By this point, almost everyone has heard a little bit about the benefits of protein.
There is good reason for this: more than any other nutrient, protein is what helps fuel every system in our bodies. In fact, the right amount of protein helps build lean muscle, lose fat, and even keep our hair healthy.
Unfortunately, while many of us know protein is important, we don’t always know how much we need or where to get it.
For this reason, I put together a quick guide on the benefits of protein, how many grams you need per day, and some of the best foods to help you get there.
Protein: The Powerhouse Macro
There are three macronutrients people start tracking when they begin a weight loss program– protein, fat, and carbs. Protein is by far the most important.
Protein is in almost every cell of your body. It carries out many different functions from helping build muscle mass, keeping your bones healthy, and serving as an integral way to oxygenate your blood.
Benefits of Protein
As a nutritionist and as a woman with her own health goals, there are several reasons I love protein. In fact, I often call protein the backbone of any good health plan.
- Boosts satiety (how full you feel after you eat)
- Helps muscles recover from exercise
- Encourages lean muscle growth
- Supports bone health
- Lowers blood pressure
- Buffers the immune system
There are several reasons why these perks are important for fat loss and health in general. One of the most critical being its impact on muscle growth.
See, when you begin exercising, your body needs to burn through resources to keep your energy going. This happens both while you’re working out and while your muscles recover.
When you don’t have enough protein in your diet, your body can actually start eating into your muscle for energy. While you will still lose weight, you won’t be lean, toned, or particularly healthy.
When you do have the right amount of protein however, everything changes.
Because you are feeding your body the right kind of fuel, you are able to build more lean muscle while still simultaneously losing fat. This increases your overall muscle density.
Since muscle tissue burns more energy than fat even in a resting state. This is known as having a higher “thermic effect.” With more muscle on board and a greater thermic effect, your metabolism burns more calories– even while sitting on the couch or doing homework with the kids.
How Much Protein Should I Eat?
Now that we know why protein is so important, the question remains: how much should I eat?
While the exact number can vary depending on your personal goals, I like to recommend clients do a simple math problem to come up with an answer.
- Take your body weight in pounds
- Multiply by 0.8-1.0
Your answer is how many grams of protein you should eat a day. What most people realize at this point is that they aren’t eating enough!
Best High Protein Foods
If you’re wondering how to incorporate more protein into your diet, here are some high protein food ideas to add to your next meal:
- Chicken, Beef, Pork, Fish, Eggs
- Cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, Milk
- Lentils, Tofu, Tempeh, Oats, Almonds
Once you pick a handful of foods you enjoy, the next step is to incorporate them into your diet on a regular basis. One of my top tips to accomplish this is by planning ahead and determining how many grams of protein will be in each meal.
Let’s say you are going to eat 3 meals a day with a couple snacks worked in. Take those 6 food servings and make sure each has enough protein so that by the end of the day, you hit your target goal.
An example might look something like this:
Breakfast: Kodiak cakes 1.2 serving made with 1 egg = 24 grams
Post workout: ½ scoop Ascent protein powder mixed with water = 12 grams
2 Alyssa’s healthy oatmeal bites = 4 grams
Lunch: 4 oz chicken breast and 3 oz broccoli = 32 grams
Dinner: 4 oz Ground beef in tacos = 28 grams
Snacks: Epic protein bar and 1 oz cashews = 17 grams
Dannon Light & Fit Yogurt and blackberries = 13 grams
By the end of the day, I know I got in a full 130 grams!
My Favorite Protein Smoothie Recipe
- 1 scoop Vanilla Whey Protein Powder
- 75 grams banana
- 75 grams Dole Frozen Mixed Fruit
- Blend until smooth
My Favorite Protein Bars
Need a quick, easy, on the go option? I love Built Bars. They have great ingredients and they’re delicious. Use the code “EMILIEHANSENNUTRITION” for 10% off!
If you want to feel satisfied long after your meals, have more energy, and have a fit lean body – prioritize that protein! With a few small and simple changes, it’s easy to up your intake to a healthier level.
Have more questions? I’m a trained nutrition coach! Feel free to sign up for my 5-day challenge or jump into a personalized coaching experience!