Shake it Up
Updated: Nov 18
Protein powders are hard. Ick! Some of them just taste gross. No way around it. I avoided them for a while because I didn't think they were truly necessary, and I was sure I got enough protein on my own. But the truth is, I don’t. Not always. Especially since I’m trying to work out on a regular basis and build muscle, and especially since I'm a pescatarian - have been my whole life.
I know…shock, awe, wow! Never had a steak, never had a piece of chicken, never had a hotdog. What?! Haven’t tried it and haven’t had the desire. It’s just how I was raised! And I am very proud of it. It's different. It's also a simpler way to eat a healthier diet. I'm not saying meat eaters can’t eat healthy and I'm not saying vege/pescatarians can’t be unhealthy, but it does make it just simpler to be clean. To rely on vegetables more. Which, I most certainly do. I love my vegetables!!! But vegetables, unfortunately, don’t have too much protein, and protein seems to be the heavy-hitter for a lot of bodily functions - and it also seems to be what is lacking in most diets.
Protein is important for many reasons. It increases the strength and mass of your muscles, it aids in bone health, it helps you feel full longer and resist cravings, it boosts your metabolism and encourages your body to burn more calories, and it aids in repairing your body after injuries, among many other things. WebMD calls this macronutrient “an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.” The recommended amount will depend on your current weight, goals, and lifestyle (and a conversation with your PCP!), but the minimum requirement is usually about 0.36 grams per pound of body weight if you are pretty sedentary throughout the day. If you are more active with daily workouts and/or a rather physically intense job, you will need more. In order to gain muscle, you generally need 0.7 - 1g per pound of body weight a day. That’s quite a lot of protein!
As mentioned, vegetables offer some, but tend to offer more on the vitamin and nutrient front than the protein front. Spinach has a bit, potatoes, corn, asparagus, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, broccoli, but you have to eat about a cup of each to get only a few grams of it.
Then you have your legumes - this is where my body derives a good portion of it I’d say. Edamame (soybeans), lentils, white beans, split peas, kidney beans, black beans, lima beans, chickpeas are all chock full of good, healthy proteins (anywhere from 14 - 31g!) and lots of fiber.
Eggs are good - they give you 6g each. I usually rely on eggs in my morning routine when I wake up starving and in need of a good hearty meal to start my day.
Nuts and seeds such as hemp, pumpkin, peanuts, almonds, pistachios, sunflower, flax, sesame, chia, cashews, walnuts etc. provide 4-7g as well (hemp and pumpkin at the top of the list with 9g per ounce - about a handful).
A go-to for some extra protein when it comes to grains is quinoa (8g) or couscous (6g). You can also do whole wheat (or even alternative - try chickpea or lentil!) pasta for dinner which often provides quite a bit, or a cup of oatmeal in the morning or as a mid-day snack.
The heavy-hitter for pescatarians though, needless to say, is fish. A serving of salmon holds 38g (same amount as chicken), trout 40g, tuna 50g, cod 30g, haddock 34g, halibut 36g. That’s where the crux of my protein should come in, but I don’t necessarily eat fish every day - usually only a few times a week.
Dairy I usually do consume daily, to some extent, however, I try to minimize the items higher in fat content as much as possible. Cottage cheese is a great protein source (12g), nonfat greek yogurt - even better (17g). At home I swap out sour cream for nonfat plain greek yogurt. It’s absolutely delicious, gives you that tang, and packs a protein punch to any meal! Ricotta is the cheese with the highest protein levels at 14g per 1/2 cup. Cheddar, goat, gruyere, swiss and the rest fall between 6 and 9 grams, and parmesan tops the list with 10g. Regular milk holds 8g which is great, but my stomach can’t handle it as much, so I drink almond milk which only holds 2g a cup. Soy milk, though, rivals cow’s milk at 7g, I just try not to have as much soy and really do prefer the taste of almond milk.
I know this is a lot of facts and figures, but the crux of it is, aiming to get a high daily intake of protein is important - especially for an active, healthy lifestyle. All of the protein options listed above are great, and when trying to add up to your daily protein intake will do the trick, but depending on your dietary, time, and grocery store restrictions, it can sometimes prove difficult to reach your body's full requirement of protein on a daily basis. I try my absolute best to get it through the foods I eat, most of which I do, but some days it can be hard. Tracking your protein intake can also require a lot of forethought and planning. So, whenever I find I need that little extra boost or supplement to a meal, protein powders have got my back.
Not only are protein powders a great way to up your daily intake, but they also offer a litany of post-workout benefits. It is recommended by a lot of fitness professionals that you consume a serving of protein within thirty minutes of finishing a workout. This helps to encourage the immediate rebuilding of minor muscle tears endured during your sweat sesh (again, always pass nutritional questions by your doc). I’m not always hungry immediately after a workout, and therefore have found it easiest to down a protein shake quickly after, or even sip on one throughout, to garner such benefits.
But here we are again at our problem - so many protein powders taste icky. They taste like chalk or have so much sugar in them to mask the taste. I have found one for you, however, that does not! It is actually the opposite of icky, it is delicious and so smooth to drink. Tone It Up protein powder is my go-to, and available in many different flavors and iterations. I am still working my way through the cannon!
Two women from California, Karena and Katrina, started the company back in 2009 and their journey is incredibly inspirational. They provide so much material on their website including workouts, recipes, motivation, products, and the like. They have articles to read, videos to watch, and even a community you can join in on. I’ve been a fan of following them on social media for years for their workout programs (see my blurb about them in my previous post, Quarantine Resolution) and any and all tips and tricks they so readily provide. I’ve also enjoyed exploring some of their products (their booty bands are fire!). While their merchandise is cute and the workout bands are helpful, their protein is easily my fav (and is actually now available at Target as well!). If fitness interests you, or clever ways to use protein powder, or even just cute outfits, California sun, and a little baby girl, I encourage you to give their website and/or their social media accounts a scroll. I’ve found it quite joyful and motivational.
Now, for what to try! I highly recommend their go-to vanilla protein powder. All of their powders are made with pea protein so you automatically avoid any gluten, dairy, or soy sensitivities. Each scoop provides 15g of protein at 100 calories, which I find is an ample amount for my post-workout routine. If you find you need more, you could always do two scoops, or even one and a half. I either put mine straight in a shaker bottle and mix it with water, or scoop it into a delicious green smoothie if I’m craving something with a little more oomph. But I’ve seen them bake it into muffins, waffles, oatmeal, and even popsicles!
One of their newest products is an *unsweetened* vanilla protein and I love this one even more for my post-workout shaker. It has a light hint of vanilla and nothing is too overwhelming about it. It makes the water just a little creamy and is very refreshing. I’m not as much a chocolate person when it comes to protein (at least not at the moment), but they do offer both sweetened and unsweetened chocolate powders as well. The sweeteners they use are stevia leaf extract and monk fruit extract, so there’s nothing artificial about it either way you go.
I recently bought their vanilla greens powder and am more a fan of the benefits than the flavor, but it does work well in a smoothie for sure, I just wouldn’t recommend it straight up with water. At least that was my first take…I’ll have to give it another try. Each serving has 14 leaves of kale, 4 leaves of spinach, and one broccoli floret. (Edit: I tried it alone with water again after writing this post, and it wasn’t horrible. You definitely can tell you’re drinking greens, but the vanilla does a good job of masking most of it. It’s still yummy to drink, just not as smooth.)
I’ve tried the coconut flavor and I felt the same way - great for smoothies (and I’m sure baking), but not my favorite as a shake. Although for others, it might just do the trick. The cafe latte, however - YUM! I love this one if I’ve done an early morning (or even mid-day) workout and need the extra little jolt of caffeine in addition to the muscle rebuilding. It’s delicious on it’s own and I’m sure would also go really well in a frozen banana, chocolate chip, faux ice cream concoction.
The site also offers peanut butter, chocolate peanut butter, cinnamon roll, and matcha latte - all of which I have yet to try (however, I generally gravitate towards the simpler flavors to consume as a shake). I just purchased their single serving vanilla packets for the first time and am very excited about them. These will be great to pop in a bag for protein shakes on the go (whenever I'm back to working out in actual gyms - sad face).
The lovely ladies at Tone It Up also offer protein bars and bites, pre-made protein shakes, pre-workout powders, and collagen. Something for everyone! The collagen I have tried and highly suggest if you’re looking to add some extra amino acids into your diet. Collagen is proven to help support hair, skin, and nails, relieve joint pain, strengthen your bones, and promote heart health. TIU collagen is made with marine peptides as opposed to beef peptides found in many other brands, which is great news for this pescatarian! Like protein powder, you can easily scoop this into your smoothies, baked treats, or even coffee. They also offer a collagen creamer and an orange cream collagen with vitamin C - both of which I am curious to try.
I think it’s important that we look at what we are ingesting on a daily basis and what our body needs. It does a lot for us and deserves the proper nutrients to allow it to keep on truckin’. I encourage you to take a glance at your current daily protein status, consult your doctor, and see if maybe you need some type of boost - either with whole foods or with supplemental powder. And, if you do find yourself searching for that perfect protein powder, go ahead and give this one a try. It comes highly recommended.