I want muscles. That’s what Diana Ross sang about in her song “Muscles,” written in 1982. But her song was about getting a man with muscles; it wasn’t about her wanting muscles of her own. When I say, “I want muscles,” I mean I want my own muscles.

Muscles are not just for visual pleasure. I agree they look great, but most importantly, muscles are a sign of health and fitness. I have known this since my teenage years when I began lifting weights trying to develop my own muscles.

I have continued to lift weights, run and cycle over the past 25 years, even competing in powerlifting and bodybuilding in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Now my goal is to grace the pages of my favorite fitness magazine, Oxygen. Not only because their fitness models serve as my inspiration, but also because I have been writing for Oxygen since February.

Unlike writing for the Daily Press, which allows me complete creative freedom, writing for a magazine is very specific. There are hours and hours and hours of research that go into developing a story and backing it up with scientific data as I did for my November article “Leafy Greens,” or in the December issue article “Eat. Train. Heal,” which is full of anti-inflammatory research and recipes.

No matter what research I find for the topic of the month, there must always be recipes that are protein rich. To the weight lifting community, protein equals muscles. As someone who follows a predominantly vegetarian diet, eating enough protein can sometimes be a challenge, but not impossible.

How much protein you need truly depends on your activity levels. Long standing research shows that you need only 0.8g/kg of body weight or the equivalent of 37 percent of your body weight in grams of protein to maintain muscle mass. So a 120 pound person (120/2.2 pounds/kg = 54.55kg x 0.8g/kg = 43.6) needs 44g of protein per day: 120 x 0.37 = 44g. While someone who is starting an exercise program may need 1.2 to 1.4g per kilogram of body weight or 65-76g which is 54 to 63 percent of your body weight.

When you get in to heavy weight lifting to gain muscle mass, your protein needs can be as high as 2g/kg or 109g for that 120 pound person which is 91 percent of their total body weight to be consumed as grams of protein. Some weight lifters claim that protein intake should be 1g per pound of body weight but I suspect it’s because that math is just so much easier: 120g x 1g/ pound = 120g.

In the end, you need enough calories to get you through your day and through your workouts. You also need the right mix of vitamins and minerals from whole food sources of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, to help your body better convert that food into useful energy. Of course, whatever you eat should also be enjoyable to you, not just tasty but also full of foods that make you feel good after you eat them.

I enjoy chocolate, but if I eat it too often or too much at one time, I feel awful, therefore, I try not to do that. I also love pudding for its creamy texture. It’s a comfort food that generally makes me feel good but traditional boxed versions are loaded with sugar and artificial stuff that, frankly, nobody needs.

So in an effort to help me reach my 109 grams of protein, I have developed a high protein pudding. Portion control is still an issue for me so I suggest doing as I do and dole it out into half cup servings immediately. This pudding makes the perfect post workout snack with its fast absorbing carbs and muscle building protein as an addition to your complete post workout meal.

I developed this recipe to use up some vanilla protein powder but you can certainly substitute with chocolate protein powder and chocolate extract if you’re a chocolate lover. Again, portion control may be an issue so beware. No matter what, have fun developing your muscles!

Elizabeth Brown, MS, RD, CPT, CDE, is a registered dietitian and certified holistic chef who wants to make the world a healthier place one recipe at a time. You can learn more about Elizabeth, see her videos and read past articles on her website: www.TheKitchenVixen.com.

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