A busy mother of 3, trying to lose 20 pounds, wants to fit into that sexy dress for the summer – What’s your protein intake look like?
Skinny college guy, trying to pack on some serious muscle gains, wants to impress the chica’s at Spring Break – What’s your protein intake?
A retired older gentleman, a former CEO of a big company, recently diagnosed with osteoarthritis and had a melanoma removed from his back, want’s to be able to keep up with the grandkids – What’s your protein intake look like?
No matter what your goals are, having an adequate protein intake can help you reach them.
Protein is not the end-all, be-all, cure-all of all of our world’s problems, but it does hold merit when it comes to many goals. Body composition changes wound healing, proper immune health are just a few of the areas that adequate protein is necessary to help with.
The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) specifies that the dietary protein requirement for all individuals 19 and older is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. This is (unfortunately) still recommended by many in the nutrition world. This level was set as a bare-bones minimum to help maintain proper nitrogen balance in the body and prevent nutritional deficiency and muscle wasting.
If you are reading this blog, you likely exercise pretty regularly.
For most of my clients, regardless of goals, I recommend .8-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. (Sometimes higher if we are doing a short-term cut, or lower if the person is very overweight)
Example: 55 year old, 5′ 6″ – 170 pound woman looking to lose body fat – works out 3 days per week, relatively sedentary otherwise.
In this case, her goal based on body weight would be 136-170 grams of protein per day.
136-170 That’s a ton!
I have found, especially for many of my female clients, that this is a high number that they are not used to. When looking through their intake journals, I often see 60/70/80 grams per day. Maybe close to 100 if they do a shake.
So how can you get your protein numbers up, without going over your calorie goal?
You need to track your intake and see if you are even hitting your calorie goal, then look at where those calories are coming from. In the above scenario, let’s say this client is eating 1600 calories. If we are looking for at least 136 grams of protein, then the other calories coming from carbs at fat should be right around 164g carbs and 44g fat. (don’t worry about how I got these numbers)
164 grams of carbs and 44 grams of fat per day are not hard to hit in our culture. We could easily be hitting the 1600 calorie goal, but you may be getting 60% from carbs, 30% from fat, and 10% from protein.
You will likely need to reconfigure where your calories are coming from and skew them more towards getting your protein intake up, and carbs and fats down. Luckily, carbs and protein are isocaloric – 1 gram of carbs = 4 calories, 1 gram of protein = 4 calories. Simply cutting back on carbs, and replacing them with some protein is a good start. If your diet is heavier in fat, then sub 2 grams of protein for every gram of fat you need to take out – since fat has 9 cals/gram.
Here are 5 ways you can up your protein intake (just make sure you are replacing something in your diet with them – instead of just adding them in)
1. Spread your protein out. I have written here about the importance of protein at breakfast, and this is a great place to start. Trying to get at least 1/4 of your protein goal at breakfast is a good number to reach for. Eggs, Greek Yogurt, and protein smoothies are all great sources to incorporate into your breakfasts.
Be spreading your protein out throughout the day, this will make that huge number seem much more attainable, and help you get much closer to it than you’d think.
2. Base each meal around protein. Make sure you have a protein source at every single meal you eat, and in every single snack you eat. Ladies, start with a palm-size portion. This will be right around 20-25 grams of protein if it is coming from a meat source. Guys, shoot for a hand size – 40-50 grams of protein. For snacks, reach for jerky, Greek yogurt, or just have a protein shake.
While I’m not a fan of multiple shakes/meal replacements during the day, adding one can help you get to your goal, and feel fuller longer.
3. Up your intake per meal. Once you have incorporated protein at each meal, try having just a little bit more than you usually would. Generally speaking, most animal proteins contain about 7 grams per ounce of meat, especially in leaner meats. What does an ounce look like? See below.
This chicken breast was 6.3 ounces. Here you see what 4 and 1 ounces look like as well.
Adding one ounce of protein per meal may not seem like a lot, but over the course of a day and a few meals, it can add up to an additional 20-25 grams. If your calorie numbers are pretty stable at your goal intake, make sure you are replacing something with the added protein. Cut back on your starchy carbs at the meal, even just by the same volume of the protein you added. Add 1 ounce of protein, remove one ounce of rice, etc.
4. Add in a protein shake. As stated above, I am not a fan of adding in multiple shakes during the day. I want my clients’ intake to come mostly from whole foods. However, starting with a protein shake post-workout, or as a late afternoon snack might be all you need. Especially in my clients who follow more vegetarian-style diets, protein numbers can be very hard to hit. You want to look for a powder that contains whey protein and provides 20-30 grams per scoop. That is a good starting point.
5. Replace your carbs with protein carbs. Replacing something like rice or pasta with beans can make a huge swing in your protein intake. The same amount of rice and beans will contain close to the same amount of calories (the beans are slightly less) but the beans will contain 4 times the protein. A half cup of rice is just about 2 grams of protein, while a half cup of beans is 8. While this may not seem like a lot, remember, it all adds up throughout the day.
Try these 5 tips for increasing your protein intake throughout the day. You may still not hit your goal number, but you will be much closer and will probably find that you feel more full, fat starts coming off easier, and you might just start lifting heavier as a side effect.
How should you start?
Figure out how much protein you currently eat daily. Is it 60 grams? Great! Is your goal according to calculations 120 grams? That means you need to double your intake!
That can be a pretty hefty challenge. So here is where you should start:
Aim to get 10% more next week – and maintain it for two weeks. Average 60 this week? Get 66 grams a day for the next 2 weeks. Then 73 grams each day for the following 2 weeks, and so on.
Throughout this process, only focus on your protein numbers. Believe it or not, many times the rest of your macros (fat and carbs) will adjust accordingly on their own.
If you need help getting started, look no further than online coaching. Training and nutrition! Let me help you find the best plan for you – from anywhere in the world.
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