Last Updated: December 21, 2017, 3:53 pm

Fit n’ Pretty: Protein-packed diet key for athletic health

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Don’t expect to get glutes of steel by passing on the protein.

I’ve always been a protein fan. I swear my mom let me gnaw on a chicken leg at the ripe age of 14 months old. Now I’ve wised up, learned more about fitness and nutrition, and I’ve realized how critical consuming protein is, especially when living an active lifestyle. But unfortunately there is more to it than chowing down on a drumstick now and then. There is a science to how much protein you need, what it does, and how to get it, so listen up.

According to CDC.gov, proteins are essential and help make up every cell, tissue and organ in your body. The proteins in our bodies are constantly being broken down and used for virtually every function our body completes. So, it’s our responsibility to replenish our bodies with protein, not just for our glorious glutes, but for every single organ and cell of our body.

Now if you’re an athlete or doing strenuous workouts, you’re breaking down your muscles and tissues more than a sedentary person, and you will need to consume more protein in order to build your muscles back up. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends adult male athletes to consume 84 to 119 grams of protein a day, and 66 to 94 grams for adult females. Sedentary men and women should consume about 46 to 56 grams of protein.

Now, I know that sounds easy enough, and, sure, if you’re downing 8-ounce steaks on the daily, it will be easy. However, for vegetarians, people who don’t own a grill, or people who just don’t have the time or skills to cook, eating close to 100 grams of protein is a workout in itself.

But don’t fret yet, I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve that make getting your recommended protein intake as easy as your 7 p.m. Zumba class.

First, invest in some protein powder. You can get plant-based protein, or an animal-derived whey protein. I typically go for whey protein because it tends to have more protein per serving and tastes better. I’m a fan of Inner Armour’s Vanilla Nitro-Peak whey protein. It has 24 grams of protein per serving, and it tastes heavenly in a smoothie or even plain. Not to mention, it keeps you full for hours.

Second, stock up on high-protein snacks. I’m addicted to Dry Roasted Edamame. It has 14 grams of protein per serving, and the serving is barely a handful. Another addiction I have is Quest Protein Bars. They are the only protein bars I’ll touch because they are low sugar, high protein and super delish. Eating protein-packed snacks make it much less daunting to reach your daily goal.

Finally, pair up your non-protein foods with high-protein foods. When you eat carbohydrates or sugary foods by themselves, they can create a spike in insulin and then a blood sugar drop that leaves you hungry, according to prevention.com. So by pairing an apple with some peanut butter or a piece or bread with some cheese, you’ll not only get more protein, but you’ll be maintaining your blood sugar and you’ll feel fuller for longer.

Getting the protein your body needs requires a conscious effort, but if you’re like me, you’ll soon realize that protein-filled foods are diverse and quite tasty, and every part of your body will appreciate the effort.

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