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Protein Powerhouse

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Contrary to current popular belief, protein is more than just a fad that companies have created to market and sell their products. Everyone is so drawn to “high in protein!” labels, but do you know what exactly protein is, and why it is so important?

What is protein and what does it do? Whether your goal is to lose weight or bulk up, protein is an important part of every healthy lifestyle. It is one of three macronutrients and is extremely essential to repair and build tissues in the body, like muscles, organs, nails, bones, cartilage, skin, and blood. A majority of our body’s systems rely on protein to function, like our immune and digestive systems, the production of hormones and enzymes, and our vision.

Each time you lift weights and hit the gym, you are essentially tearing your muscle tissue. Protein works to repair and build those muscles outside of the gym, and enables them to strengthen and grow. Other benefits from protein include preserving muscle, stabilizing energy and appetite, regulating and increasing metabolism, and maintaining a leaner physique.

Where can I get it? Protein is primarily found in animal products like meat, poultry, eggs/egg whites, seafood, Greek yogurt, milk, and cheese. Lean sources of protein, like chicken breast and fish, are preferable to the proteins found in fatty meats.

Plenty of vegetarian or vegan sources of protein also exist like soy milk, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, peanut butter, leafy greens, tofu, tempeh, seitan, edamame, Ezekiel toast, oats, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, brown rice, protein bars, and protein powder. Not all of these sources are complete proteins, but by pairing them with a good, balanced diet, they aid in healthy living.

How much should I eat? Bodybuilders rely on protein to constantly repair and rebuild the muscle because of the physically demanding nature of the sport. Research on how much protein is optimal for health benefits and building muscle is very inconclusive.

According to RDA (recommended dietary allowance), active women (men) between the ages of 19-30 should be consuming 10-30% of their recommended 2,400 (3,000) calories from protein. This equates to 60g -  180g for women and 75g – 225g for men. Regardless of current studies, it is agreeable that ideal protein consumption is extremely dependent upon each individual’s body composition, lifestyle, and activity level. Play around with your protein consumption levels to see what works best specifically for you!

Do I Need to Supplement? It is important to keep in mind that using protein powder does not directly result in weight loss. It will simply help supplement your diet if you feel you cannot get enough protein from whole foods. That being said – it is 100% not necessary to use a protein supplement. If you eat a healthy, balanced diet it is certainly possible, and a bit more preferable for most, to get an adequate amount of protein from whole foods. Protein powders are often just an easy, convenient way for bodybuilders to hit those high levels of protein if necessary.

Bottom line – Protein is absolutely essential for the body to function properly, and should not be neglected. It is preferable to try to get your protein requirements from mainly whole foods, but a few protein waffles never hurt anybody.

 

Fitness Abroad

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As a sophomore in college, you’ve finally figured it out. You have a comfortable routine, you eat well, you exercise regularly, and you’ve settled into a lifestyle that you can manage. Junior year, however, presents you with an incredible opportunity that will completely alter that routine: to study abroad.

If you are as fortunate as I am, you’ll be able to take full advantage of this opportunity. While it is extremely exciting, it can also be a bit daunting. I’ll be one to admit, I had many moments when I became nervous that I’d have to put a halt to my health and fitness for four months. I felt apprehensive about the fact that the routine I’ve grown into would no longer exist. After spending a month abroad, I’ve slowly adapted to a new routine and realized that living halfway across the world does not mean you need to sacrifice your health. Finding the right balance between maintaining your health and experiencing everything abroad has to offer is tricky, but it is more than possible.

 To find that balance, you first have to realize a few things:

You may have to abandon your usual means of exercise.
The paths you run at home won’t be there and the gym may be too expensive for your budget, but this does not mean you need to give up exercising all together; you may just need to pick up a new form. Walking, biking, and running are all great forms of exercise that enable you to explore the city you’re in. Utilizing YouTube for at home exercises is also a great way to get moving. Fitnessblender is a personal favorite YouTube channel of mine that has hundreds of videos of at home workouts ranging from HIIT to stretching and pilates. Other well-known YouTube channels include blogilates, BeFit, and HiitLite. Additionally, try joining a club or team at school. Abroad is all about new experiences, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and join something new.

Food is not everything.
More than likely, the country you’ll be studying in will be one renowned for its fine cuisine. With pastry shops and upscale restaurants on every corner, you may feel the need to eat your way through your four months. However, that certainly won’t be smart for your body or your wallet. Take it slow. Make sure you get out there and try new things, but cook your own meals when you can. I promise, over four months you’ll have PLENTY of chances to eat the local cuisine.  

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YOU’RE ABROAD!!!!
While your health and fitness may be of the utmost importance to you, remember that studying abroad is a once in a lifetime chance. Don’t let the fear of change keep you from taking full advantage of all the opportunities that lie at your fingertips. Try your best to accept and embrace the challenges that come, because stepping outside of your comfort zone will only foster growth within yourself. The real key to finding balance is realizing that things will change, and being able to accept it and work with it.

Remember: abroad is for four months, fitness is for a lifetime. The gym and your norms will always be there when you get home.