When you are first looking to make a change to your nutrition, one of the most intimidating things can be trying to figure out how you’re going to eat “THAT much protein.”
When I begin the process with a new nutrition client, the first thing I have them do is keep track of what they are eating for the first few days or so. I want to get an idea of where they are at before I give them any advice. I can say that without a doubt, regardless of fitness level, years of experience in the gym, or current level of body fat, they will usually be low on their protein intake.
There are a lot of things diet culture likes to make you afraid of.
They will try to convince you that carbs are the devil. Next week, it’s fat that needs to be eliminated or that certain times of the day make you more fat than other times of the day. But have you ever come across a “Low-protein” approach? I remember one called the “Ornish” diet that was like 90% carbohydrates, but no one could do it.
All the “diets with a name” tend to focus around protein.
“Paleo” and “Atkins” get you eating a larger amount of protein. The “Mediterranean” diet centers each meal around certain types of protein. Worst of all, the “Carnivore” diet has you eating only protein. If we focus on what certain approaches have in common rather than their differences, we can quickly see that getting protein in the diet is very important.
There are a ton of complicated formulas that make suggestions on exactly how much protein you NEED in your diet. In general, most of the research will come down to .85 to 1g per lb of bodyweight.
For a 140lb female we’re looking at 119g to 140g of protein daily.
For a 180lb male, between 153 and 190g daily.
Now, let’s assume we’re going to aim for four meals a day. Your typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner, rounded out with one snack during the day.
Those totals become more manageable at 30-35g per meal and 39-45g per meal respectively.
The most common error people make is mistaking foods that have protein IN THEM, vs foods that are a SIGNIFICANT SOURCE of protein.
Sorry, but peanut and almond butter are among the biggest offenders here.
2 tablespoons of peanut butter contains 16 grams of fat, 7 grams or protein, and 6 grams of carbs.
So, 135 calories are from fat and only 28 from protein.
To get your 35 grams of protein, you would need 10 tablespoons of peanut butter; and, at that point you’d have consumed 95g of fat. As delicious as that sounds, it is not the most efficient way of keeping calories in check and hitting your protein goal.
BONUS TIP: Most protein bars will have breakdowns like this too. They might have 20-25g of protein, but also have 15g of fat. This would still make most of the calories you are getting from that “meal” fat.
When planning your meals, choose foods that are significant sources of protein. Chicken, fish, steak, eggs, egg whites, lean cuts of pork, etc.
Let’s look at a sample breakfast that contains 35 grams of protein.
Sample Breakfast ( 23g Carbs 10g Fat 35g Protein)
½ cup oatmeal (4 grams)
½ cup berries
1 large egg (6 grams)
.5 cup egg whites (13 grams)
2 slices of lean turkey bacon (12 grams)
If you need more or less protein per meal, just adjust the amounts accordingly!
This is why it’s so important to keep a food log for a few weeks so you can experiment and see what meals you like, which ones fill you up, and which ones leave you feeling sluggish.
When you understand the PRINCIPLES, you can use whatever methods work best for you.
Finally, the easiest way to make sure you are on track is to have a “go to” protein shake that is easy to make and convenient. I have this one just about every day.
Protein Pina Colada (Tastes great, just a lot less fun)
426 Calories 44g Carbs 6.7g Fat 45.8g Protein
200g frozen pineapple/banana mix
150g fat free greek yogurt
1 big scoop of Ascent Whey Protein
1 cup almond milk (vanilla unsweetened)
Throw it all in a blender and enjoy. If you freeze it, it actually makes a great ice-cream-type snack at night.
One last thing to consider. The less carbohydrates and calories you eat, the higher the demand for protein becomes. Protein is primarily used to help build and maintain muscle. If we are very low in calories and/or carbohydrates, your body has to go through a LONG process of breaking that protein down to use for energy. Conversely, if we have ADEQUATE calories and carbs, they have a protein sparing effect. Your body can use the carbs for energy, as they are perfectly ready to go. This allows the protein left over to be used for its main purpose. This is why you’ll see some bodybuilding or physique people have really high protein intake because they’ve had to cut their calories so much to get extremely lean. The good thing for us? We aren’t them and we can usually do just fine with the numbers I described above.
Here’s a quick checklist for success:
- Figure out your daily goal
- Divide it by how many times you eat per day
- Make one of those meals a super shake
- Dominate life
If you found this helpful, please feel free to forward it to a friend or family member.
If this leaves you clueless as to where to go next, just ask!
Keep Moving Forward,