Fitness enthusiasts generally like to watch what they eat. After all, everything you consume can help fuel your next workout, or make it a dud. That being said, there are some people who can down an entire pizza, head out for a 10-mile run in record time – clocked by your BABY-G BGD560-1 watch – and feel amazing afterwards. But, as you can imagine, this may not be sustainable in the long run. Exercise and good health are for life, not just for that feat of endurance. So, the best thing you can do to care for yourself is eat a balanced diet – yes, with the occasional pizza included – and focus on trying to add protein to your meals.
Why bother with protein?
Essentially, protein is the key to building muscle, which is why so many athletes and fitness buffs like to focus on it. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, consuming some form of high-quality lean protein within two hours of exercise can promote muscle growth and repair. When you work out, you essentially damage your muscles, and the post-exercise period is when they strengthen and heal. Need inspiration? Try meat, fish, eggs, dairy or soy after your workout.
You don’t have to eat a day’s worth of protein all at once, the source explained. From breakfast to dinner, the American College of Sports Medicine advises that athletes consume 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. And while hard-boiled eggs and Greek yogurt are appealing, you might want to start incorporating different sources of the nutrient into your meals.
Get out the crock pot
Call it a crock pot or a slow cooker, whatever you choose, but this nifty electronic oven can work wonders for those pressed for time or who don’t love cooking. Most recipes involve collecting ingredients and throwing them in the receptacle, then turning it on and leaving it to simmer. The device doesn’t get too hot, so you can leave it in the house to cook all day and come home to a delicious meal.
The easiest slow-cooker recipes tend to be soups and stews, and to ensure your meals continue to be protein-rich, Self Magazine recently published a list you might want to try. All of the suggestions are vegetarian, which is great for non-meat eaters and even better for those who want to look further afield for protein sources.
Ever tried to make black bean soup? Go ahead and try a simple recipe found on the blog Joyful Healthy Eats. Dried legumes are thrown in the pot with a healthy dose of vegetable broth. Add plenty of spices, and let it simmer until the beans are soft and soupy – this will take about six hours. You can throw some avocado and sour cream on top for a more Mexican-themed dish, but a little cheese can also be added. If you want to dabble with slow-cooking lentils, look into making a lentil garlic soup, as originally found on the Eating Bird Food blog. Adjust the amount of garlic you add for personal preference, but this dish can be savory and warming – with plenty of protein. Carrots, celery and onion round out the soup, and help you reach your 5-a-day goal.
Experimenting with cooking can be fun. If you must have meat at every meal, you can always throw in shredded chicken breast or cook ground beef or turkey into the crock pot concoction. No matter what, incorporating a healthy amount of protein into your diet will only help muscle recovery and overall fitness, which can help your next workout feel amazing.
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