Wheying Your Protein Options

Try seeds for a great recovery food


You train. You recover. You train again. While the effort is made on the road, some say that the gains are made at the dinner table. As part of a total nutrition strategy, many athletes turn to protein powders, with whey protein taking the top spot in their shopping basket.

Whey protein isolates are a convenient and concentrated source of protein, however, advocates typically cite enhanced benefits attributed to whey. A 2010 review of the research published on whey protein found that whey protein appears to support recovery and a muscle-building (anabolic) state when consumed post-exercise. Branched-chain amino acids found in whey protein may be key in stimulating muscle gains, and there is research ongoing to investigate the potentially immune-boosting, immuno-globulins found in whey.

Sounds good, right? But the same review confirms that inadequate research has been done to confirm whey’s superiority to other protein sources. In addition, there are a few reasons why whey might not be the right choice for you. While dairy allergies and intolerances are often linked to casein, regular consumption of whey protein might upset digestion for sensitive individuals. Some athletes may be moving towards a less-in­flammatory, plant-based diet or simply wanting to cycle their protein sources over time.

The first question to ask yourself is whether you need a protein powder at all. For endurance athletes, daily protein needs ring in at about 1.2–1.7g of protein per kilogram of body weight. For a 17- lb. athlete, 95–135g of protein a day can be easily met by whole foods. Whole-food options include lean poultry, baked tofu, fish, legumes and eggs.

Seeds are the new superstars of the protein world and make a simple recovery snack right out of the bag.

Six tablespoons (two ounces) of hemp seeds provide 20g of protein along with 6g of fibre and 5g of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Sacha Inchi seeds, the newest seed on the shelf, boast 18g of protein, 10g of fibre and 12g of omega-3 fatty acids per two ounce serving.

Plant-based options abound if you are looking for a convenient protein boost for your favourite recipe or smoothie. Rice protein is a staple as it is generally non-allergenic, relatively neutral in flavour and low in calories.

New to some, pumpkin seeds offer protein and naturally occurring magnesium for proper muscle contraction, along with those all important omega 3 fatty acids. Hemp protein is available in both a raw, whole-food form and, for those who have been put off by the “earthy” flavour of plant proteins, it is available in a concentrated, water-soluble source that provides 20g of protein per serving.

There are also a number of popular blended vegan proteins that include a variety of plant sources such as peas, seeds and rice, sometimes with added branched-chain amino acids to provide a balanced amino acid profile that is thought to boost muscle mass. When fuelling your training, it is important to remember that consistency of protein intake counts and a variety of protein sources will always be your best bet for balanced nutrition.

Chocolate ‘Moose’
Serves 2
This simple and decadent-tasting dessert is a great way to cure a sweet tooth and boost protein intake the whole-food way. Raw cacao provides a deep, rich cocoa flavour with more anti-inflammatory flavonols than processed cocoa.

1½ cup fat-free Quark cheese (or ricotta)
¼ cup raw cacao powder
¼ cup unpasteurized honey
½ tsp. real vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. orange juice

Whip the quark and cacao with hand-­held mixer until well combined, then add honey and vanilla and blend until smooth
and creamy.

Nutritional Information
Calories 280, Protein 23g, Fat 1.5g, Carbohydrate 48g, Fibre 3g, Sodium 112mg


Pear-fect Protein Smoothie
Serves 1 as a meal (2 as a snack)
Perfect for a winter’s day, with spices reminiscent of your favourite fruit pie, this smoothie offers a delicious protein boost.

1 large, ripe pear, cored and quartered
1 scoop of water-soluble, 70% hemp protein, or your favourite
protein powder
½ frozen banana
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
A sprinkle of clove, nutmeg and allspice
1 cup of vanilla quinoa milk

Blend all ingredients at high speed.

Nutritional Information
Calories 448, Protein 24.5g, Fat 8g (800mg of omega 3), Carbohydrate 73.7g, Fibre 7.5g, Sodium 128mg

Desiree Nielsen is a registered dietitian in Vancouver B.C. who specializes in whole food, plant-based nutrition and is currently training for her first half marathon. desireerd.com



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