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Written on March 8, 2013 at 6:00 am, by Eric Cressey
Today’s guest post comes from Chris Howard. In addition to being a strength and conditioning coach, Chris handles nutrition consultations for all the clients at Cressey Performance.
In my work with clients at Cressey Performance I have noticed that people need to get more protein in their diets. Most of us are so carbohydrate focused, making sure that we get the Food Guide Pyramid’s recommended 6-11 servings of grains a day, that we neglect to get enough protein. This is unfortunate, not only because people are still using the Food Guide Pyramid for advice, but also because protein is such an important and essential nutrient. I find this is particularly true in our female clients, with whom I am always discussing ways to get more protein in their diets, as many tend not to be huge consumers of meat and animal products. In addition, I find that many of our high school kids who are looking to gain weight can benefit from eating more protein. Here are some of the tips that have really helped our clients.
1. Eat more eggs!
Eggs are a simple way to include more protein in your diet, particularly at breakfast. A large egg has 6 grams of protein in it. Adding a few of these in throughout the day can go a long way toward helping you achieve a protein consumption in grams equal to your body weight in pounds. As a bonus, there are numerous ways to cook eggs, so there is likely a method you will like even if you are not an egg person – scrambled, poached, hard-boiled, baked, fried, and many others. Add some veggies and spices for a more complete meal.
2. Switch to Greek yogurt.
Most of our clients eat yogurt frequently, but unfortunately most of it is the processed, sugar-added garbage that the commercials are telling them will help them lose weight. My suggestion for higher protein intake and a healthier body is to switch to Greek-style yogurt. Greek yogurt has over twice the protein of even plain traditional yogurt at 23 grams versus 10 grams per cup. Add some berries and flax or chia seed to your Greek yogurt for a healthy breakfast or snack idea.
I think smoothies are a great option no matter what your nutritional goals are. You can easily incorporate additional vegetables as I mentioned previously. In this case, smoothies are a great way to up your protein intake by adding protein powder, greek yogurt, almond milk, or even egg whites. A lot of people don’t necessarily like the taste of protein powders or greek yogurt, so smoothies make for a more palatable way to incorporate these foods into your nutrition plan. Here is a great article by the folks at Precision Nutrition to get you started on your smoothie-making journey.
4. Increase your portion size.
I know this one sounds strange, especially to the fat-loss community. Think about it, though. If you are having chicken for dinner and want to increase your protein intake, just eat more chicken. Hey, no one said this was rocket-science. For most of our clients, I recommend aiming for 1-2 palm sized portions of protein at each meal, which will usually get them into the range of 1g/lb body weight. When I look at the portion sizes of many of our skinny high school kids and our adult fat-loss clients, they simply are not eating a large enough portion size of protein. Speaking of chicken, here is a dynamite recipe for chicken fingers from Metabolic Cooking. Add some vegetables for a complete meal.
5. Don’t forget cheese.
While I tend not to eat a ton of dairy food and a lot of people are switching to more paleo-style diets, let’s not forget about cheese. It can be used as an excellent source of not only protein, but also calories for those of you looking to gain weight. Now, I am certainly not suggesting that you sit around eating a block of your favorite cheddar every day, but I’m not opposed to throwing a little on an omelet in the morning or having some fresh mozzarella with your chicken and asparagus at dinner.
6. Look to your fat source for some extra protein.
Nuts and seeds are a great addition to any diet, mainly for the healthy fats they contain. However, nuts and seeds have the added benefit of providing some much needed protein. An ounce of almonds has 6 grams of protein, which when added to a snack of greek yogurt with blueberries can make for a significant protein punch. Both cacao nibs and chia seeds will provide an additional 4 grams per ounce. Two tablespoons of peanut butter with provide an additional 8 grams. While nuts and seeds won’t compare to chicken or beef in terms of the protein they contain, nuts and seeds provide the benefit of being portable raw food options that work well for snacks between main meals.
In closing, give some or all of these ideas a try when you are planning out your next meal. I’ve heard countless clients talk about how much more energy they have and how much better they feel after increasing their protein intake. Please remember, you don’t ever need to completely overhaul your diet, but rather make small changes each day or week that will lead to large changes over time.
About the Author
Christopher Howard received his his Bachelor’s of Science in Exercise Science and Masters of Science in Nutrition Science from the State University of New York at Buffalo. In addition, Chris is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength & Conditioning Association, a Licensed Massage Therapist in the state of Massachusetts, and a Level 1 Certified Precision Nutrition Coach. Chris has been a strength coach at Cressey Performance since 2010. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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