Protein is an important building block for your muscles that can boost the strength gains achieved from resistance training when taken in sufficient quantities and combined with a suitably demanding workout regimen.
Las Vegas-based health and fitness advocate Jonathan Citsay, who is also an avid CrossFitter, regularly examines the latest workout-related scientific findings and biohacking methods in an effort to maximize his workout productivity and efficiency.
Jonathan notes that there has long been a great deal of confusion over exactly how much protein one should consume to enjoy greater muscle gains from their strength training routines. Previous guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine have suggested anywhere from 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein daily per kilogram of bodyweight.
However, more recent data suggests that the amount of daily protein consumed is less important than having a wider spread compared to the user’s average daily intake. So, if you’re already consuming a lot of protein each day, simply maintaining those levels may not be enough to boost your workout performance, even if the daily quantities might otherwise seem to be more than sufficient.
The solution then is to further boost your protein intake on workout days, with the goal being to develop a wider spread between those days and your non-workout ones. One way of achieving this is through the use of supplements, but the good news is that studies have found there are no ill effects from high protein diets, so there is little risk in adding more protein-rich foods to your plate.
With that in mind, Jonathan Citsay shares some of his favourite high-protein food sources, adding that when consuming food after a workout, protein should be paired with fast-acting carbs like glucose or white bread to further bolster protein synthesis.
Eggs are tiny powerhouses of protein, amino acids, and healthy fats that have endured an unfairly tarnished reputation for many years due to their high cholesterol content. While eggs do contain a lot of cholesterol, their overall cholesterol profile is favorable.
In addition to their protein content, B vitamins, and choline, eggs also contain leucine, an important amino acid that stimulates protein synthesis, putting all of that protein to great use. Eggs are also one of the cheapest sources of protein available.
Peanut butter is another tasty and cheap source of protein, a dollop of which is a favorite addition to many post-workout protein shakes. Given its high caloric content, peanut butter is especially prized by those trying to gain mass, providing an easy method of packing on pounds.
As with eggs, peanut butter also contains the protein synthesizing amino acid leucine, and may contain some added sugar as well, further aiding protein synthesis.
Another great high-protein, leucine-rich food choice to supplement your workouts with is cottage cheese. Unlike peanuts, much of the caloric content of cottage cheese comes from its protein, making it a great pure source of the essential macronutrient for anyone looking to bolster their protein intake without a big corresponding boost to their caloric intake. Cottage cheese works great as both a standalone snack and as an ingredient in other delicious recipes.
Supplementing with both whey and casein protein has been found to be a highly effective method of building fat-free mass. Greek yogurt is a great source of both forms of protein and contains about double the overall amount of protein than regular yogurt does. It can be eaten on its own, added to smoothies, or even converted into a dip for veggie sticks.
Jonathan Citsay says to look for Greek yogurt brands that contain live and active cultures, as their probiotics can dramatically improve your gut health, potentially boosting your mood and energy levels and even making it easier to shed unwanted pounds.
Seeds are among the most nutrient-dense foods on the market and sunflower seeds are no exception, as their tiny frames come loaded with protein, vitamin E and magnesium, the latter of which plays a vital role in muscle function and performance among older adults. Sunflower seeds can be eaten on their own as a light snack or tossed into some yogurt or a smoothie to easily reap their many benefits.
Tuna is one of several promising low-fat protein intake options that can be found in the seafood section of your grocer, making it perfect for those looking to build lean muscle mass. Jonathan Citsay cites tuna in particular due to its low cost, especially when it comes to the canned variety, which doesn’t sacrifice any of the protein or omega-3 fatty acids found in fresh/frozen tuna.
As an added bonus, canned tuna generally has far less mercury than fresh/frozen tuna, as the fish used are often younger and smaller. Nonetheless, Jonathan recommends choosing only canned light tuna, which is made from low-mercury tuna species like skipjack and yellowfin.