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Ode to the chickpea: A protein-ri​ch legume

If you're in the middle of bikini or figure competition training, chances are you've have more than your fair share of protein bars and fruit smoothies. When every calorie counts, it's easy to fall into a bit of a culinary rut, sticking to dishes you're familiar with so you know exactly what is going into your body.

But, while it may be effective, sticking to the same staple meals can get a bit, well, boring. That's why we'll be providing tips about less conventional ingredients that will still leave you toned and trim for the next round of bikini competitions.

One superfood that can work wonders for your body post-workout is the chickpea. If you've ever tried different flavors of hummus, you'll know that this legume can take on almost any taste with delicious results. WHFoods.com, an online resource that showcases the world's healthiest foods, notes that these beans are a great source of fiber, filling you up so you're less likely to treat yourself to a clandestine snack later on.

Shape magazine hails the weight loss benefits of chickpeas - also known as garbanzo beans - too, explaining that the 7 grams of fiber in every half a cup make this versatile ingredient a fitness fanatic's dream.

Each little pea is also loaded with protein, so a bowl can do a lot to help your aching muscles recover after a strenuous weight-training session. Not quite sure how to work this bean into your routine? Nutritionist Dana James, the founder of Food Coach NYC, featured a delicious post-workout chickpea recipe on her blog. A self-proclaimed "lazy cook," James keeps things simple: just mix chickpeas, coconut oil, mint, kale and lemon zest in a bowl with some chili flakes and sea salt to taste, and voila! A scrumptious salad that will leave you satiated. Visit her website for the full recipe. 

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