Exercising consistently is hard. I know we’ve all probably gone through a phase where we regularly worked out – or at least attempted to – during quarantine. I’d also say I’m quite sure that some, like myself, might have found that their motivation has dipped a little, and that’s okay. This is for everyone out there who’s still going, as well as everyone who wants to get back into it, because sometimes we just need a little push of excitement and novelty to get back on track.
So, with some great help from Karim Refaat, an incredible coach at Move, we’ve put together a list of some protein-rich foods you can make at home that can help you along your muscle growth journey. Do note, though, that just consuming protein won’t spontaneously grow your muscles on its own; you need to work for muscle growth in your exercise if that’s what you want to witness. How you can go about achieving that particularly won’t be the focus of the article for the time being though, so you can find out more about customised workout and nutrition plans by asking a specialised trainer – and if you’re looking for one, Karim would be happy to help.
With all that out of the way, let’s get into the actual food.
Eggs are amongst the most versatile foods you can use as a good source of protein, made especially apparent by the number of variations and ways you can cook them.
You can go for hard boiled, poached, scrambled, or whatever variation you like for a nice nutritious breakfast. When working out in the morning, Karim recommends starting the day off with something light to give you some energy, such as peanut butter or a banana, then consuming the actual protein-dense breakfast after you exercise.
So, for this one you’ve really got plenty of options. For starters, you can mix around ¾ of a cup of oatmeal with a cup of your milk of choice (skimmed, coconut, soy, etc.) and then really just experiment with all the things you can add. A mashed banana, a bit of peanut butter and some pumpkin seeds, frozen berries and dry fruits, a topping of cinnamon and maybe a drizzle of honey or maple syrup to add some sweet kick.
We’ll be going into more details on some of these specific ingredients and other ways you can incorporate them into your diet too if you’re not a huge fan of oats.
To start things off, you can just replace the milk in an oatmeal recipe with (Greek) yoghurt for a less liquid-y consistency, and then start playing around with the toppings and extra additions as well. Some granola will work great with yoghurt and oats, not to mention your regular fruits, nuts and seeds.
Another excellent option for breakfast, a cheese sandwich can often be underappreciated despite its great nutritional value. For a sandwich, low-fat cheddar, Gouda or low-fat Swiss are some great options, and in general, some of the most protein-rich types of cheese are parmesan, cottage cheese, and goat cheese. Using these really depends on what meal you want to have, a very easily deducible option being some parmesan sprinkled onto of some pasta for example.
You’ll probably be quite acquainted with both tuna and salmon as excellent options if you’re looking to build some muscle, and that’s because they really are. Anything as simple as a tuna salad or a grilled salmon sandwich can do the job, with the addition of all your favorite greens and seeds, which we’ll finally be getting to now.
Seeds & Nuts
First off, you’ve got more breakfast-y nuts like almonds, which are great both in regular form, and as a butter, and can be added to your yoghurt/oatmeal mixture for a great boost in nutritional value and taste. Then there also some options like roasted pumpkin seeds, peanuts, sunflower and flax seeds, which are all great options and serve as very rich toppings.
There are also chia seeds, but we’ll be addressing a particular form of them in more details now.
This is one of my personal favorites – it’s the kind of snack or breakfast that really feels like a reward because you usually leave it to chill in the fridge overnight or for a couple of hours, so whenever it’s time to eat it, it’s ready right out of the fridge. Your general rule of thumb here is to maintain the ratio of one tablespoon of chia seeds to one cup of your preferred milk. You can then add your choice of nut butter for a boost in protein and leave it in the fridge as mentioned. Its consistency will be very pudding-like when you come to eat it, and you can definitely use all your favorite toppings with this too, including coconut shavings and berries.
So, that’s about it for now. There are plenty more types of foods and meals you can prepare at home that can help with muscle growth, but hopefully this is enough to get you started, or at least give you that little push of motivation you need to get back to exercising if you were on a small unintentional break. If you’re ever not sure of something, it’s always worth doing a bit of research or asking a trainer or nutritionist to be on the safe side, and lastly, good luck.