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Top 5 Overlooked Protein Sources

You’ll probably already know that if you’re training hard, looking to build muscle or increase your overall strength then protein is going to be your new best friend. Your body uses protein to build, and more importantly repair, your muscle tissue. Although the science behind how all that happens is a lot more complicated than we’ve room to go into here, all you need to know is that the more you work your muscles down the gym, the more protein you’re going to need to repair and build new muscle tissues, larger and stronger than the older once, and to keep your energy levels topped up so that you’re ready to go again sooner rather than later.

 

As a rough guide for how much protein you need on a day to day basis, take whatever your weight is in kilos, imagine that figure in grams, and then increase it by about 20–25% (depending on how hard you’re training, of course). So say you weigh 60 kilos—change that to 60g, add 20%, and there you go: as a rule of thumb, you’d b looking to get around 72g of protein in your diet every day.

 

But just getting enough protein every day can tough. People looking to increase their protein intake to maximise their work down the gym often end up relying on the same tried-and-tested foods (which can soon get boring), or else on protein bars and protein-rich snacks (which, as we’ve talked about before here, can contain almost as much sugar as protein).

 

But there’s much more to protein than just grilled chicken breast, hard boiled eggs and protein shakes. For something different, or else to supplement the protein you’re already getting in your diet, why not try one of these often overlooked protein-rich foods.

1. SEAFOOD

Don’t just rely on fish for your protein hit—prawns, mussels, scallops and other seafoods are low fat, low calorie, quick to cook, and easier than ever to track down in your local supermarket. And just like fish they’re a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as iron, zinc and vitamin E.

 

2. BEANS

Beans of any kind are an excellent source of protein, as well as dietary fibre, B vitamins, and important minerals like iron and potassium. What’s more they’re cheap, quick, readily available, and easy to cook.

But we’re not just talking about beans on toast here. Try adding a can of mild-flavoured haricot or borlotti beans to soups and meaty stews. Replace that carb-loaded pile of mashed potato you like with Sunday roast with shelled, seasoned and mashed butter beans. Patties of diced kidney beans, mixed with chilli, onion, tomato puree and a beaten egg will make a lighter protein-packed alternative to ordinary burgers. And try roasting chick peas in a little extra virgin olive oil, garlic powder, cumin and chilli for a low-fat, super high-protein alternative to salted peanuts.

3. TURKEY

Often when people shop for extra protein, their first port of call is a tray of chicken breasts. But even besides the fact that chicken breast is the least flavoursome cut (seriously, try chicken thighs for a cheaper alternative and a richer flavour!) supermarket chicken breasts are often pumped up with water to make them appear bigger and more filling than they really are. Instead, try switching to turkey for a lower-calorie, higher-protein alternative to chicken at little to no extra expense.

 

4. SPELT

Yep, that’s a food… It might take some tracking down, but as an alternative to carb-heavy staples like rice, pasta and couscous, pearl spelt—a type of grain, similar to wheat—packs a whopping 10g of protein into every cupful.

More often than not, spelt is ground up to make spelt flour, a super-healthy alternative to ordinary wholewheat flour. But as a grain in its own right, boiled spelt can be used to make a delicious low-carb, protein-rich risotto. The Italians have known this for years, but it looks like we’re only just catching on!

5. SOY

If you’re a meat eater adding soy products like tofu to your diet in place of beef or pork might seem like sacrilege! But luckily these days there’s more choice (and more flavour) on offer than ever before, and what’s more these products often tend to be cheaper, longer-lasting, and lower fat than their meat alternatives. A typical packet of veggie tofu sausages, for instance, contains no less protein than their pork equivalent (roughly 18g each), but has less than a sixth of the fat—and comes in 50p cheaper per serving. So even just going meat-free one day a week could end up making a big difference to your diet and your wallet!

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