruit and vegetable smoothie with calcium, potassium and phosphorus in addition to the protein it brings to the mix. Nuts enliven plain or flavored yogurt with crunch while contributing additional protein, so enjoy a handful of almonds with your yogurt if you want a more substantial snack.