Protein is the cornerstone of bodybuilding diet, aiding in the repair and growth of muscle tissue. Normally, women should aim for around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about 0.36 grams per pound, daily, according to nutritionist Cynthia Sass; however, athletes in training can bump this as high as 1.7 grams per kilogram, or 0.77 grams per pound. Eating this much protein can seem like a chore, but you can make it easier with quick and simple high-protein meals.
Any astute female bodybuilder knows that breakfast is important for preparing you for the day ahead and for tough training sessions. One large egg contains around 7 grams of protein, so boil, poach or scramble two to three eggs and serve them on half a whole-grain bagel or a piece of rye toast, with a little chopped ham for an added protein hit. Elizabeth Brown of "Oxygen" magazine recommends eggs Florentine -- two poached eggs with spinach on an English muffin. If you're in a rush and can't make time to cook, make a regular cereal breakfast healthier by cooking a half-cup of oats with skim milk and adding a scoop of whey protein powder along with a handful of mixed berries and chopped nuts and seeds.
Making high-protein choices at lunch couldn't be simpler -- just base your meal around meat, fish, or a vegetarian-friendly protein such as soy or seitan. If you're in a gaining phase, you need extra carbs, so try a chicken salad sandwich, tuna pasta salad or tofu stir-fry with noodles. When cutting for a competition, though, you'll need to reduce those carbs. Therefore, eat a salmon salad, a pre-cooked steak with veggies or skip the noodles in your stir-fry.
To keep things simple, use the same guidelines at dinner as you did for lunch. Vary your protein source each night rather than sticking to the same boring chicken breast or ground beef. Higher-carb bulking meals include lasagna made with whole-wheat pasta, low-fat cheese and ground turkey; chicken or turkey hot dogs on whole-wheat buns with a mixed side salad; and chili con carne made with ground beef or bison meat and served with brown rice or whole-grain tortillas and guacamole. When skipping the carbs, you can't go wrong with a grilled sirloin steak trimmed of fat, accompanied by green beans, and broccoli. Make a curry with chicken, turkey or lean lamb, but skip the rice and opt for extra veggies, or cook a casserole with plenty of vegetables and a lean cut of meat.
Tips and Tricks
High-protein snacks can help you feel full, so keep your fridge stocked with low-fat cottage cheese and Greek yogurt, nuts, peanut butter and skim milk. High-protein diets will keep you feeling fuller and help reduce your daily caloric intake. However, protein does still contain calories, so don't think you can eat it ad infinitum, advises Julie Metos, a dietitian at the University of Utah. If you're pushed for time and need high-protein meals to eat on the go, cook a double portion of your evening meal and save some for the next day.