Everybody needs protein. Some need more than others depending on factors such as their age, gender, their dietary goals, activity levels (1,2) and the presence of illness or wounds (3,4).
Protein is needed for growth, maintenance and repair of muscle (2), but it is also helpful in weight management because it fills you up (5).
If you’re looking to add more protein in your diet, whether it be for repairing muscle post-exercise, or needing to eat “little and often” due to poor appetite or to build yourself up after illness, then you don’t necessarily need to turn to steak or protein supplements!
Supplements can be a mine field trying to find the right one, because there are so many to choose from. So the easy option is the “Food First” option!
Food First Approach
Check out the 10 protein-packed ideas below which require minimal preparation and are portable, allowing you to take them with you to the gym, to work or when out and about! – But you’ll need a cool bag for some items for safe transport and storage (so you don’t give yourself the trots!!).
10 Portable Snack Ideas
It’s amazing how many foods nowadays have been fortified with protein. Protein is like the new craze! Food manufacturers and retailers seem to be cashing in on this.
Dairy products are a good source of protein, but you can fork out extra money to buy fortified versions, for example, “protein cottage cheese” or “protein cheese”.
You can now get other products such as high protein bread, porridge, cereal bars and “breakfast drinks” (- all for a premium). Typically you can expect to pay up to double the amount per unit/per Kg compared to it’s regular equivalent! Mental!
However, before you go rushing out to buy all these newly protein-fortified products, do you actually need them?
Do you really need extra protein in your diet?
The average person easily exceeds the recommended amounts (56g protein per day for men; 45g protein per day for women) (5), and therefore save your money and eat a varied diet.
(N.B. Those participating in sports and regular exercise may have higher protein requirements than the average adult).
A Sports Nutritionist or Dietitian can help you identify your protein requirements and suitable options
You don’t have to buy these fortified products or expensive protein supplements (- although there are times when these are handy).
You just need to be savvy and may be do a bit of homework! For example:
- Weetabix (the plain one) costs ~£2.40 for a 24 Pack
- A 24 Pack of Weetabix Protein usually costs > ~£3.00
Is it worth it? … as you only get ~3g extra protein per 2 biscuits!
You could save your money there and spend it on some nuts instead! Literally sprinkle only a few nuts on your foods and you’ve added extra protein (… and additional calories mind, but extra nutrients though – not just empty calories!).
Or… you could have your Weetabix plus an egg to add an extra ~8g protein (size dependent), and eggs are really cheap and nutritious! Yum!
(The ideas provided below will vary in their nutritional breakdown depending on factors such as which product and the quantities used. Please adapt according to your personal taste and requirements).
1. 3 Boiled Eggs
2. 50g Pack of Peanuts + 200mL Skimmed Milk
For general health avoid salted varieties, but if you have a portion after a heavy exercise session with a drink it can help hydration (fluid retention (Thomas et al., 2016)) as well as protein for recovery (among other nutrients).
3. Tinned Tuna (100g)
You can get no drain tuna for no mess, or flavoured pots of tuna, with easy open. Flavoured ones will contain more calories.
4. Greek Strained Yogurt 0% fat
Try adding some fresh, tinned and/or dried fruit with some nuts and seeds for extra protein and carbohydrates – great for post-exercise recovery.
5. 4 Falafel + 70g Hummus
6. 50g Pumpkin Seeds
7. Tinned Sardines
8. 80g Marinated Tofu
You can buy packs of marinated tofu or prepare this yourself.
9. Roast Turkey Slices
Look for packs of cooked turkey slices or pieces, avoiding “reconstituted’ or ‘formed” meat.
10. 100g King Prawns
You can buy packs of marinated cooked prawns in all supermarkets if you are unable to cook these in advance for yourself.
These are all portable food items, but for some items you will need to invest in some plastic tubs and a cold bags bag. I use one all the time to take with me to work, if out on the hills or even for after a heavy session in the gym. This is the one I use – it’s great – it’s durable, has loads of space, plus you get the tubs to fit in it!
For food safety, check on food labels for their storage advice and the FSA (Food Standards Agency) website.
Be adventurous and try different recipes with these ingredients – this will keep things interesting!
Rather than just plain hard boiled eggs, try having with different sauces, such as chilli and mango, curry or smoky tomato sauce. This will obviously add a few extra calories, plus some carbohydrates and possibly protein, depending on what the sauce is made from.
Try dry roasting some (tinned) chickpeas and lentils with some spices and herbs, then when cool sprinkle on the hummus. This will increase the nutritional value as well as flavour and texture!
Let me know your thoughts and if you have any ideas!
N.B. It is crucial to get your food and fluid intake right if you want to control your IBS symptoms, and if you want train harder, go faster and recover quicker from training sessions and competitions. Dietary requirements are highly individualised and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Working with a Registered Clinical & Sports Dietitian to develop a bespoke plan based on your unique requirements will help to ensure the most appropriate strategy and best results are achieved.
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- Hector, A. J. & Phillips, S. M. (2018). Protein recommendations for weight loss in elite athletes: a focus on body composition and performance. International Journal of Sport Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism, 28:2, 170-177.
- Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2016). American College of Sports Medicine Joint Position Statement. Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 48(3), 543-568.
- Saghaleini, S. H., Dehghan, K., Shadvar, K., Sanaie, S., Mahmoodpoor, A., & Ostadi, Z. (2018). Pressure ulcer and nutrition. Indian journal of critical care medicine: peer-reviewed, official publication of Indian Society of Critical Care Medicine, 22(4), 283.
- Gandy, J. (Ed). (2014). Manual of dietetic practice. Wiley-Blackwell.
- BNF. (2012). Protein. Available from: https://www.nutrition.org.uk/nutritionscience/nutrients-food-and-ingredients/protein.html?start=2
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