Killing it in the gym is essential for muscle and strength growth, but the other side of the coin is food. If you’re not eating enough to sustain muscle growth, your hard work in the gym will not pay off. Today I’ll review 5 protein packed foods I eat regularly and how I prepare them to keep things interesting.
The truth is, I love cooking and preparing food. It almost becomes an art form, blending different ingredients and spices to make something has a soothing effect on me. I spend Sunday afternoons prepping my lunches for the week while the wife bins up our dinners to put in the slow cooker. With our busy schedules and activities with the kids, a slow cooker is a must for our family to eat healthy. Having everything ready to go for the week takes the guesswork out of choosing a meal. Also, we’ve found that it is a great way to save money while eating healthy meals. I typically spend ~$120 a week on groceries for 5 people eating dinner every night. Not bad if you ask me.
Getting back to our main topic, guys who lift weights need to get their macro nutrients met to fuel muscle growth. When I started lifting, I made the foolish mistake of not eating enough food for fear of gaining too much fat. Long story short, it lead to a lot of wasted time. The truth is you will gain some fat if you’re eating to build muscle. If you don’t go too overboard and eat clean, the fat gain will be minimal and easy to lose when you cut. To track food, I highly recommend the My Fitness Pal app. Enter your current body weight, how much you want to gain/lose per week, and log everything you consume into the app. Easy, and it shows you how good or bad the food you’re currently eating is so you can adjust as needed.
The Lifter’s Diet
The foods below are some of my favorite to eat to really dial in my calories and protein content for the day. I’ll offer a few different ways to prepare them to keep things from getting boring:
Eggs have been a lifters go to for ages. They’re cheap, taste great, and keep you full. I highly recommend cooking them in a cast iron skillet as the flavor is really enhanced. In a pinch, I”ll whip them up in a bowl and microwave them to save time. I eat 5 daily for breakfast and I haven’t grown tired of them yet. I don’t believe all the hype about eggs being unhealthy either. One of my favorite ways to spice up eggs is adding taco seasoning and a little chipotle aioli sauce. Eggs are a great source of protein as well, clocking in at around 7 grams each at ~70 calories. Not much for one egg, but who eats just one anyway?
2. Pork Chops
Since I shared my breakfast, I’ll share my favorite lunch with you all as well. I freaking love pork chops. They’re cheap and when prepared correctly taste amazing. Pork can taste really good, and I’ve never seen the need to bread and fry the chops. One of my favorite ways to prepare them is to marinate them in a sriracha lime marinade overnight then throw them right on the grill. The meat soaks up the spice and stays juicy and tender. An 8oz pork chop packs a whopping 48 grams of protein at ~400cals.
3. Chicken Quarters
These are a slow cooker favorite of mine. The quarter is the drumstick and thigh together. I prefer the quarters to the breast meat as it stays juicier while cooking. Prep is simple. Dump 2 cups of Italian salad dressing on top of the quarters, chop some onions/carrots and toss them in, then cook on low in the slow cooker for 3 hours. A 6 ounce chicken quarter has 25 grams of protein at ~400 cals.
If you don’t eat ribs, you have no soul. Okay not that drastic, but they are delicious. They are a bit fatty, but if you’re eating clean its not too much to worry about. Ribs do best when cooked slowly on a low heat. I actually cook ours in the slow cooker as well. I get a full rack of ribs, cut it in half, and wedge it in the slow cooker with a quick squirt of barbecue sauce, half a cup of apple sauce, and various seasonings. Let them cook on low for 4 hours and you’ll be thanking me. This is probably the least healthy (as the barbecue and apple sauce have high sugar content) but it beats eating fast food or deep fried things and you can skip those ingredients if you want. 6oz of rib meat contains 28 grams of protein at 345 calories. These things are filling too, I cant eat more than 4.
What list would be complete without steak? While I don’t eat it as much due to having to feed so many people in my house, I will do a nice steak dinner typically on Sunday night. I marinate the meat in a bourbon, salt/pepper, garlic marinade for about 2 hours prior to grilling them. I like my steak to be “blue rare” which means searing the outside at a high heat while the inside is basically raw. You don’t have to go that extreme, but I have to say a well done steak is basically a waste. My whole family eats their steak (even the baby!) “under done” and we’ve never had an issue. I grill the kids steaks to about medium and the wife and I get blue rare. As for our purposes, A 5 oz New York strip steak comes in at 41 grams of protein, and 270 calories.
I hope you guys try and experiment with these recipes. I will note that I do not drink any type of protein shakes or take any supplements. All my protein comes from the food I consume. Granted, that means there are days where I’m at my desk tearing into 12 ounces of pork like a savage, but I’m happy. The rule of thumb that I’ve seen everywhere is to consume 0.7 grams of protein per pound of lean body weight and I’m typically aiming for that number. Let me know if you guys have any other foods or recipes that may be interesting for guys doing weight training.