Quick and Easy Protein
Protein is the go to food source for muscle building. It fuels the muscles and allows them to rebuild and grow after the micro tears and breakdown of muscle tissue post workout. So it is no wonder many of us are looking for quick and easy ways to increase our protein intake throughout the day.
Now before I offer up a few options, it is worth noting a few other important facts about protein nutrition. The body works harder to break down proteins than carbohydrates, and therefore keeps us feeling full for longer periods of time. However, liquid proteins, think shakes, are already broken down somewhat, allowing the body and muscles to more readily use the protein. You might also find that you are hungry soon after a protein shake versus a solid protein source.
If you do not find this to be the case, it may be that your protein shake is actually a meal replacement shake or you have added a lot of other food sources and therefore calories to the shake. Some common additions are milk, fruits such as bananas, strawberries, or other berries, and peanut butter.
There is nothing wrong with adding these carbohydrates (milk and fruit). The body will quickly use them for fuel after a workout, though not as much after an extended period of time of more than an hour after working out. That is because your glucose levels are low or depleted immediately after a significant workout. This is when your body craves carbohydrates more than protein. So do not make the mistake of skimping on carbohydrates and focusing solely on proteins. You should have a ratio of 3 or 4:1 carbohydrates to protein. Also since fats (peanut butter) are stressful for the body to break down and immediately use, you will want to avoid fats soon after a workout.
Some final tips:
1. Aim for about 25-45% of calories from proteins. Higher amounts if you are trying to build muscle or lose weight. Lower amounts if you are an endurance athlete or are trying to maintain current body weight.
2. Aim for 1-2 grams per pound of body weight. Higher amounts if you are trying to build muscle or lose weight. Lower amounts if you are an endurance athlete or are trying to maintain current body weight.
3. Consume protein at every meal or snack time to keep muscles fueled and to slow down the digestion process. This helps build and repair muscles while also preventing you from overeating since you will fill full longer as it takes more time for the body to break down proteins.
Given all this information, let’s get to some quick and easy protein sources and options.
Eggs, preferable egg whites:
These are high in natural, quick digesting protein. You can cook them up in the microwave for a quick breakfast, meal or snack.
Powders are less expensive than ready to go liquid shakes but both provide quick protein. If you are consuming these during the day, aim for whey protein. The best source is hydrolyzed whey protein isolate because it has been broken down into a form the body can most easily use, and after a workout you need to refuel the muscles quickly.
These are great eaten by themselves or added to meals. The chocolate flavors make a great snack by themselves. The natural flavor can easily be added to foods without affecting taste. I add them to oatmeal and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Surprisingly, peanut butter does not have enough protein for a snack or meal. It is the fat that makes one feel full longer.
Powders are usually used to making shakes. I have found that a vanilla flavor is great to add to a cereal to instantly increase the protein content. I find it a better way to start the day. I also add it to my oatmeal for an extra boost of protein and flavor.
I am not a big fan of cold cuts. They are overly processed, overly salted, high in nitrates and not great for the heart and body in general. When I do eat turkey I buy less processed and salted options. Your best bet is to buy carved turkey and have the deli slice the meat thinner. It tastes much better and is a lot better for your body.
A vegetable that is super high in protein and very good for your body. You can eat it raw or steamed. Keep some in a bag for a quick treat. I find the shelled options easiest. They are also great to add to salads.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but it does provide some quick and easy options that do not always involve cooking.
Please do not consume raw eggs though. That is a no no.
Also I do not recommend protein bars as they tend to be highly processed and contain a lot of sugar, fat and in particular saturated fat which is very bad for the body, heart and arteries and other non essential ingredients.
Try some of these options and let me know if you feel you are getting higher quality and more protein in your diet, not to mention building muscle and lean mass while decreasing body fat.
Kyle Washburn is the National Health and Fitness Editor at Edge Publications, Inc. He earned a BS in Physiology, M.Ed in Sport Psychology and Counseling and an MBA. He is a certified personal trainer through NASM and ACE and has been training for over ten years. He is an avid triathlete, softball and tennis player, runner, hiker and enjoys the outdoors.