'How do I hit my protein target?' is a questions I'm often asked my new clients. When following any nutrition program designed to build,, strength or drop fat it’s likely you'll be given a protein target that may be higher than how you naturally eat.
So why so high?
Protein fuels growth and repair of muscle tissue. In simple terms this helps you recover from training by repairing muscle fibres that have been damaged due to weight lifting (contrary to how it sounds this ‘damage’ is actually a good thing). This helps your muscles recover and grow back stronger.
Strength progress will be slower if you’re not consuming enough.
Protein is also an awesome tool to use when dieting as it’s highly satiating so keeps you fuller for longer. Leaner protein options (chicken breast, white fish etc) are also relatively low in calories, so you can eat a lot of them to keep you full, whilst keeping cravings and hunger pangs at bay.
If you’re not used to eating a lot of protein and not aware of how to get it, it can seem like a lot.
Here’s a few tips to get that extra protein on board.
Meals - If you can get your meals right you’ll be well on your way to that target so make protein the main element of each meal. Aim for about 20-30g per meal and go large where you can. An extra half a chicken breast, an extra egg in your breakfast, an extra slice of beef in your roast- it all adds up.
Snacks - Think of your snacks as small balanced meals rather than the traditional options of crisps, fruit or chocolate. I’ve listed some low maintenance snacks below because life is not about snack preparation right now.
Boiled Eggs - super easy to batch cook and leave in the fridge.
Tuna - a tin of tuna (other fish are available) has about 20g protein (only about 100 calories) so a great option when dieting and trying to keep calories low. Little on the dry side on its own so add some veg/tomatoes (carbs) and a bit of olive oil/avocado (fats) to help it down!
Cottage Cheese - Really easy to keep in the fridge and eat whenever.
Greek Yoghurt - Another super easy high protein fridge snack (also works well with an extra scoop of protein powder for a further boost).
Cooked meats - On the go? You can usually buy a packet of cooked meat or ham (often with a side of seasoning) and yes, you might look a little odd eating ham slices on the tube, but it does the job. (I also like to keep a cooked chicken in the fridge for snacking purposes).
Protein powder - Protein powder is a really easy way to get extra protein into your diet. You can easily add it to smoothies, yoghurt or baking if you’re feeling creative.
Protein bars - another easy (and tasty) way to add protein is to grab a protein bar. Some brands are so good you really wouldn’t know they’re protein bars (apart from maybe the price). My personal favourites are Grenade, Barbells and Fulfil as I’m a bit of a chocoholic and these have some great flavours. When looking for a bar, you want to try and aim for about 20g protein per bar.
Vegan options - Vegan protein options are a little trickier when dieting as they are generally much lower in protein when compared to animal-based alternatives so you have to eat a larger volume of food to get the same amount of protein into your diet (this obviously ramps up the calories). I would generally go for beans, nuts (nut butters) and seeds when planning vegan snacks but you will find the calories rack up quickly (particularly with nuts and seeds) so adding a good vegan protein powder to your diet will really help with this.
Food sorted. Now for some training....