You don’t have to take a protein powder or supplement to get enough protein in your diet. There are many foods which are naturally high in protein and will help you build muscle, recover after a workout, and stay full in-between meals. Personally, I use a protein powder after I’ve been lifting because my muscles are like ‘FEED ME’ but I never take it after cardio. My approach to protein is to try and squeeze as much in my meals as possible so that I don’t get hungry in-between meals, and so that I don’t eat as many carbs. As a result, my muscles are reaping the benefits. According to the National Health Service in the UK, women are recommended to eat 45g of protein a day and men are recommended to eat 55g. However, some nutritional scientists are questioning this and considering that it may not be enough! So, download the app ‘My Fitness Pal’, take a food diary and see how close your protein intake is to the RDA.
Now, I will share with you my top six sources of protein, in my diet at the moment, and obviously this could change as I am always experimenting, but for now, here you go:
- Meat and Fish. Let’s start with the obvious source; meat and fish. There are between 18-25g in one roasted chicken breast, depending on the size and brand. The same goes for Turkey. These are also not high in fat like lamb, pork and beef. Fish is an incredible super-food but can be quite high in fat. What’s the best approach? Balance and variety, of course! If you are a meat-lover and need meat in most of your meals, go for the poultry.
- Eggs. When I was younger, I thought eggs were unhealthy and I avoided them. Instead, I ate fruit (aka sugar), cereal (aka sugar), toast (aka sugary grains) and low-fat yoghurts (aka sugar). If only someone had educated me and told me that eggs are pretty much a super-food! Eggs are packed with nutrients, I’m not going to list them all here because the list is long, but look it up! One boiled egg contains roughly 6-7g of protein. On my low-carb days, I eat up to 5 eggs. Either I eat 30g oats with 1 boiled egg for breakfast and then eat 2 boiled eggs with lunch (vegetables and a piece of lean meat), or if I’m hungry in the morning, I would have a 4 or 5 egg scramble (no milk) and a green smoothie. If your office is stocked with cookies, cakes and other naughty foods, take boiled eggs in with you. They are so filling and completely satisfy those hunger pangs or cravings.
- Greek Yoghurt. The only Greek Yoghurt I buy is the official Fage Total 0% Greek Yoghurt, because it is actually made in Greece, and has 10.3g of protein in a 100g serving. Do not buy the knock-off ‘Greek-style yoghurt’. If it has the word ‘style’ in the title, it’s just a very clever marketing tactic and the nutritional qualities are not going to be on par with the authentic Greek stuff. So, how do you eat this without being bored? Well, if you love yoghurt, eat it plan or throw a couple of chopped strawberries in there. Personally, I eat this several ways: (a) in a smoothie, (b) stirred into some oatmeal, (c) with a tablespoon of my favourite protein powder, and (d) with a teaspoon of coconut and some chia seeds or flaxseed. However, I am constantly coming up with new ideas so I will share them on my Instagram or Facebook as I invent them.
- Peanut Butter. This is also a fat source so be careful! Peanut butter is calorific and that’s mainly because, being a nut butter, it is very high in fat. My choice of peanut butter is Meridian because it has only two ingredients: peanuts and salt. There are no added oils or sugars, which is awesome! In a heaped teaspoon of Meridian peanut butter (approx 18g), there are 5.3g of protein and 8.3g of fat. If you trying a low-carb eating regime like me, then a little extra fat is necessary to make up for the carbs you aren’t eating, so a teaspoon of this in your oatmeal or on a rice cake is totally OK. Just don’t eat it with a spoon, because before you know it, you will have consumed 500+ extra calories! I speak from experience here!
- Chickpeas. These little beige peas are actually high in protein and fibre, with about 15g of protein in one serving (1 cup or 164g) and 12g of fibre. However, they are not a low-carb food and have about 45g total carbohydrates in one serving. Chickpeas are so versatile. They can be added to a salad or thrown in a soup or stew. You can also season them with salt and pepper and roast them until they are nice and chewy or crispy. You can also do the latest Instagram craze and make them into a cookie dough-like consistency by adding maple syrup, almond milk, protein powder and chocolate chips, or cacao nibs. Check out ‘CoconutVanillaSugar’ on Instagram for the original recipe.
- Quinoa. This is something that I am experimenting with at the moment. There are 8g of protein in a 1 cup serving (cooked). Grains don’t usually sit well in my tummy and the first time I tried this, I felt super bloated. However, my trainer has encouraged me to try it again through making fishcakes with it and mixing it with veg. I boiled a whole bunch of quinoa last night with one stock cube to add a tiny bit of flavour. I will keep you posted on how it goes!
Don’t be scared of the nut butters. I know that many of you will look at ‘peanut butter’ and think, “Yeah right! That’s what people eat to gain weight!” You are correct, and I guarantee you that they are eating the stuff that is packed with palm oil, vegetable oil, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup. If you are from the UK, you may have seen those bucket-size tubs of peanut butter in Holland and Barrett. Well, I consumed an entire tub in about 2 or 3 weeks and guess what, I’ve actually lost weight. Nut butters are awesome. Secondly, eggs do not raise your cholesterol, unless you have issues of hyper-sensitivity. In fact, they can actually have the opposite effect, lowering your ‘bad’ cholesterol and raising your ‘good’ cholesterol. Go and read about eggs instead of believing what your doctor tells you, and then try having a couple of eggs for breakfast instead of cereal or breads. Finally, find the form of protein that works for you. If you are vegan or lactose-intolerant or gluten-intolerant, there are other forms of protein out there. This is just my top list. Experiment, make it fun, add it to your other kitchen creations and find out what suits your diet best.