August 13, 2012 at 10:24
Posted by Rachael Woolston
Last weekend, Fitbitch attended a workshop on cooking with protein powder that was put together by Anna Sward, a PHD graduate with a passion for strength and conditioning exercising, who has turned her hand to cooking with protein powders and blogging about it, www.proteinpow.com
For many men and women, the throught of protein supplements, conjures up muscley men drinking shakes. While this image is still true in many respects, protein is important for both men and women, particularly those looking to get in shape and lose weight.
1. Exercise causes microscopic tears in the muscle fibres. Protein, whether from food sources such as eggs and chicken or protein supplements, helps repair these fibres helping the body to create more lean muscle tissue. (Supplments DOS NOT as many people imagine, create muscle fibres by itself).
2. Beacuase protein is harder to digest, it keeps you feeling fuller for longer.
3. Eating excess carboydrate, which can be in the form of the obvious, such as cakes and chocolate, or in the not so obvious, fruits, alcohol, bread or pasta, and juices causes the excess energy to be stored as fat.
I decided to take Anna’s workshop because I have always steered away from using protein supplements, thinking they are unnecessary and no substitue for ‘real’ protein in for the form of eggs, meat, fish, pulses and nuts. I wanted to find out if I was missing a trick and whether protein powders have a place.
Over the course of five hours, we made a mixture of protein balls, muffins, cakes, brownines, pizza bases and tortilla wraps, alll without the use of traditional carbohydrate flours such as wheat.
From the start, I learned that protein comes in many varied forms from whey to casein, pea protein to vegetable proteins, goat whey to hemp. (You can buy many of these from www.myprotein.com).
All have a distinctive taste, although casein and whey proteins taste fake. Often flavoured with vanilla or chocolate flavourd because they are largely used in shakes, they tend to taste fake and no matter you add, it is impossible to get rid of that taste.
Hemp was a reveleation though. It may look and smell like the henna powder I used to dye my hair pillar box red as a student, but when combined in food, it lends it an earthy taste, not dissimilar to the purity of a thick dark chocolate.
As for the recipes we tried, none of them have exact ingredients. We were encouraged to mix, and add until we had the right consistency. It is an approach I favour because it is only when you don’t fear food, and are open to experimentation that you can let it stop controlling you.
But what of the actual outcomes?
Pizza bases? Not pleasant and that was not just the one I made, which came out the thikness of a brick.
If you are trying to lose weight, I don’t see why you would want to eat pizza anyway. And if you do, I’ve always used Lebanease lavash bread, as thin as fila so you get hardly any carbs but the taste of pizza.
The cakes? Protein powders just add a strange, plastic type sheen to cakes and they just don’t taste nice. And I say this, not because I am a sugar addict accustomed to sweet, fatty cakes. For me the plainer and ‘purer’ the better. If was to have a cake, I’d use ground almonds, as my protein souce and just eat less of it rather than prtotein powder.
That said, Anna came up witth a neat trick of combinning whey protein with Greek no fat yoghurt to make frosting. Now, that is worth trying.
For me, the take home recipe I’ll do again were the protein balls and the tortilla wraps.
For the protein balls, I combined whey protiein, ground almonds, coconut flour, nuts and seeds, dates and dessicated coconut in a bowl until it was thick enough to roll into balls. Some, I coated in 90% dark chocolate, others I left au naturel before ‘setting’ in the fridge. They were delicious and very filling.
Really, you can only eat about two until it you feel like you have eaten a box of chocolates. Perfect if you have a sweet tooth and want your fix without ruining your diet.
My other must-try were Anna’s tortilla wraps. She combined pysllium husk, which you can get from any health food stores, with egg whites to form a gloopy mixture and fried in a pan like a panckae with coconut fat. It makes a fantastic, completely carb free wrap and if you add spices and herbs it is really nice.
So, have I come round to protein supplements?
Lovely as Anna is, (and I urge you to have a go anyway) No. Natural food sources do the same job, they are cheaper, don’t contain additives, and taste nicer.
That is not to say protein supplementation does not have it’s place for some people.
I have interviewed professional rugby players and triathletes who HAVE to supplement because the amount of protein they have to eat in order to ensure recovery is so great, they would be practially eating eggs and chicken all day if they didn’t supplement.
Other than that, I would rather stick with natural food.
For further information about Anna’s workshops and recipies visit www.proteinpow.com