Good Calories, Protein Pow(d)er

Time for yet another Friday Food post in the sporadic, but ongoing series: Good Calories, More Calories.

Today’s post is dedicated to, yup, you guessed it, protein! That building block of our strength gains. Being folks who spend a lot of time working hard in the gym to get stronger, we know that we must complement that dedication with proper nutrition that revolves around a protein source.

The easiest method of eating such a way would be to follow this simple step to filling your plate: find 4-6oz of a good quality of meat, fill the rest of the plate with vegetables, mostly green, and some fruit. Drink water.

Eat like that and you’ll stay lean and strong* (*do not eat like that if you’re goal is to bulk up).

EB chicken thighs and salad

2 baked chicken thighs, spinach, broccoli, goat cheese. [Not pictured: berries]

But that can become boring. I happen to LOVE vegetables, so those stay (cooked, raw, steamed, roasted, stewed… lots of options). I like to change it up by varying my protein source, whether it be lean, fatty, fish, fowl, beef… you name it.

But wait, wait, wait. Guys. Meat isn’t the only protein source out there.

Crazy, I know. But here are a few options for other ways to get your protein intake, and to help you vary your daily meals:

1. Eggs! 
Okay, this may be the obvious choice as eggs are a subset of meat, but 1 large egg carries 6g of protein goodness for you!
eggs

2. Dairy!
Offering more fat than protein, dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese) offers a good source of dense calories and extra protein. Greek yogurt is certainly a fan favorite (Fage 2% gets a thumbs up from me, and it’s what the Greeks themselves prefer!), and offers more protein per serving (17g) than any other dairy product (averaging 8g), though cottage cheese is a close runner-up (14g).

–but whoa, hold up. So far we’re just talking about animal by-products. Those are obvious sources of protein. When do you plan to ‘wow’ me with other foods that are hiding protein for me to eat?–
protein sources

3. Tofu
A go-to favorite for vegetarians and vegans and a staple of many Asian dishes, tofu is versatile for cooking and packs in 13g of protein per 3oz serving.

4. Quinoa!
A big buzzword on the internet these days as the ‘world’s healthiest food’ and a ‘superfood’ (like kale! mmmm kale), quinoa is not only gluten-free, but has 12g of protein per half-cup (and about 50g of carbohydrates, but remember: you WANT to eat carbohydrates). Quinoa is also a great source of magnesium, iron, and vitamin B-6. Mix it into a salad, serve on its own with some aromatic spices, or substitute morning oatmeal for quinoa with berries and some Greek yogurt to get you going for the day.

5. Beans!
We’ve always heard that “beans and rice make a perfect protein”, but some beans are already complete proteins. Black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas…. these all offer 7-8g of protein per 1/2 cup (and who eats just a half cup?!). Not to mention they are a great complex carbohydrate.

6. Nuts (and Nut Butters)
Careful not to consider this a primary source of protein rather than a source of fat and dense calories, nuts and nut butters often will give you up to 8g of protein per serving.

 

And, when all else fails, we can turn to our handy dandy…
Supplements*:
-protein powder (whey, egg, plant…)

-BCAAs (branch chain amino acids, aka “protein”): Our bodies use amino acids from foods to make proteins. As a matter of fact, the amazing human body manufactures all types of substances — from hormones to muscle tissue, blood cells, enzymes, hair, nails, and many others — given the right proportions of amino acids.

*These are called “supplements” for a reason, they are meant to supplement your daily food intake, not replace it.

So, you see, you don’t NEED to eat meat with every single meal in order to meet your daily protein requirement. It certainly is the easiest and quickest way, but not necessary. Even on a vegan diet, you could shed fat and put on muscle, as long as you know what and how to eat:

 

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