Summer is in full swing and we hope you're feeling the energy and excitement that comes with pursuing your health and fitness goals. As you continue to challenge yourself in the gym, it's essential to pay attention to what you put on your plate. Today, we're here to talk about the mighty macronutrient that plays a crucial role in your fitness journey: protein.
Protein is the building block for muscles and it plays a vital role in looking after your muscles and helping to repair them after your workouts. Whether you're looking for a change in body composition, to increase strength, or to lose weight, protein is the one food group that you can play in your favour.
During your workout you create a demand upon your muscles which creates microtears. It’s after the workout that your muscles crave replenishment and recovery (This is where the magic happens!) And it’s protein that provides the essential amino acids necessary to repair those microtears, giving them every opportunity to grow stronger.
(Now don’t be fooled here - ladies in particular - increasing your muscle mass won’t increase your ‘size’ - muscle actually covers a much MUCH smaller surface area than fat itself so squash that preconception right now).
So, by consuming an adequate amount of protein, you can optimise your recovery, reduce muscle soreness, and get a head start on starting to see the physical benefits when it comes to results.
Whatever the goal, consuming an adequate amount of protein supports the growth and maintenance of lean muscle mass and as you increase your muscle mass your body will require a higher caloric intake. If you are trying to lose body fat, the more muscle mass you can maintain whilst in a minor calorific deficit, the faster you will tend to lose the fat.
Did you know that protein has a higher thermic effect compared to other macronutrients, which basically means it causes your body temperature to increase. This means your body starts to burn more calories as heat energy (anyone ever experienced the meat sweats?). This occurs because protein requires more energy for the body to digest it as opposed to carbs or fats; roughly 20-30% of the total amounts of calories ingested are required for digestion.
Fullness. One of the biggest challenges we all face when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet is managing hunger and cravings. Including protein-rich foods in your meals and snacks can help increase satiety, keeping you feeling fuller for longer. If you’re guilty of reaching for those mid-afternoon snacks it’s time to pick the protein up and find yourself with a more sustained energy level throughout the day.
So, how can you ensure you're getting enough protein into your week?
Variety. Incorporate a variety of protein-rich foods into your diet; lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, and dairy products. This way, you'll enjoy a range of nutrients while keeping things interesting and flavorful.
Prioritise Post-Workout Nutrition. Give yourself a head start - it’s the perfect window!! A good hit of protein post-workout (around 30g) gives your body optimum opportunity to take full advantage of the muscle recovery process.
Plan Ahead. Think about what, when and how. Leaving it to chance usually means grabbing quick and easy options which usually aren’t protein-packed and will leave you reaching for those mid-afternoon snacks.
It doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be easy to sneak into your diet without feeling like you’re just eating meat:
Greek yoghurt with a small handful of nuts
Roasted chick peas
‘Protein’ rice cakes with tuna or cottage cheese
Smoked salmon and cream cheese
Protein pancakes/smoothie (made with a scoop of whey protein)