From Joe Wicks (AKA ‘The Body Coach’) telling us to combine high intensity moves with weight exercises six times a week, to the British Military Fitness guys bombing round your local park every weekend, it’s clear that full-on workouts are here to stay.
“It is easier than ever to access a gym, a trainer and fitness content,” says Christian Lewis-Pratt, professional rugby player-turned-lifestyle and fitness coach. “Information of what and what not to do and eat is so readily available. This is both a blessing and a curse, as people can quickly get disillusioned.”
It used to be simple: weightlifting was seen as an extreme sport, with ‘crazy’ diets to match. But now, although fitness has entered the mainstream, our approach to workout food has been a little slow to catch up.
After all, many of us not only hit the gym to look good over and under our clothes, but also to help us get away with an extra visit or three to Five Guys.
The temptation to reward yourself with the first sugary or salty thing you see is real, but will also un-do all your hard graft.
So what should we be eating for the body we want, especially at lunchtime, when we’re probably eating al desko? Protein.
As Lewis-Pratt explains: “You can only train as hard and as consistently as your recovery allows you to, so it’s important to eat a diet of nutrient rich foods, including protein, to support your training. Protein contains amino acids, which prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue and aid in its repair.”
Here’s some midday ideas to keep your gains game strong.
1. Chickpea ‘schwarma’ wraps
Long considered king by vegans everywhere, chickpeas are favourites with non-vegans too, thanks to their protein content and ability to take on flavour.
Oven bake a drained can’s worth with spices, such as cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and garlic powder and add fried garlic and onion, veggies or lettuce for crunch. Finish with hummus or tahini to taste.
2. Peanut butter satay tofu
The trend for Thai and Malaysian cuisine is exploding, so we’re not surprised if you find yourself hankering after a bit of peanut satay. And, by swapping the meat for home-grilled tofu, you can add protein as well as peanut goodness. Cut the tofu into lengths, marinade in chilli and sesame oil and grill.
Make a cheat’s satay sauce by adding fried onions and garlic to peanut butter, coconut milk, and soy sauce, and hey presto – a protein-filled, Malaysian street market classic. Almost.
3. Healthy burritos
Fry onions with red and yellow peppers, and top with guacamole, tomato salsa, lettuce, a protein-enriched cottage cheese such as Arla Protein Plain Cottage Cheese and a pinch of cheddar – with extra beans, chicken, pork or beef if you fancy.
You can go carb-free and use lettuce to wrap, or add a warm wholemeal tortilla for extra bite. The protein cottage cheese replaces the usual sour cream, and cuts through the spicy salsa whilst also adding protein and texture to your Mexican mouthful.
4. Buckwheat noodles with sesame
Choosing comfort food after a gruelling workout doesn’t mean the protein plan is out the window. Make sure you choose buckwheat noodles for this super-easy dish, though, as they contain a respectable six to eight grams of protein per serving.
Simply cook the noodles as the packet says, and toss with stir-fried spring onions, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, a little sugar, and ginger. Garnish with sesame seeds, a hard-boiled egg or even more tofu.
5. Marinated turkey with baked sweet potato
Take turkey breast or thighs and marinade in garlic, lemon zest and olive oil for a couple of hours before frying with salt, pepper and a little butter until cooked through.
Shred the turkey, and add to a baked sweet potato topped with Arla Protein Plain Cottage Cheese. Sprinkle it all with chopped basil, toasted pine nuts, peppercorns and lemon juice for a protein-rich dish of simple yet summery goodness.