Over nearly 10 years working as a Personal Trainer …
…I have spent much of my time, in the early phases of my client relationships, trying to encourage people to switch from an often high carb low fat and protein diet to a higher protein and fat with lower carb arrangement. This is obviously summarising the complexities within my approach to healthy eating but I hope it highlights the issues we tend to have in our western diet.
It is a fact that a lot of people avoid fat thinking it is unhealthy (there is certainly no recognition of good fats and bad fats) and stick to high carb ‘filler’ meals such as cereals and toast for breakfast, pasta bowls for lunch, potatoes for supper…the misconception has been that if it is low in fat then it must be healthy! Thankfully these misconceptions are starting to change and I have seen a massive shift in the widespread understanding of macronutrients among the general population in the last couple of years.
Within this cauldron of confusion there is a second issue.
People don’t tend to eat enough protein to suit their fitness and health goals. I have lost count of the amount of times I have read a clients’ first food diary and seen ‘cereal for breakfast’ followed by ‘sandwich for lunch’ followed by a massive portion of meat for supper (the only notable protein source of the day).
When you consider that your body struggles to digest too much protein in one go and instead prefers to be topped up with modest portions every 2-3 hours it is easy to see that many people have spent many years of their lives increasing their body fat % and not maximising their muscle % without realising they were even doing so. Of course there are other factors that can play a role but I want to focus on protein intake in this article.
To help combat much of this my early advice is often very simple but effective if taken on board and put into action consistently. Simply put…take out the processed carbs and instead look to eat approx. a palm sized portion of protein every 2-3 hours starting with breakfast. Simple right? Not exactly…
People tend to dislike the idea of eating lots of meat, fish, eggs and nuts, etc. They often either get bored of the options or put off by the idea of eating lots of animal products even if it is a great source of complete proteins.
Get inventive with your protein meals and snacks!!!! Along with the developments in general public understanding of nutrition has come a boom in the options being presented by food companies. My Protein, for example, have released a series of products to help you get inventive and combat the aforementioned issues.
I recently spent a few days trialling out some of their products and came up with a few simple snack ideas.
a) Protein breadsticks with peanut butter. For me this worked best as an afternoon snack as I sat at my desk coaching my Online PT clients and catching up with other admin.
b) Protein pancakes with zero sugar sauce. A reward for after the gym…you’ve earned it! As they say, you eat with your eyes, so a large protein pancake with a big dollop of yogurt and drizzled with the My Protein zero sugar chocolate sauce looks like I’m doing something incredibly cheeky…but I’m not really (evil chuckle to myself).
c) High Protein cheese! Everyone loves cheese don’t they? Well I certainly count myself as a cheese snob and so was sceptical about this one BUT…it really did taste just like cheese – only slightly denser due to the high protein content. Snacking on this to fill in the gaps makes sense, but I even use it to spruce up the protein content of my omelettes by adding thin slices over the top, it gives it a great texture and added flavour to eggs that can get a bit ‘samey’. Or… a snack before bed … but be careful of those nightmares!