It’s an old industry aphorism that says ‘you can’t out-train a bad diet‘ – clichéed perhaps, but for good reason – it’s true! To achieve your fitness goals in the gym, you need to fuel your body with the right foods in the kitchen – and crucially, at the right time. Protein should be one of the most important components of your diet. It enables so many vital functions in our bodies, such as (to name just a few):
- helping to regulate hormone secretion (e.g. insulin to control blood glucose levels),
- maintaining, repairing and controlling absorption within cell membranes,
- regulating enzyme release (including those for digestion),
- stimulating antibody production,
- promoting muscle growth.
In that light, it’s worth ensuring that you’re consuming not only the the right amount but also the correct quality of protein on a daily basis. If you’re a veggie it’s worth taking particular care to ensure you have enough ‘complete proteins’ in your diet, as most plants are incomplete proteins meaning one or more of the essential amino acids are missing. One way to tackle this is to combine certain plants which aren’t missing the same amino acids, and thereby forming a complete protein – you can do this by eating more beans, lentils, grains, nuts & seeds. If you’re not a veggie, then apart from the previous suggestions – meat, dairy and eggs are the obvious sources of protein. A foodstuff will never be absolutely pure protein, so look into the quality (are you sacrificing lean protein for high calorific content, high sugar, high salt?), quantity and saturated fat content of the product.
B) HOW MUCH DO I NEED?
Your daily protein requirement will depend upon your bodyweight and lifestyle, upon how active you are, and upon what type of training goals you have. Training puts the body under an increased amount of stress, following which it’s in need of repair and recovery. Almost all muscle growth takes place outside the gym, especially during sleep, and depends upon ‘what’ and ‘how much’ nutrition you fuel your body with in order to initiate muscular repair. This is the time to ‘up’ the protein intake, and my preferred way is to use a powder. It’s important to emphasise that these are supplements, meaning that they’re additive to an already existing complete and healthy diet – they are not replacements for meals. For the daily quantity, there’s no precise science, but typically, nutritionists calculate the minimum daily protein requirement by taking your body weight in kilograms and multiplying that by 0.8x (if lbs, it’s x 0.37). The number you get is the number of grams of protein you should aim to be eating as your daily minimum. So for example if you weigh 55kg, you should be consuming a minimum of 44grams of protein every day for health purposes. Those involved in regular strength training should aim to consume around 1.6g – 2g/kg of bodyweight (eg 88g -110g of protein per day if you weigh 55kg).
C) HOW ABOUT SOME PROTEIN RECIPES?
Be inventive and make your own protein shake recipes! But rather than some horrific chemical-tasting ‘banana’ concoction, why not try adding almonds, oats, chia seeds, hemp seeds, frozen or fresh blueberries, blackberries and plain yogurt to thicken the texture, diversify the flavour and inject some nutrients! Below are two of my personal favourite great-tasting protein recipes. They’re a great way to start the day, a strong boost before/during a workout, as well as an excellent reload after a tough session!
1) BREAKFAST MUESLI PROTEIN SHAKE
• 1 200ml serving unsweetened almond milk
• 1 x c.75g serving of my uber-muesli (home made, containing whole rolled organic oats, flax seed, toasted pine nuts, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed, flaked roasted almonds, goji berry and organic raisins)
• 1 x 25g scoop of Myprotein chocolate True Whey protein powder
• 1 x large teaspoon of peanut butter (optional)
• c. 1/3 of a 500g tub of 0% fat Greek Yoghurt
1. Blend all ingredients for 60-80 seconds on high power to achieve consistency of choice.
2. Enjoy at breakfast time to fuel your day!
2) BLUEBERRY AND ALMOND PROTEIN SHAKE
• 1/2 cup unsweetened soya milk
• 1 cup fresh blueberries
• 2-4 ice cubes
• 1 x 25g scoop of True Whey vanilla protein powder (though it works with the flavour of your choice!)
• 25g flaked Almonds
1. Blend all ingredients for 30-45 seconds on high power.
2. Enjoy within 30 minutes post workout
Faya Nilsson, a Swedish personal trainer and fitness blogger (www.fitnessontoast.com) based in London.