About four to five years ago, when fitness really started to become a passion of mine, I became more curious about protein. The only thing I knew was the people whose bodies I idolized had a lot of protein in their diet or took protein supplements. I had to figure it out. I went into several different nutrition stores and started asking around. My initial fear with taking protein was that it would make me bulky and gain weight...this is a MYTH! Protein will not make you look like a man. I repeat, protein will not make you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
So, what’s the big deal with protein? It’s a fitness game changer and I’m here to clear the air on the many misconceptions that are out there regarding it. When you hear the words “protein shake” you may think of that meat head you always see at the gym with his fake tan and protein shaker acting like he owns the place. Lay your doubts aside ladies and hear us out. The Resource Girls want you looking and feeling your best. So here it is, the scoop on protein.
What is Protein? (Had to dust my nursing books off for this one)
Protein is made up of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of muscles. When you lift weights and exercise this breaks down muscle in a process called catabolism. Muscle fibers then need to be repaired in a process called anabolism, rest and protein to the rescue. This is how you get stronger over time, from the breaking down and rebuilding of muscle fibers.
What are the benefits of protein?
Protein helps build lean muscle, curb hunger, and leaves you feeling satisfied. Eating snacks high in protein will keep you away from potato chips and candy, that just leave you wanting more. Oh wait, that was my ex-boyfriend. Oops.
How much Protein?
This was always my question. So I know I need protein in my diet and I eat meat so I should be good, right? It depends. For a very active individual a good rule of thumb is one gram of protein for every pound of body weight. I weigh 135 lbs. so I need to eat approximately 135 grams of protein each day. It’s possible to get this naturally from your diet or to use a protein supplement.
Where can I get protein naturally in my diet?
- Lean meats
- Greek yogurt
How do I pick a protein supplement?
The most common protein supplement is whey protein. Whey is the watery portion of milk that separates from the curds when making cheese. Whey contains all nine essential amino acids (remember, the building blocks of muscle) and is low in fat and carbohydrates (lactose). Whey protein is great for any time of day and especially after workouts. Soy protein is a vegetarian alternative that is also low in fat and cholesterol. There are also plant based options which usually use rice and peas for protein sources.
I have my protein, now what?
* Rushing out the door - 1 scoop of protein, water, shaker then shake it like a polaroid picture
* I’ve got 5 minutes - 1 scoop of protein, a tablespoon of peanut butter, ice cubes, water then use a blender or magic bullet to blend
- Get creative! Substitute frozen fruit for ice cubes, throw in a splash of orange juice or a scoop of Greek yogurt, the possibilities are endless!
* Planning ahead - Protein peanut butter bites (see recipe below)
* NESQUIK powder can also be added if you have a chocolate craving (lets be honest, who doesn’t have chocolate cravings!?) - one tablespoon only has 30 calories and 7 grams of sugar, could be worse
* You can toss a scoop of protein powder in with your oatmeal in the morning to keep you feeling fuller longer
Protein Peanut Butter Bites:
¾ cup peanut butter
¼ cup honey (or a little less)
1 scoop chocolate or vanilla protein powder
½ cup raw oats
¼ cup dark chocolate chips
(optional, I have a little bit of a chocolate problem)
Want more? Here are some book recommendations for an overall healthier lifestyle.