Think you’re eating loads of protein but you check your calorie tracking app to see you’ve only had about 60g? Don't worry, that’s a familiar feeling.
You probably know why protein is important (muscle building and maintenance and keeping you feeling full) but you might be struggling with the how. How exactly are people eating over 100g of protein every day?! OK, you might not need that much, but consuming enough protein is vital for seeing training gains.
Luckily, Nutritionist Richie Kirwan has come up with a protein cheat sheet with easy ways to boost your intake. Here's all the need-to-know info.
1. Start the day with protein
There’s nothing like protein in the morning. It’s the most satiating macro and far more likely to leave you feeling fuller for longer than carbs or fats. Have a high-protein breakfast and you’ll feel like a member of high satiety all morning long.
The average UK resident only gets about 12g of protein for breakfast, but Richie says you should be aiming for more like 20-30g in the morning.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cook up a full English every morning. Think more along the lines of dairy products like cottage cheese, quark, Greek yoghurt, eggs or even just a protein shake.
And of course, a personal favourite is protein oats ('proats' to long term fans). Try out this recipe...
2. Build meals around protein
Meal prepping can be a minefield at the best of times. But a way to make the whole process simpler and ensure you’re getting enough protein is by picking your protein source wisely, whether it's meat, chicken, beans or tofu. You should also think about how much of that protein source you need to reach your protein goal for that meal.
Richie gives the example of someone aiming for 30g of high-quality protein in a meal. Let’s say they choose chicken breast as their protein source; they’d need to try and get 130g of chicken breast per serving. Then you can start adding rice, veggies and whatever else you fancy.
3. Eat more dairy
Richie says dairy is one of the easiest ways to reach your protein goal.
Dairy products like Greek yoghurt (about 10g of protein per 100g) and quark (about 11g of protein per 100g) are great additions to a meal or a nice and easy dessert.
Try adding grated cheese on top of meals, having a glass of milk or making a yoghurt bowl before bed to top up your protein intake.
Richie also points out that dairy is rich in other essential nutrients like calcium and iodine and there are plenty of low fat options. And the best bit is it’s a relatively cheap protein source too.
4. Swap regular pasta for legume pasta
While Richie says regular pasta is absolutely fine, legume pasta has the advantage of adding an extra dose of protein into your day and makes getting legumes into your diet much easier too.
Richie says he’s always recommending legumes to clients because they’re high in fibre, polyphenols and minerals. They’re super-duper healthy as well as high in protein.
5. Stock up on high-protein snacks
Another tip from Richie is to stock your house, your bag and your pockets with high-protein snacks so you always have some protein to hand.
Protein bars, jerky and powder sachets are all incredibly convenient, so sure you’re never caught snackless.
Yoghurts, cheese snacks and hard boiled eggs are all great too. Stock up with them and you’ll never find yourself staring into the fridge in search of a protein-filled snack.
6. Think about protein per calorie
Richie says that many people often hit their calorie goal way before they hit their protein goal. To combat this, he suggests stocking up on foods that are high in protein but low in calories.
Richie gives the example of a piece of lean beef steak, which comes in at 25g of protein for about 130 calories, whereas 25g of protein from almonds would have about 684 calories.
7. Protein shakes
C’mon, you knew this tip was coming. Probably the most convenient on this list is protein shakes. Adding a shake into your day tops up your protein by about 20g, making that goal much easier to reach.
And they can be super convenient. All you need is water, but you can also get fancy and add milk, peanut butter, berries or oats.
Fancy making your shake a bit more interesting? Check out these...
Take home message
With Richie’s tips on hand, you’ll be hitting that protein goal day after day, and soon seeing the results in the gym. Stock your fridge with convenient, tasty, macro-friendly snacks, plan your meals around your protein source, and start your day off right with a good dose of protein.
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