The macronutrients; Carbohydrates, Fats and Proteins are crucial. Life cannot be sustained without them. Of course, all three are important – but protein definitely gets the most attention – and for good reason! Protein is essential for the growth and repair of almost everything in our bodies and usually the little construction workers in our bodies doing this repair work are proteins!
Most people reading this already know the importance of hitting your protein intake goals (we need to feed the gains!) but sometimes dietary restrictions or lack of awareness stand in our way. It is recommended that we consume at least 1g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (and this is an extremely modest value) which can be difficult when your body has a hissy fit anytime dairy comes in contact. If you’re training hard but can’t hack the white stuff (milk, of course!) here are some alternatives to keep both your muscles and your stomach happy.
Meat, Fish & Eggs
This one won’t sit well with the veggies out there but the best non-dairy source of protein is meat, fish and eggs. All meats (the leaner, the better) are terrific sources of protein, boasting a complete amino acid profile and up to 40g of protein per serving and lamb, beef and chicken rank highest in the protein scale. The meat of the sea can’t be ignored here – tuna, salmon, cod (and the list goes on…) not only bump up the protein content in your meal but also provide a hefty dose of heart-loving Omega-3 fatty acids. Eggs are another perfect non-dairy protein source and make for the perfect protein packed breakfast, lunch or dinner!
Although meats are great sources of protein good quality meat at every meal is not always an option and if you’re a penny-pincher like me (I still have that “broke student” mindset!) you know that meat is actually pretty expensive! To get the best bang for your buck, invest in good quality meats and enjoy them with dinner and lunch where possible (tuna is great for this and fairly cheap!) and crack out the eggs for breakfast time.
Nuts and Seeds
You thought I’d leave you vegetarians hanging?! This one’s for you. Whether they be in their most delicious form (hello, peanut butter!) or eaten whole, nuts and seeds provide a powerful protein punch. A typical serving of almonds (≈24) contains 5g protein along with plenty of vitamin E for that “because you’re worth it” hair, skin and nails. Personally, I love omega-rich walnuts – they look like brains, and they feed your brains!
Nuts and seeds are convenient, affordable (unless you want to go organic, then you may need to take out another mortgage) and a delicious way to add protein to any meal. Chia, flax and sunflower seeds are perfect additions to any cereal and almonds make for a speedy and tasty snack. Try throwing in some peanuts to your next stir fry – it adds not only protein but a great crunch.
Beans, Legumes & Tofu
Anyone reading this from the UK or Ireland knows how awesome beans are; especially baked beans (let’s all reminisce of childhood lunches of beans on toast…) but they’re also a terrific source of protein.
Chickpeas, which make fantastic additions to salads, provide 8g protein per serving along with plenty of iron and dietary fibre. With a slightly nutty taste, lentils make for a great meat substitute in pasta dishes. Tofu – which is made from soybeans – is high in protein, easily digested and can be enjoyed at any time of the day. Tofu scramble – which tastes almost exactly the same as scrambled eggs – makes for a filling, protein packed breakfast or lunch and when prepared correctly Tofu can also mimic both the texture and flavour of meat. So once you have some tofu in your arsenal – you’re sorted.
Grains are a staple food source (unless you’ve been torturing your body with a “caveman diet”) and are usually thought of as “pure carbs”. It’s true that grains are predominantly carbohydrate rich but some also provide a decent amount of protein per serving. So, when chosen wisely – you can kill two birds with one stone. Oats and quinoa rank the highest with 9g and 7g per 30g serving respectively. So whether you’re vegan or a chicken-lover like me, don’t underestimate the value those grains can provide!
What would an article on protein be without mentioning our beloved protein powder?! If you’re avoiding dairy chances are you’re missing out on a decent chunk of protein in your diet and so a protein powder is the easiest (and sometimes tastiest!) way to up that protein intake. There are many non-dairy alternatives such as rice, soy, pea and even beef protein (it tastes better than it sounds, trust me!) Personally, I find Brown Rice Protein to be the best alternative having less of a bitter flavour compared to the other non-dairy options. Non-dairy protein powders are also high in fibre – which is why I like it with my breakfast as it keeps me full until lunchtime (which is always delayed because science does not work on a schedule!).
Take Home Message
If you’re avoiding dairy due to an allergy, intolerance of ethical issue, you run the risk of depriving your body of valuable nutrients required to sustain and build muscle tissue (among other things!). However, by taking some extra measures with your nutrition hitting those protein goals is easily done without the nasty side-effects (that we won’t talk about here because let’s face it – it’s not pretty!).
About the Author
Michelle is a scientist, an athlete and a writer and she’s proud to have faced her demons head on and she’s beating them. In weight lifting she found an outlet to help change her life – and she’s loving it! Follow her journey with BULK POWDERS®.