Failing to recover after gym sessions? Still really sore 3 days after a gym session? Don't want to waste money on supplements?
Sounds like you need the power of protein! Protein is the building blocks our muscles need to recover from intense exercise. In this blog, I will give you my top tips on the power of protein and how to increase your intake daily through your diet.
Source: Precision Nutrion
Breaking it down - What is protein, why is it important, and how much should I eat?
Protein. You know it’s important. But why?
Firstly, “what is protein?”
Protein is a macronutrient, alongside carbohydrate, fat, and alcohol, that is similar in composition (containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen) but also contains nitrogen.
“Why is this important?”
In order to maintain or add muscle mass, we must be in a positive nitrogen balance, i.e we must eat more protein in our diet than our bodies breakdown.
“But everyone I know talks about protein being this magical fat-burning drug?”
Drug? No. However, protein does have a thermogenic effect in the body, meaning it takes more calories for our bodies to breakdown and absorbs than the other macronutrients. Protein also has the highest satiety rating out of any other macronutrient, even fibre (carbohydrate). If you’re trying to lose body fat, it would be wise to keep protein consumption high for these reasons.
“But how much protein should I be eating daily?”
This is contextual to you and your goals. For anyone who is weight training, I would typically recommend 1g/Ib bodyweight or 2g/kg. For anyone who isn’t weight training 1.2-1.5g should suffice. However, the downside to this is people don’t eat grams/metrics, people eat food, so therefore I will give you easy to follow measurements and foods.
I’m here to help you increase your protein intake with some tips and tricks that you maybe don’t know about and hopefully give you some recipe inspirations so you too can have the protein power at your hands!
My top tips - Adding protein to your diet
Here are a few of my tips to help you get enough protein:
1. Batch cooking & ensuring sufficient stock of protein; I’ve touched on this point multiple times before. Typically, we live very busy lifestyles. We choose convenience over anything else when we make our food choices. Make a quick ham and cheese sandwich with butter and white bread and go out the door. By having batch cooked some chicken, having some cans of tuna, having some cartons or yogurt handy, this allows us to make the better choice the convenient one that will match our goals. Chop up your chicken and put it in a lunchbox in the fridge. If you’re in a hurry grab a whole grain wrap, add a dollop of hummus, some chicken and leafy greens and there you have a protein-packed snack on the go that would only take a couple of minutes to make.
2. Use your hands to handle protein’s power; Life inevitably gets in the way. Sometimes we just like to eat out too, that’s fine just don’t let that sidetrack you from your goals. When making decisions for our breakfast, lunch or dinner use your fists as a guide to measuring the quantity of protein you’re being served.
Typically, 1 palm for ladies and 2 for gentlemen; this is a relative scale, people with bigger hands will require more protein due to their larger size and men will typically need higher levels of protein than women. If you’re looking for a snack and can’t use your hands to measure, for example if it’s in a carton of yogurt, make sure that per serving size there is a minimum of 20g of protein.
Source: Precision Nutrion
3. Look at alternative protein sources - Quark & Edamame; Although it is technically a cheese, quark has the consistency of a thick yogurt. Quark is extremely versatile, low in calories and very high in protein. Have it for breakfast with some fruit and honey, add a carton into your pancake mix instead of whey protein (it makes the batter really thick and moist), or sub it in for white sauce in lasagna, like below. It has a relatively neutral taste but goes well with many dishes.
Source: Author's own
For any vegan or vegetarians who struggle to get their protein intake high, this is a great source of plant protein. These are a great option for a snack, add to a stir fry or a salad to give yourself an extra boost of protein. It is very tough to ingest high levels of protein if you’re a vegan, but alongside other sources such as tofu, chickpeas and kidney beans, edamame should help you boost your overall intake significantly
Source: Holland & Barrett
4. Aim for "Progress not perfection'' Adding protein into your diet will take a bit of time. It’s tough to adjust our diet, we may not like some certain foods that contain a lot of protein, or we may be poor at knowing what good sources of protein are, how much we should be eating, etc? Hopefully that will be at least a little clearer after reading this blog post. These adjustments to your diet will take time, don’t expect the magic to occur overnight.
Even if you just start by adding a spoonful of yogurt to your porridge for breakfast that’s a start. Don’t let any fitness guru or expert tell you “but that’s not an optimal dose of protein”, we’re not looking for “optimal” or “perfect”, we’re looking for progress, we’re looking to move down the continuum through better choices.
Source: Author's own
I hope you can use these tips for adding protein to your diet.
My take-home message would be;
Batch cooking & ensuring a sufficient stock of protein
Use your hands to handle protein’s power;
Look at alternative protein sources - Quark & Edamame
Aim for "Progress not perfection''
Want to find out more about Nutrition?
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About the Author
Darragh's philosophy includes balancing hard work and enjoying the process, and what better way to do that than with delicious, healthy food.
Email Darragh at firstname.lastname@example.org
Find Darragh on Instagram at @darragh.henry