Who wants arms, legs, and abs with well-defined muscle tone? Raise your hands. Both of mine are up.
As a certified specialist in sports nutrition, I work with all kinds of athletes. From the corporate athlete to the high school competitive swimmer to the full time mom running 5ks, all seem to have one common goal: "toned and fit muscles." Why? It improves our confidence in the way we look and how we feel. It boosts our metabolism. It gives us strength to do what we want to do - play a competitive tennis match at the end of a long work day, improve speed on the butterfly stroke, or cross the finish line while pushing the stroller.
Don't you wish you could pop a pill and poof have defined arms, abs, and legs? Yet, we know there is no quick fix solution, it takes a WHOLE LOT of effort. To get toned muscles, we will have to trade in the sweat pants for running shorts, flip flops for tennis shoes, and hit the pavement, gym, and yoga mat.
Another trade off to get what we want is learning how to eat for toned muscles. We will need to trade the bowl of cereal for eggs and top the green salad with chicken. Why? Because eggs and chicken are full of protein. *Protein is the most important nutrient to eat in order to get toned and defined muscles.* It is the building block that makes up muscle. It maintains the shape of the muscle. It also fills you up so you eat less food, which in turn prevents a buildup of fat so you can see the shape of the muscle. And for an added bonus, it helps stabilize your energy levels throughout the day so you can feel as good as you look.
Here’s a little testimony of the power of protein:
My husband has been working out with a trainer for 6 months. He is committed to strengthening and creating muscle definition in his core, his arms, and his legs. He has also committed to eating protein at each meal and snack. Because of his dedication to this goal, he not only is seeing the muscle definition, he is experiencing the benefits of strong muscles. His has consistent energy throughout his work day, his golf game has improved and he just blazed the trails in Park City, Utah for 4 days straight without being too terribly sore or tired (the kind that makes you skip a bluebird day of great skiing).
So here’s a few tips on how to incorporate more protein into your day:
- Top your bowl of oatmeal with a handful of almonds
- Boil eggs at the beginning of the week and eat 2 - 3 with a piece of fruit
- Make a quick protein shake with 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder (I like plant-based protein powders like Vega), 1 cup of unsweetened almond or skim milk, 1 banana, 2 tablespoons of nut butter, and 3 - 5 ice cubes
- Top a garden salad with a 3 - 4 ounce piece of chargrilled chicken *Easy to grab at any quick service restaurant, like the Chick-fil-A Superfood Salad with an 8 count of Grilled Chicken Nuggets
- Using canned salmon, make this Salmon Salad. Eat with a few whole wheat crackers and celery and carrot sticks.
- Roll up 3 slices of deli turkey (Applegate Farms is all natural, no preservatives and delicious) in 3 slices of pepper jack cheese (2% is a good choice because it tastes good and doesn’t have as many calories the regular version). Pair with a piece of fruit.
- A few celery sticks with 2 tablespoons of nut butter
- 6 ounces of 1% Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
- 1 - 2 ounces of turkey jerky (look for brands with no nitrites, preservatives, or added MSG such as Perky Jerky)
- Bake 3 ounces of tilapia in the oven at 350 degrees F topped with olive oil and Italian herb seasoning. Serve with 1 cup of quinoa and broccoli.
- Add Tyson’s Grilled and Ready diced oven roasted chicken breast to Progresso reduced sodium garden vegetable soup
- Try these Vegetarian Spinach Enchiladas for a quick, easy dinner with quality protein