It’s no secret that workout culture dominates UC Santa Barbara, with most of the university’s population hitting the trails, waves or Rec Cen nearly every day. A quick workout in the gym is nearly impossible, with the racks and free weights swarmed by students nonstop from 6 a.m. in the morning to 11 p.m. at night.
But, even if you go hard on cardio and lifting, it won’t mean as much unless you double down on your diet. Most people know that consuming protein is important to gaining muscle, but it’s hard to conceptualize exactly how much protein is necessary for athletes.
Many registered dietitians, including UCSB’s exercise and sports studies professor Amy Jamieson, recommend that athletes consume about 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per 1 kilogram of body mass. For most people, that means their protein intake per meal (if you consume about four meals a day) should hover between 20 to 35 grams. For comparison, the average sedentary human requires only about 46 to 56 grams of protein per day.
Notably, it’s smart to eat a variety of protein sources to ensure intake of all nine essential amino acids, which are vital to building muscle in the body. I’m looking at you, protein-shake fanatics. Complementary combinations of protein-rich foods are particularly important for vegetarians, as meatless diets often lack high-quality proteins. But, while omnivores might have the upper hand for lunch and dinner, most individuals still struggle to pack protein into their breakfasts. I mean, no one wants to eat chicken breast and beans at 8 o’clock in the morning.
With some strategic cooking, though, hitting your protein goal at any time of the day becomes easy. Try upgrading your breakfasts with some of these high-protein recipes:
(23 grams of protein per serving; makes 3 servings).
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose wheat or white flour
- 1/2 cup protein powder of choice (I recommend Evogen’s vanilla bean flavor)
- 1/2 cup liquid egg whites
1/2 cup butter, melted (substitute with applesauce for a healthier version)
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- Combine all the dry ingredients (flour, protein powder, powdered sugar, baking powder, and salt) in a medium bowl.
- In a small bowl, combine all the wet ingredients (liquid egg whites and butter). Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until combined.
- Pour into a preheated waffle iron and cook until browned. Pair with greek yogurt or nut butter for an extra boost of protein.
Spinach and Feta Egg Muffins
(20 grams of protein per serving; makes 4 servings)
- 6 eggs, scrambled
- 1/2 cup liquid egg whites
- 1 1/2 cup spinach, chopped
- 4 strips turkey bacon, chopped
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta
- 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray.
- Mix all the ingredients together, then distribute equally among each muffin cup.
- Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes.
Peanut Butter Overnight Oats
(24 grams of protein per serving; makes 1 serving)
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup milk (or milk substitute)
- 1/4 cup greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons chia seeds
- Mix all ingredients together in a jar, then seal with a lid. Refrigerate overnight, or at least for 4 hours. Optional: Top with blueberries, sliced bananas or chocolate chips. Vanilla or chocolate protein powder can also be mixed in.
Every athlete can benefit from proper protein consumption, and any athlete can use strategic cooking to reach their goals!
Correction [2/28/2022, 5:30 p.m.]: The original version of this article has been edited.