We have talked and focussed a lot over the previous month's about actual workout sessions and exercises. In today's and Thursday's column it's time to have a bit of focus on what you need to fuel your body to exercise effectively and maximise returns.
There comes a point in every lifter's life where they just can't stomach the thought of another protein shake.
These people then fall into one of two categories. They either A) suck it up and get on with it or B) search for an alternative post workout recovery option.
If that's you, we recommend selecting option B. Force feeding yourself protein shakes is just going to make the process less enjoyable, meaning you'll be more likely to fall off the wagon sooner rather than later.
The good news is, you don't need to be gulping down shakes in order to build muscle. Sure, they're convenient. But there are plenty of other solutions for when you can't bring yourself to look at another tub of whey protein.
Below is a list of 10 of our favourites. They're all gym bag friendly too, offering the perfect post-workout sustenance no matter how busy you are.
#1 - Chicken and rice
Before there were protein shakes, old school bodybuilders took Tupperware pots of chicken and rice in their gym bag. Providing both protein and carbs in a tasty package, the humble combination of chicken and rice delivers everything you need to recover from a tough workout. Granted, it's not as convenient as a protein shake when you're on the go, but it certainly does the job. Opt for white rice as opposed to brown for a faster insulin spike, thus shuttling the nutrients into your muscles faster.
#2 - Jacket potato with chilli
Who doesn't love a jacket potato straight from the oven, topped with lashings of steaming hot chilli? If you're heading home after a workout, this post workout meal is the perfect choice, especially when it's colder outside.
Need something portable? No worries. Simply make this meal for dinner the night before, and cook up double portions to take to the gym the next day. Invest in a quality cooler bag to keep everything fresh. Most good gyms these days will have a microwave that you can use if you want to heat it up, but if not, it's still damn good served cold.
#3 - Tuna and Avocado Rice Cakes
These bad boys are the perfect solution when you're short on time. Simply smash one avocado with some salt, pepper and a squeeze of lime. Next, mix in one can of tuna - the avocado provides a creamy and healthier alternative to mayonnaise. Now simply top 5 - 6 rice cakes with the tuna and avo mix, and enjoy after training. It's the perfect balance of protein, carbs and fat in a portable form.
#4 - Wild salmon, quinoa and peas
It might sound like something you'd order at a fancy restaurant, but this delicious post workout meal is surprisingly easy to make. Batch cook a big pot of quinoa, and set aside a 200g serving for your post workout refuel. Quinoa is a great carb source, but with over 12% protein as well, it also helps facilitate muscle repair. Quinoa pairs perfectly with wild salmon, which delivers additional protein and anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. Lightly poach the salmon, and toss it together in a salad with the quinoa, green peas, and spring onions for extra flavour.
#5 - Chocolate protein balls
Protein balls provide all the benefits of a post workout shake in a tastier, chewable form. Better still, using dates as a base provides high GI carbs to further facilitate post workout recovery.
One of the easiest recipes for chocolate protein balls requires nothing more than 2 tbsp almond butter, 6 medjool dates, 1 tbsp dessicated coconut, and 1 scoop chocolate whey protein. Simply mix all ingredients together in a bowl, and form into balls using your hands. Store in the fridge, until you're ready to hit the gym, when they'll stay firm in your gym bag for a good couple of hours.
#6 - Proats
Proats = an Instagrammer's favourite slang term for protein + oats. The simple combination of whey protein and steel cut oats provide the perfect balance of protein and carbs, in a simple tasty and easy to digest form.
The key to the perfect proats is leaving them to soak overnight, which removes the need to cook the oats. Simply mix 1 cup of oatmeal and 1 scoop of protein powder with 1 and a half cups of liquid (almond milk is a good choice) and leave overnight in the fridge. The next morning, transfer to a Tupperware container and toss into your gym bag. It will be good for a few hours, ready for you to chow down after a hard session.
#7 - Hemp Protein Brownies
Hemp is one of the world's most sustainable and nutritionally complete plants, high in protein and essential fatty acids. So why don't more people eat it? The simple answer is it tastes a bit, well, earthy.
To disguise the acquired taste of hemp protein, use it to make homemade high protein brownies! Using a blender or food processor, combine one cooked sweet potato with ½ cup hemp protein, 4tbsp cocoa powder, 2tbsp coconut four, 4 eggs, 1 ½ cups of almond milk, ½ tsp baking powder and a pinch of sea salt. Put the mixture in a brownie pan and bake at 180C for 25 minutes. This recipe yields a good sized batch, so cut them up and chow down after your workouts this week.
#8 - Hardboiled eggs and banana
Perhaps the ultimate in post workout portability, both hardboiled eggs and bananas come with their own natural 'packaging' that eliminates the need for Tupperware completely. Tucking in to 3 hardboiled eggs and 1 large banana after training will provide a solid 20g protein and 30g carbs - perfect for refuelling after your workout within minutes.
#9 - Peanut butter and jam sandwich
Ok, so we're not saying you can have this every day and expect to get results. But, there's a good reason that the peanut butter and jam sandwich is a favourite amongst professional bodybuilders when 'bulking season' comes around.
The first is the sheer caloric volume of a PB & J sandwich makes it a good solution after a hard workout, particularly for people that struggle to get in enough calories throughout the day. Depending on how thick you spread your fillings, a solid PB & J can net you anywhere between 500 and 800 calories; and that's assuming you don't go back for seconds.
What's more, a PB & J sandwich combines carbs and protein in what experts consider to be the 'perfect' ratio for post workout recovery. That's 4 grams of carbs to every gram of protein. Choose a higher protein bread such as Dr Zaks, and you'll be looking at around 100 grams of fast acting carbs and 25 grams of protein per sandwich.
Again, this isn't a nutritionally complete meal and certainly shouldn't be eaten if you're not training hard enough to earn it. But if you are, and particularly if you're on a budget, it can certainly do the job.
#10 - Fresh Fitness Food
No time to prep your own post workout meals? Fresh Fitness Food is a great way to make sure you never fall behind on your nutrition. Fresh Fitness Food deliver a range of delicious and healthy meals direct to your door or office, all of which are nutritionally tailored to your own needs. Having something like Fresh Fitness Food on hand means you'll never be caught raiding the vending machine after your workout again.
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