If you think beef jerky’s only place is on a gas station shelf, you should reconsider. This snack has some unexpected benefits that make it a perfect post-workout snack. Here’s why eating more jerky will help you recover faster and better.

The Science Behind the Snack

milk, chocolate
Danielle Tse

After working out, your body needs just the right amount of protein for muscle recovery. According to sports dieticians Michelle Rockwell and Susan Kundrat, growing athletes need 0.6 to 0.9 grams of proteins per day for each pound of muscle mass. This puts an ideal post-workout snack at around 10-20 grams of protein. 

Since 40 grams of jerky has 14 grams of protein, this snack fits the bill. Besides having the perfect amount of protein, beef jerky is typically low-fat. Newer varieties have even eliminated nitrites and cut back on sodium and cholesterol

That’s not all. Beef jerky has a healthy amount of zinc and iron. It won’t raise insulin levels–meaning it won't induce a hormone that signals your body to store fat. All of these perks packed into an on-the-go snack makes it a simple option for post-workout recovery. 

Moderation Is Key

sweet, candy, chocolate, pastry
Ashly Kim

Jerky has some major perks, but don’t go crazy. Some varieties carry a lot more sugar than others–watch out for the ones marinated in barbecue sauce or honey.

If you want to maximize your post-workout meal and still satisfy your sweet tooth, try combining beef jerky with fruit. Besides adding more vitamins and minerals, the healthy carbs in fruit help slow down muscle loss, known as the catabolic response. 

Take Things a Step Further and DIY 

Ashly Kim

Making your own jerky is easier than you’d expect (and so worth it). Cooking it yourself will allow you to know exactly what went into the final product (no gross preservatives, please). Choose grass-fed over grain-fed beef and reap the rewards of more omega-3 fats

Make it yourself by marinating a beef eye of round (think soy sauce, black pepper, and brown sugar), slicing it thin, and letting it dry out in the oven at 160˚ F for 6-8 hours. Homemade jerky technically lasts for about three months, but you can freeze it indefinitely until you're ready to eat it.

If you aren’t the Pinterest-type, sign up for a Jerky of the Month subscription. You’ll receive a different kind of jerky every month, delivered right to your door. Now that’s a gift that keeps on giving.