Getting ready for winter involves a lot of training and strength work. You need to be ready for long days riding and more importantly, ensure your body is injury proof. I am even more focused and motivated to get strong for winter following one of the lowest points in my life last year, where I tore my MCL in my left knee and the spring ligament in my right ankle. These co-current injuries floored me, something I wrote about at length in Losing My Identity: How injury forced me to question who I was. Those were tough times and I never want to be that low again.
I am by no means a gym rat. I am very active and strong from surfing, snowboarding and vinyasa yoga at least 3x a week, but I’m not at all clued up in the gym. I do my rehab then I get out of there. Recently, I’ve had some tips from a trainer, a female Common Wealth Games sprinter who I respected (as opposed to one of the model type that prances around the gym with their fake tan taking photos of themselves). These sessions with her were really helpful in giving me a few targeted exercises. She also highlighted that I have nowhere near enough protein in my diet to build the muscle mass I need to make my body strong and safe for winter.
So what is the deal with protein?
Protein is the corner stone and building block of muscle gain. Muscle is made up of two filaments (actin and myosin) and both are proteins. Like all proteins, they are made up of amino acids. After eating protein, our body breaks it down to amino acids which are used for a variety of functions, one of which being building muscle. So this is why body builders and people training are on a high protein diet. It is the building block to gain muscle. Protein is also a key nutrient that gives you glowing skin and lean toned muscles.
When is the best time to eat protein?
Immediately following a work out is the best time to eat a high protein meal or protein shake. This is when blood flow to the muscles is at its highest, making them most receptive to nutrients. You should however be looking at the quantities of protein across your whole diet throughout the day, making sure you are getting enough in each meal to sustain you body.
I feel it’s important to hydrate, eat regular small meals with hits of protein through the day to keep your energy levels consistent.
– Surfer, Sally Fitzgibbons
Use this protein calculator from the Healthy Chef (a website I LOVE) to figure out how much you need for what exercises you are doing. For example, I am 65kg, using the protein calculator I need to ensure a recommended daily intake of protein for the following exercises:
- Snowboarding 5x a week = 94 grams of protein per day
- Surfing 1-2x a week = 70 grams of protein per day
- Yoga 1-2x a week = 78 grams of protein per day
- Running 3-4x a week = 82 grams of protein per day
- Weight training 3-4x a week = 91 grams of protein per day
My girl crush and professional skier Lindsey Vonn, who just realised a book called “Strong is the new beautiful” encouraging girls to be proud of their bodies, speaks a fair bit about maintaining a high protein diet. When training, she works her meals out by protein vs. carb ratio.
Here’s what she does:
- 50-50 protein-to-carbs at breakfast
- 60-40 at lunch
- Dinner is usually no carbs (protein (fish for the tryptophan that helps you sleep, and vegetables)
“I eat a lot of protein and carbs to stay a healthy weight while I’m training and to get enough energy, but I opt for healthier versions, like almond butter instead of peanut butter and pumpernickel bread instead of white bread.” – Ski racer and all-round legend, Lindsey Vonn
Tip: Mix your protein powder with coconut water straight after a work out to help absorption. Coconut water is also great for hydration and high in potassium and magnesium.
Ideas to get more protein in your diet:
In addition to protein shakes after working out, i’ve been looking at introducing more protein rich foods across my diet. This infographic is a great idea to print off and place in the fridge.
With a protein diet in mind, I’m snacking on beef jerky and almonds and trying to eat more eggs at breakfast (I pretty much always skip breakfast if not snowboarding which is terrible). I’m cooking more with black lentils and chickpeas, while adding yogurt to my smoothies.
Wow spirulina, who knew? I add spirulina to all my smoothies as well as take tablets with me when I travel to countries with limited vegetable options e.g. Japan in winter – NIGHTMARE to get any thing green in large quantities!
I love to drink the chocolate flavoured coconut water after a workout or add it to my shakes. I’ll mix an 8-ounce Zico chocolate (coconut water), 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder, 3 ice cubes, 1 tablespoon almond butter, 1 tablespoon raw cacao nibs, and ½ cup frozen blueberries (optional).
– Pro skier, Julia Mancuso
Eat more chia seeds:
These little babies are a power house of nutrients, protein and amino acids. 17g of protein per 100gs. Professional surfer Kelly Slater swears by them, even starting his own Chia seed company (read about Kelly Slater’s diet and approach to health in our previous super popular article Kelly Slater Diet, Nutrition & Sustainable Living).
A standard 2 tbsp (24 g) serving of chia seeds contains:
- Calories: 117
- Protein: 4 grams
- Fat: 7.4 grams
- Fiber: 8.3 grams
That includes all eight amino acids which is the equivalent of:
- Five times the omega-3 content of a 1/4-cup serving of walnuts
- Twice the iron and magnesium of a cup of spinach
- As much calcium as a half-cup of milk
- As much potassium as a third of a banana
- More than twice the fiber of a cup of oatmeal
I add chia seeds to my smoothies and my salads, I soak them in coconut water the night before and then eat this for breakfast. Basically sprinkle this shit everywhere, it’s super good for you!
Check out these awesome high protein recipes:
Good luck with your training. I’d be super keen to hear any of your protein diet ideas below. Also this is an exceptional article if you are wondering what protein powder to chose (whey, pea, soy etc): The essential guide in choosing the right protein powder or this article on how to find the right protein powder, which goes through other options and brands like Muscle Milk and Miracle Whey. My advice is to chose a protein powder that comes from a natural source.
Header image courtesy of friend and fellow surfer, Hayley Shaw McGuinness.