Protein is an essential macronutrient used for growth and regeneration by the body. Used frequently in the fitness world to build lean muscle, protein provides long-lasting energy instead of short, quick burning energy like carbohydrates. Protein has been linked with faster weight-loss and an increased rate of muscle growth. Protein is great, but finding food containing a high protein level is difficult. Fortunately, we’ve got some great tips on how to easily incorporate protein into your diet.
1. Calculate Your Macros
First, the best way to make sure you’re eating the right amount of protein is to calculate your recommended daily limit for protein. In excess, protein can cause weight gain. Before you start making changes to your diet, try out a macro calculator to see how many grams of protein are healthy for your height, weight, and activity level. Your fitness goals also play a part in the calculation since building muscle requires more calorie-rich protein, while weight loss generally requires fewer calories but with an emphasis on protein.
2. Bake with Protein Powder
Protein powder is an easy way to get your recommended amount of protein. While mixing the powder with water or milk is a simple way to incorporate lean protein, a way to spruce up your shake is to mix protein powder into your favorite baked goods. Next time you break out the oven mitts, try incorporating an appropriate flavor of protein powder into your recipe. For example, replace around ⅓ of the flour per cup in your chosen recipe with protein powder and bake normally. Not only will this method provide flavor from your mix, but it will also boost each pastry with extra protein, which is a great change for women taking protein powder already.
3. Complete Your Proteins
Meat and animal products are popular nutrient sources for athletes because animal products contain the full 9 amino acids present in complete protein. However, to obtain this protein from other sources, you need to combine multiple foods and complete the full list of amino acids. For example, beans alone provide some amino acids, but combining beans with rice creates a complete protein that is essential for rebuilding tissue. When thinking about non-animal sources of protein, check out this list for building complete amino acids. Creating meals with complete proteins is an easy way to up your macros.
4. Go Nuts
Nuts are another easy way to add protein. Nuts are absolutely packed with protein and other essential nutrients for muscle building and weight loss. Plus, nuts are a mobile snack that can be eaten at any point of the day. There are a large variety of high-protein nuts: peanuts, almonds, and cashews all provide protein and healthy fats that will keep you satiated throughout a hectic day. You can buy pre-portioned bags, or buy in bulk and roast with your choice of flavorings. Of course, nuts also contain high proportions of calories, so keep your portion sizes reasonable.
5. Cottage Cheese
Cheese is a great source of protein, but it has a high level of fat that is undesirable for some diets. With cottage cheese, you get the best of both worlds: a standard portion of cottage cheese contains 11 grams of protein with only 4 grams of fat. Cottage cheese is plain so you can dress it up however you choose. Some great options include adding tomatoes and cucumbers for a quick salad, tossing cottage cheese with chopped fruits like pineapple and bananas, or drizzling with a touch of honey for a wholesome, nutritious snack.
6. Hack Your Snacks
Instead of snacking on carbohydrate and fat-rich snacks like potato chips and cookies, consider purchasing or making your own protein-rich snacks. By replacing your daily snacks with foods like chickpeas, cheese crisps, or hard-boiled eggs, you can sneak protein into your routine without sacrificing flavor. Roasted, flavored chickpeas are quick poppable snacks you can buy or make at home.
To make roasted chickpeas, preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, drain a can of chickpeas, season to your tastes, and bake until crispy. If you don’t have time to make your own, you can always buy premade chickpeas or cheese crisps to snack on throughout the day. Replacing your normal snacks with clean, protein-rich foods is a great way to buff up your macronutrients.
Protein can be tough to incorporate into your diet. However, with a few simple tricks and new pantry staples, you can reap the benefits of a diet with balanced macronutrients.