We all know snacks can make or break a healthy eating routine, so you wouldn’t be caught dead eating a chocolate bar for an afternoon snack. Well, what about that “healthy” granola bar you toss in your gym bag? Or your mid-morning coffee break bagel and cream cheese habit? Does it leave you feeling satisfied? Does it help you make better eating decisions later in the day? Does it help you achieve that lean, toned, and healthy physique you’re looking for?
No. No, it doesn’t. No matter how much you love it, or how many commercials you see with smiling, slim and smug women eating breakfast bars and low-fat crackers, that high-carbohydrate snack does not get you closer to your fitness goals. But we know what does, because it’s been researched and proven time and time again. When it comes to fullness, and reducing cravings, nothing beats protein. Not complex carbohydrates. Not fat. Not drinking more water. It's protein. Plain and simple.
IT SUSTAINS YOU. Your body needs protein to make enzymes, hormones, and other vital chemicals.
IT STRENGTHENS YOU. Your body uses protein to build and repair tissue, and it speeds recovery after exercise.
IT CULTIVATES YOU. Protein is an important building block of bones, lean muscles, cartilage, skin and blood.
IT ENCOURAGES YOU. Protein helps to curb hunger, helping you maintain a healthy weight.
IT ENCOMPASSES YOU. Protein is a component of every cell in your body. In fact, your hair and nails are made of nearly 100% of it!
Studies show eating more protein early in the day, at breakfast and lunch, as well as when snacking, reduces the urge to snack later in the day.
Research shows fat loss is faster with higher protein intake, and that a protein-rich diet, combined with a slightly reduced calorie intake, allows you to burn more fat.
Research proves that a higher protein intake helps you hang on to that youthful lean muscle mass as you age, and burn fat when you exercise instead of that all important calorie-burning, grocery-carrying, healthy-looking muscle.
Shoot for 0.5-1.0 grams of protein per day, per pound of bodyweight for optimal body composition and health. For a woman of 150 pounds, this means a daily protein intake of 75-150g.
How can you achieve all of this? It means not just protein-rich meals, but smarter snacking:
Choose eggs and/or lean meats as part of your breakfast. Instead of toast and peanut butter, try a half English muffin with natural ham and scrambled eggs for a homemade breakfast sandwich. Or make a breakfast burrito with natural sausage or pepperoni, scrambled egg, avocado and salsa wrapped in a tortilla.
Prepare lean meats on the weekend to pack for your at-work lunches or grab on hectic weekdays at home with the littles, and prepare a little extra meat at night so you have protein-rich leftovers for lunch the next day. Think outside the box; a leftover burger tastes delicious crumbled over a big, crunchy salad with oil and vinegar, and doesn’t even need to be reheated. Chicken can be mixed with a little mayo, yogurt, and green onion to make a light chicken salad, then wrapped in lettuce leaves.
Stock your fridge with quick-cooking protein sources for hectic weeknight meals; natural sausages, lean beef, chicken or turkey burgers will hold up in your freezer, and thaw and cook as quickly as you can bake a sweet potato and toss a salad on the side. Frozen chicken breasts and chicken strips can be quickly thawed and sautéed for a high-protein stir fry that cooks in minutes.
Build your snacks around complete protein sources. Try natural ham or turkey wrapped around shredded lettuce and/or sliced peppers, with mustard for zingy flavour. Skip the crackers and try a natural pepperoni stick with a piece of cheese for a snack that tastes like a treat but packs as much protein as 2 eggs. On the go? Try protein-rich packaged snacks like Protinis natural chicken or chicken-and-fruit combinations.
Once you’ve got the protein piece of this puzzle down, you’ll start to see changes in the way your body feels, performs and looks. But all the protein in the world can’t make your muscles firmer and stronger if you’re not using them regularly!
Put that protein to good use and build some sexy, lean muscle by incorporating strength training into your weekly routine. Aim for a full-body strength training workout 2-3 times per week. On days you can’t make it to the gym or squeeze in your usual home workout.
Here are some creative ways to sneak in muscle-building, fat-burning exercise:
Choose foods that fuel and see how changing your snacks can change your body!
Visit your local Loblaws store to make adding protein to your family's diet super easy! Maple Leaf products like Country Naturals Turkey Burgers, Chicken Pepperettes, and Protinis are all smart ways to help fuel your busy days.
Then visit our 'Learn How To Power Through Your Day' page for tips on adding exercise to your day, feeding your family on-the-go, and recipes that will help fuel you.