“When life gives you lemons, ask for something higher in protein”
Last year I went on a bit of a health and fitness drive, in an attempt to both feel better physically and mentally, as well as feeling more confident in my appearance. I made a fair few changes to my diet, as well as starting to go to the gym, at first training with a personal trainer and later participating in an 8-week bootcamp, training 3 times a week.
I’ll be honest, one of my goals was to lose weight (sorry *slaps hand* body fat). After putting on 3 stone in a pretty short period of time, I didn’t have much of the old ‘body confidence’ stuff, so something had to give.
I was lucky to get some really good advice from my personal trainer in terms of my nutrition. He emphasised the importance of making sure I was eating enough food, and good quality food at that. Whilst I was using a calorie counting app, he was encouraging me not to get too caught up with the numbers (if anything, I found I wasn’t actually eating enough to start off with!)
One of the tips I was given was to count my macros, in particular watching my protein intake. Protein is fabulous stuff – it helps repair muscles after exercise, reduces muscle loss and encourages lean muscle growth and helps keep hunger at bay.
Now I love my food, but not only am I an awful cook (if I could burn water I probably would!), but I’m also…well, a lazy cow! So preparing my meals needed to be quick, easy and convenient.
Here are a couple of changes I made to my diet to try and increase my protein intake.
I’m a self confessed cornflake addict. Not even the nice branded ones, the dead cheap ones from Sainsburys that used to come in a bag. Even having a mahoosive bowl though wasn’t filling me up enough for the day. I switched to eating eggs & egg whites for breakfast, either as scrambled eggs on gluten free toast or as an omelette with fillings like mushrooms and spinach thrown in.
If I was feeling like something a bit more carb based, my go-to tended to be porridge with some protein powder mixed in along with peanut butter and banana. Now if that doesn’t fill you up for the day I’m not sure what will!
Being gluten free, getting food on the go is a bit more awkward. So to save money and make sure I was hitting my macro goals, I tried as much as possible to meal prep my lunches. I’d make a big batch of 3 or more portions which I could keep in the fridge and bung in the microwave at work. A big favourite was pesto chicken with asparagus and tomatoes, or peri peri chicken with peas and corn. Chicken breast is a great source of protein and you can flavour it all sorts of ways. Vegetables can also be decent sources of protein too apparently, and not just spinach (which lets’ face it, always conjures up images of Popeye)
If I was fancying a change from chicken, another favourite was jacket potato with oily fish like tinned sardines or tuna. Yep. My colleagues loved me!
I used to meal prep my dinners a lot of the time, but if I was in a rush to get some food down me before the gym, another favourite was some simple microwave fish fillets with vegetables. Chuck a teensy bit of butter, salt and pepper on there and you’re good to go in only a couple of minutes.
Otherwise, it was more chicken meal preps. Seriously, I know people say eating the same chicken and fish meal preps over and over gets really bland and boring, but I didn’t find it that bad! I rotated between recipes – Pinterest has loads of ideas for different flavours and even fakeaways.
Snacks and Post Workout Nibbles
I was making a concerted effort to eat more fruit and veg as snacks, but sometimes you just need something that feels like a bit of a guilty pleasure. I’m a sugar fiend, ok? Luckily, you can actually get some pretty great tasting protein snacks out there for when you’re rushed for time, or just need a little pick me up for when you’re on the go.
Nutreelife are a North West based company that offer a range of individually wrapped snacks that are easy peasy to throw in your bag before you head out for the day. They’re packed with protein and are gluten-free, both perfect for what I need. They’re also free from soya and lactose, and they’re 100% vegan. They do all sorts, including chocolate flapjack squares, sticky toffee snack bites and chocolate mint protein cubes – perfect for when that naughty sugar craving hits, and definitely more filling than a normal chocolate bar!
Nutreelife also do protein bars for when you’re on the go, protein powders if you’re partial to a post workout shake and even burger mixes, all of which are gluten-free and vegan!
How did upping my protein help?
Upping my protein intake definitely helped me work towards my fitness goals. With a combination of weight training and cardio, I found that the changes to my diet were helping me feel more satisfied with what I was eating, whilst complimenting the exercise I was doing. After all, you can’t out-train a bad diet!
With these changes, I actually ended up losing about 2 stone over the year, dropped a dress size and more importantly felt a lot fitter and more confident in my body and health.
I’ve admittedly fallen off the wagon a little since Christmas. Though I’ve managed to maintain my current size, unconsciously making some better dietary choices. but I think it’s time I started retaking my own advice.