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December 18, 2020 | | Nutrition

Protein + Carb = A Winning Combo

This blog post is sponsored by Barilla. I have been compensated for my time commitment. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

For the average healthy adult, carbohydrates and proteins are staples in the diet. For athletes, their protein and carbohydrate needs are higher with exercise because they require more energy for performance and recovery. The protein recommendation for the average adult is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight and an athlete’s protein needs can be 1.2-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. The average adult eats about 60-100g of protein throughout the course of the day, whereas an athlete can easily consume almost double this amount. Protein helps in repairing tissues (think organs), builds muscles and bones, supports making hormones and enzymes, and functions as transporters, messengers and much much more. Protein sources including meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy from animal sources as well as nuts, beans, seeds, and grains from plants all can be a part of a balanced diet. Carbohydrates provide the best source of energy for the body and are found in breads, grains, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), pastas, cereals, dairy, fruits and vegetables  it is recommended the average adult consume 45-65% of total calories from carbohydrates (AMDR, see Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges). An athlete on the other hand if performing moderate intensity physical activity (or about 1 hour per day) it is recommended that 5 to 7  grams/kilogram/day is consumed. Example: a 165 pound athlete who trains 1 hours per day may consume between 375 to 525 grams of carbohydrates daily. Carbohydrate recommendations for athletes vary from 3 to 12 grams/kilogram/day depending on intensity and duration. 

Athletes undoubtedly benefit from direction in meal planning and nutrition strategies. Ideally a balanced diet for both the average healthy American and an athlete should be satisfying, sustainable, and help achieve the individual’s goals! Creating a recipe with pasta can serve as a canvas for protein, carbohydrates, fats, and various vitamins and minerals we all need. Americans struggle to consume the recommended 2.5 cups of vegetables daily, and this is where most of the color on your plate comes from as well.  Pasta can be thought of as a blank canvas and the vegetables added to the canvas are the paint. To complete your painting, you need the vegetables. Pasta is a simple food and is made with just enriched durum wheat semolina plus water. Per the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Scientific Report, “pasta, rice and other grain-based dishes” are among the top 3 food subcategories that contribute 10% of the vegetable intake for all age groups. . Among these mixed dishes, you will find nutrients like fiber, calcium, potassium, and vitamin D – all of which are top nutrients of public health concern. Fiber provides bulk in the intestine and promotes satiety, and improves heart health through lowering cholesterol levels. Calcium is vital for bone-building and stimulates muscle and nerve function. Potassium facilitates fluid volume (crucial for athletes), helps lower blood pressure, conducts nerve impulses and muscle contractions, vitamin D promotes bone and teeth strength. 

I’ve put together a quick and easy recipe with the Barilla Protein+ Recipe Builder that combines their Protein+ penne pasta with additional protein, vegetables, and oils to create a simple and tasty post-workout meal or regular dinner meal. This is a great tool to use to build a meal full of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals essential for improving performance and promoting lean muscle mass. Choosing one ingredient from each category, builds a pasta recipe that is 500 calories or less. 

Garlic Shrimp Penne with Asparagus and Tomatoes 

Serves about 5

1 serving size= 2 cups

Calories 476, Fat 16 g (Saturated 3 g), Carbohydrates 51 g (Dietary fiber 8 g), Protein 31 g

  • 1 cup Asparagus
  • 1 cup Tomatoes, diced
  • ¼ cup Garlic, minced
  • 12 oz Shrimp, medium, (peeled and deveined)
  • Barilla Protein+ Penne Pasta, 1 box
  • ¼ cup Olive Oil
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • ¼ cup Parsley, chopped (or basil, oregano)

Instructions: 1) Cut your asparagus ends off, cutting the asparagus stalks to about 1 and 1/2 inch cylinders. Dice tomatoes and mince garlic. 2) Clean, peel and devein shrimp, set aside in the fridge. 3) Bring water to a boil and cook pasta according to the package until al dente. 4) Meanwhile, set a large skillet to medium heat, then add about half of the olive oil to the pan. Saute asparagus for about 5 minutes, adding tomato at the end. Toss cooked asparagus, tomatoes and pasta into a large bowl, cover. 5) Over medium heat, add remaining olive oil to a large skillet, adding shrimp. Stirring frequently 5 to 7 minutes or until opaque and thoroughly cooked. Stir in garlic for 1 minute. 6) Add cooked shrimp to the large pasta bowl. 7) Serve with parmesan cheese and garnish with parsley.

Benefits of this dish include:

  • High protein content for post workout can benefit muscle recovery.
  • Olive oil along with shrimp will contribute high unsaturated fats and include polyunsaturated fats like omega-3s. Omega-3s may improve heart health and reduce inflammation. 
  • Tomatoes and asparagus are very nutrient dense, both are good sources of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate and potassium, as well as vitamin A and E. 
  • Garlic provides great gut health through inulin (a prebiotic).
  • Parmesan cheese will provide minerals such as calcium and vitamin D.

Portions for meals such as these can be reflected using the info graphic: Portion Size Guide available on Barilla’s website too! 1 serving of pasta= 1 baseball, 8 ounces of fish= a checkbook, 3 ounces of chicken= deck of cards, 1 serving of vegetables (½ cup cooked, at least)= 1 computer mouse, 1 tablespoon of grated cheese= 1 poker chip, and herbs is unlimited.