Protein bars, powders and snacks are incredibly popular at the moment. But they’re often fairly tasteless. The bars in particular can sometimes feel like you’re chewing on the sole of a running shoe.
Anyone who has tried one probably wishes there were better ways to get our protein. The good news is there are – and who better to ask about them than Nery Alaev?
Nery is an Austrian and German real estate expert, based in Vienna. But when he isn’t buying and selling properties in the Austrian capital, he also has a keen interest in health, fitness and wellbeing.
Before Nery brings us his thoughts on the best places to get our protein, here’s a quick reminder why we need it in the first place.
Why protein is so important
Anyone who is active knows all about the food groups you need to consume before you exercise. A great example is carbohydrates, which slowly release energy while you’re exercising. But what about after you’ve exercised? Well, this is where protein comes in.
“Protein is absolutely essential to grow and repair our bodies, especially after exercise,” says Nery. “It is a key part of how our muscles, our skin and even things like our hair are made. When we eat protein, we’re helping our body to repair itself. Remember though that protein in itself doesn’t actually give us bigger muscles – it just helps our body to function properly.”
Seven ways to get more protein
So, chewy protein bars aside, what does Nery think are the best sources of natural protein? Here are his top seven.
1. White meat
“One of the biggest mistakes that people make when trying to increase the amount of protein in their diet is eating far too much red meat,” says Nery. “Red meat does contain a lot of protein – but it is also high in saturated fats. These can be really harmful and can even clog your arteries over time.”
So is there a good alternative to a fatty steak? “A leaner white meat like chicken or even turkey is still a good source of protein, but considerably lower in bad fats than beef or other red meats,” says Nery.
“Having something like an omelette or even just a poached egg and avocado on toast is just the perfect recovery food for me,” says Nery. “Avocados aren’t high in protein but they’re healthy, nutritious and low fat. The eggs are packed with protein however and are a great way to get a quick fix of all the protein your body needs.”
3. Fish and seafood
“Vienna is a wonderful city, but one of the only disadvantages is that is so far from the sea. I love fish and seafood, and both are fantastic natural, low fat sources of protein.
“When I do go somewhere that serves fresh seafood and fish I make sure that I have plenty of it! Fresh fish in particular also contains lots of Omega-3. So, not only does it give you the protein to rebuild your body, but also the nutrients to keep your heart healthy too.”
“I have friends who are Greek, and every meal they have seems to feature yoghurt!,” laughs Nery. “But I don’t blame them – I love to have it at breakfast but it is such a good source of healthy protein it is great at any time of the day.
“Natural yogurt is full of protein, but also lots of calcium too, which is great for our bones. Then there are also the probiotics that help keep the gut healthy.”
Our tip is to get fat-free Greek yogurt (especially if you’re eating lots of it!).
“Too often, when people think about increasing the amount of proteins they consume, they focus on the meat and dairy,” says Nery. “For some reason, they neglect the vegetables – which is a real shame because they are so healthy, and such a good source of protein.
“Broccoli is packed with vitamins and fibre (as well as a few rarer nutrients like potassium that our body needs too). But broccoli is also a great natural source of protein and adds fine splash of green to your plate.”
“Everyone’s biggest issue with quinoa seems to be how to pronounce it properly!” says Nery (it’s ‘keen-wah’, by the way). “If you’ve never tried it before, you should – it’s a super healthy grain that goes well with lots of dishes.
“It’s a particularly good source of protein for vegetarians and vegans, who of course don’t have the meat, fish or eggs option. It’s easy to cook too – just double the amount of water to quinoa grains, and cook without a lid until it’s all absorbed and the quinoa is nice and fluffy.”
7. Pulses and beans
Love them or loathe them, pulses and beans are among the best sources of protein out there. Of course, they’re handy for veggies as an alternative to meat or fish, but they are also delicious in their own right.
“My advice is experiment,” says Nery. “There are so many different beans and pulses out there – you don’t need to stick with kidney beans or boring old green lentils.
Nery Alaev is the Director of ESN Investments GmbH, which engages in the acquisition and development of commercial and residential property in Germany and Austria.