As someone who exercises six times a week – I’m planning on talking, posting and filming more about my exercise and yoga beliefs very soon – I have found that adding protein powder to my diet increases my capabilities not just when exercising, but generally in life (those of you who watch my Instagram stories do know that a major part of my working days involve me running around in a messy kitchen, cooking, photographing, and cleaning. It’s exhausting).
Everyone needs protein
I vary my work-out, a normal week would be a long run on Monday morning and a body pump class on Monday night, a 60-minute lane swim on Tuesday, a 75-minute Rocket Yoga class on Wednesday, a HIIT session on Thursday and a weight or sometimes Spin session in the gym on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. I also cycle almost everywhere in London, and apart from that I practice around 20 minutes of yin yoga every night, but wouldn’t count that as exercise, to be honest.
The point is though: Although I’m not just lifting weights, I do need a lot of protein, and interestingly, you do, too, whether you exercise (a lot) or not. In order to maintain our health and body composition, healthy hair, skin and nails, it is recommended to eat between 0.8 and 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, every day. Now, given that an egg contains between 6 and 8 grams of protein, you can do the math.
Protein sources for vegetarians and vegans
If you are pescetarian like me, fish is (besides eggs) an excellent source of protein. Other than that, also cottage cheese and Greek yogurt contain good amounts of protein. Additionally, and especially if you’re vegan, great protein sources are nuts, seeds, pulses such as lentils and chickpeas, and (pseudo) grains such as quinoa, amaranth and oats.
So, what about protein powder?
However, meat protein stays protein supplier no. 1, and that’s why I find adding a tablespoon of protein powder to my meals once or twice a day helpful to reach my protein target. I am somewhat against the idea of taking whey protein powder (which is made out of pasteurised milk after all), and have tried different vegan protein powders. I love pea protein for its neutral taste and for the fact that it contains 82 % of protein as well as all of the nine essential amino acids. I stir one tablespoon in my porridge every morning, or add it to soups, pasta sauces, or to energy balls.
Speaking of which …
… reminds me of the actual topic here today: cacao peanut butter protein balls! Hah, way off topic, but, well, then again not entirely. The point I want to make is that protein is very important, whether you’re a fitness junkie or not. Protein powders are not necessary if you manage to reach your protein target “naturally“ (with the food you eat). However, if you are struggling to do so, powders are excellent and very convenient to increase the protein in your diet!
Health benefits of protein balls
Now, let’s talk about these cacao peanut butter protein balls. They are insane! So creamy, so peanut buttery, so chocolatey, and entirely vegan and gluten-free. Even if you decide to leave out the protein powder, they contain a solid amount of protein already, thanks to the almonds and peanut butter. Coconut oil adds healthy fat, and cacao and chia seeds antioxidants. What else could you ask for?
Thank me later, and now enjoy these protein balls!
Cacao peanut butter protein balls
For 15 energy balls.
100 grams almonds (or ground almonds, or 50 grams almonds and 50 grams ground almonds)
100 grams crunchy peanut butter
150 grams medjool dates, pitted (about 12 large dates) (or dried dates, soaked for 10 minutes)
3 tablespoons raw cacao
1 tablespoon cacao nibs
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled
A pinch sea salt
1 – 2 tablespoons protein powder (I use pea protein)* (optional)
*you may need to add a dash more coconut oil or maple syrup depending on the amount of powder you add
Place the almonds into the bowl of your food processor, pulse until they remain a coarse, crunchy powder. Add the remaining ingredients, and blend until the mixture is crumbly but firm, and easily shapeable.
With the palms of your hands, form approximately 15 bite-sized energy balls. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.
The peanut butter energy balls can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.