Alongside exercise, never forget the importance of good nutrition if you want to build and keep that gym body.
First things, first: If you’re serious about long-lasting muscle gains and dropping unwanted fat, faddy trends and quick-fix magic diets are best avoided.
Instead, focus on the basics - including protein to feed your muscles, the right types of carbohydrates and fats to fuel you up for your routines - along with the vitamins and minerals necessary for your body to work at its best.
So how does your kitchen game shape up? To help you out, here’s a roundup of our favourite foods that deserve a regular place on your table…
These tasty nuts are rich in protein as well as mono-unsaturated fat (the good fat) and are also an excellent source of Vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps to reduce inflammation (good news after a tough workout).
Researchers have also found that adding almonds into your diet can also help reduce levels of bad cholesterol and increase levels of good HDL cholesterol to help you maintain a healthy heart. On top of all this, compared to other nuts, almonds have the highest calcium content per ounce - making them great for promoting bone health and preventing osteoporosis.
Eating tip: Try combining almonds with berries for a delicious smoothie. You can also keep it totally simple by having a bowl or almonds (20 or so) on hand as a healthy TV snack.
Another nut that we’re nuts about! Each one-ounce serving of peanuts gives you around 7 grams of plant-based protein. They are also rich in fibre, as well as heart-healthy mono-saturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Taken in moderation, peanuts make an excellent snack-on the-go; but just be aware that you can have too much of a good thing! A standard one-ounce serving is roughly two thirds of a handful. Also, opt for unsalted or dry roasted to keep your sodium levels in check.
Eating tip: Crush half an ounce of peanuts with a mortar and pestle to add to your favourite stir-fry for added crunch.
If you think turkey is just for Christmas, you’re missing a trick. Turkey breast is one of the leanest protein sources around. As long as you take the skin off, it has less than 1 gram of total fat per 3 ounce serving (chicken breast has about 3 grams of total fat for the same serving). If your aim is to maximise protein intake while cutting down on fat, it’s definitely a go-to meat.
Eating tip: Think about swapping a fattier meat in favour of turkey in your favourite dishes. For instance, opt for 90% lean turkey mince for a chilli, Bolognese or burger.
A single hen’s egg contains 6g of protein (about 10-13% of your recommended daily amount). Eggs are also a source of complete protein, meaning that they contain all the amino acids your body needs for muscle growth. Eggs are also good sources of Vitamin B12, B-6 and A, along with iron and magnesium - all of which are important for repair and tissue growth.
Just be aware that a single egg contains around half of your daily requirement of cholesterol - so don’t overdo it!
Eating tip: Try a poached egg on a toasted wholegrain sandwich with lettuce and tomato.
It’s not hard to see why soy beans are one of the most widely-grown foodstuffs on earth.
As well as being rich in protein, soy beans also contain a significant amount of Vitamin B6, thiamine and Vitamin C - as well as well as iron, manganese and calcium. For vegetarians and vegans, they can be an effective replacement for many of the proteins and other nutrients that are found in red meat, dairy and fish.
Eating tip: You’ll see soy beans most often in the form of soy milk and tofu (which is actually made from curdling soy milk). Try pan-searing tofu and crunchy veg before simmering it in a coconut curry sauce for a delicious dinner!
All members of the cabbage family are very good news for your workout diet (including broccoli, cauliflower and sprouts). That said; kale in all of its varieties deserves special attention - as it happens to be one of the most nutrition-dense foods out there.
Kale is an excellent source of many of the vitamins and minerals that most people simply do not get enough of. A single 100g serving of chopped raw kale can supply more than a day’s recommended intake of Vitamins A, K and C - as well as significant amounts of Vitamin B6, Manganese and Calcium.
Eating tip: For a simple salad, try chopping a bunch of raw kale and combining with a generous splash of extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic, sea salt and grated Parmesan cheese.
Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, goji berries, etc… they’re all packed with power!
Berries get their lovely rich colour from natural chemicals known as anthocyanins. These have found to be powerful antioxidants - which are extremely useful for helping you avoid putting undue stress on your body when training at high volume.
Just a single handful of blackcurrants gives you your recommended daily dose of Vitamin C. These colourful fruit are also a great source of fibre - helping you regulate your metabolism and avoid blood sugar peaks and troughs.
Eating tip: Top your morning porridge with your mixed fresh berries of choice for an instant burst of flavour.
Yoghurt qualifies as ‘Greek’ when it has been strained to remove its dairy whey. This makes it thicker and more protein-dense than the regular stuff - as well as having lower sugar content. A rich concentration of probiotics can also help to keep your tummy happy, reducing the likelihood of lactose intolerance, constipation and diarrhoea.
Tucking into Greek yoghurt as a mid-afternoon snack can help keep hunger pangs at bay until tea time, without reaching for fatty snacks.
Eating tip: Fond of sour cream or mayonnaise as a dip? Try swapping to Greek Yoghurt with crushed chillies instead.
Quinoa is another fantastic meat-free complete protein - i.e. it contains all the amino acids essential for muscle tissue growth. A single serving (approximately 125g) supplies you with approx.8g of protein and 39g of carbs. It contains a small amount of fat, but most of it is polyunsaturated and mono-unsaturated.
As a whole grain seed, quinoa is also a good source of fibre - as well as iron, magnesium, Vitamin E and potassium.
Eating tip: Usually supplied raw and dried, quinoa is incredibly versatile. Blend with veggies and spices as a delicious side dish - or even use it as a substitute for refined carbs such as white rice and pasta.
Virtually all oily fish will enhance your diet thanks in no small part to high concentrations of omega-3 oils, which help to keep your heart healthy and keep muscle inflammation levels low. Salmon, especially if it’s the lower-in-fat wild variety, deserves special mention for its muscle and recovery-boosting capabilities.
A single 100g salmon fillet gives you a whopping 19g of protein, a huge blast of omega-3s, as well as a healthy dose of Vitamins B6 and B12 - which help your body release nutrients from the rest of the food you eat.
Eating tip: Try coating your salmon fillet in a blend of olive oil, honey, soy sauce, lemon zest and seasoning before grilling and serving with brown rice.
What’s on your plate?
What’s your go-to healthy teatime staple or post-workout snack? Share a pic on Instagram or Facebook and tag #ProworksFitness so we can check it out!