To properly recover from any type of training, you need adequate protein to repair the tissue that you're beating up—or to make up for a lack of carbohydrates available for energy.

And despite what you may have heard, there's no real evidence suggesting you have to consume your protein exactly one hour after working out—"protein timing" doesn't significantly affect muscle building or strength, according to a 2013 Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition review [PDF].

Furthermore, getting protein three times a day in concert with resistance training, interval workouts, stretching, and endurance training helped overweight people decrease their body fat and increase lean body mass, according to a recent Journal of Applied Physiology study.

Whether you time consumption or not, protein is an essential component of training. But the same old “chicken, beef or fish” can get boring. Try these eight unique ways to incorporate protein into your diet for bigger muscles, faster recovery, more energy, and improved training performance.