Tips to eat more protein
In this article I’m going to break down one of the questions I get asked MOST frequently by my online coaching clients and everyone else…tips to eat more protein.
If you’re struggling with this, know that you’re not alone! Protein is by far the hardest macronutrient for people to hit. But before we dive into how to eat more protein, let’s discuss why. Why the heck do you need to be worried about your protein intake anyways?
Tips to eat more protein - Why do you need it?
To put it simply(like very simply, I’m not going to go all textbook on you) protein is the building block of basically everything in your body: hair, skin, organs, and you guessed it…muscles.
Proteins are built from amino acids and there are 8-10 amino acids that cannot be made by your body. AKA you have to get these through your diet!
So if you want to be able to build or repair muscle(or any of the things listed above!) you need to be sure you’re eating adequate protein. Protein is key to building and maintaining muscle.
You might be thinking “okkkkkk but what if my goal is fat loss? Do I still need to focus on protein?”
Yes. And here’s why:
Tips to eat more protein - How does it help with fat loss?
When you’re trying to lose weight your main goal is often to lose body fat. But…if you aren’t strength training and eating adequate protein there’s a good chance that you could lose muscle rather than just fat while trying to lose weight.
Since many people are trying to avoid “skinny fat” and instead want a “toned look”, you probably don’t want to lose muscle and in fact may even want to build muscle! Protein is key for both building & maintaining muscle.
Protein is also very satiating and will help keep you more full which, as you know, is important in a calorie deficit. If you’re trying to avoid hunger in a calorie deficit and make your fat loss feel easier, eating more protein will be key!
Now that you’re understanding why you need to be eating more protein you might be wondering…
How much protein you need
For most people looking to lose fat and build or maintain muscle 0.7g-1g of protein per lb of goal bodyweight is a good place to start.
For example, let's say your goal bodyweight(and this can be the same as your current bodyweight if you’re trying to maintain) is 150lbs. You should be aiming for 105g-150g of protein/day.
“Brooks Over 100g of protein in a day?!? No effing way I can do that!” Pause. Breathe. You’re not alone in thinking this feels like a lot.
Like I said at the beginning of this article, protein is often the macronutrient many of us aren’t eating enough of. In fact, many of my online coaching clients are eating less than 60g of protein/day when we first start working together.
Rather than trying to jump from 60g to 150g of protein/day overnight…start small.
The first week try to eat 70g of protein/day. Then when you’re hitting that consistently aim for 80g. And so on and so forth until you’re able to hit your end protein goal consistently!
I promise that your protein goal is not “too much” and with these tips to eat more protein it will feel easy to hit in no time.
Before we dive into my tips to eat more protein it’s important to break down how to identify what a “good” protein source is.
“Brooks! I thought there were no good and bad foods?!” You’re right…there aren’t. But when we’re talking about protein not all foods are created equal.
There are foods with protein in them…and then there are good protein sources.
There are 3 different macronutrient groups. Carbs, fats & proteins(our focus today). To determine if a food should be bucketed as a carb, fat or protein, you need to know how many calories are coming from each macro group.
Carbs & protein will both have 4 calories per 1g and fats will have 9 calories per 1g.
Let’s break that down into a real world example comparing Peanut Butter(a commonly toted “good” source of protein) and Greek Yogurt(an actual “good” source of protein)
If we look at the food label for peanut butter you can see that:
144 calories per serving come from fat(16g* 9 calories)
32 calories per serving come from carbs(8g *4 calories)
28 calories per serving come from protein(7g*4 calories)
Because most of peanut butter's calories are coming from fat, peanut butter is considered a fat.
Yes it has protein in it but that doesn’t mean it’s a good protein source.
Before you come for me you can still eat peanut butter even though it’s not a great protein source. Your body needs all macronutrients.
Now let’s look at greek yogurt to see how it stacks up:
If we look at the food label for greek yogurt(this is the plain Two Good) you can see that
18 calories calories per serving come from fat(2g* 9 calories)
12 calories per serving come from carbs(3g *4 calories)
48 calories per serving come from protein(12g*4 calories)
Since most calories are coming from protein, greek yogurt is a “good” source of protein.
While this concept is simple I understand that it could be a bit time consuming to try to do this math every time you’re in the grocery store.
Instead, a quick rule of thumb to find “better” protein sources is to look for at least 10g of protein per 100 calories. The greek yogurt would pass that test with 12g of protein for 80 calories. The peanut butter would not, with 7g of protein per 190 calories.
A few other “good” protein sources:
Chicken breast: 24g per 111 calories
Eggs: 12.6 g per 143 calories
Egg Whites: 14.1g per 71 calories
Ground Turkey: 23g per 173 calories
Cottage Cheese: 11.5g per 80 calories
Protein Powder: 22g per 100 calories(could vary greatly by brand!)
Tofu: 8g per 80 calories
Ground Beef: 23g per 200 calories
Shrimp: 21g per 100 calories
Salmon: 35g per 168 calories
Obviously this isn’t a fully exhaustive list and there are many more good protein sources out there(yes even if you’re plant based!) but this will help get you started.
Now that we’ve covered all they why behind protein, let’s finally dive into:
Tips to eat more protein
1. Center your meals around protein.
Make protein the star of every meal. Rather than having something like “pasta”, think about having something like “chicken breast” with pasta on the side. Making protein the star of your meals will help you consume more naturally.
This same rule can be applied to your snacks. Make sure most of your snacks are protein based if you’re having trouble getting enough protein in.
2. Eat a little bit more of what you’re already eating.
Whatever protein you have on your plate, double it. Seriously. You’re having 1 egg at breakfast? Have 2. You’re eating 3oz of chicken breast with lunch, try 5-6oz.
This way you’re not re-inventing the wheel, you're just increasing portion sizes of the things you’re already eating.
3. Pre-log your meals.
I can’t tell you the number of online coaching clients who have gone from struggling everyday to meet their protein goal to hitting it with ease once they started pre-logging their meals.
If you get your meals for the next day(or even for the full week!) into your tracking app early and see you’re not going to hit your protein target it’s a lot easier to adjust in advance to ensure you do hit your protein target. You have the opportunity to increase portion sizes of protein based foods & decrease others before the day even starts.This way you’re not scrambling in the moment realizing its 2pm and you’ve only had 20g of protein for the day….
4. Have your protein prepped and ready to go.
Do you need to become a meal prep master spending all day on Sunday in the kitchen? No. But are you more likely to add protein to every meal if it’s prepped in advance? Heck yes. Make it easy on yourself! That protein “prep” might mean buying things that are already made like rotisserie chicken or frozen grilled chicken strips.
But the easier it is for you to eat the protein, the more likely you are to actually eat it.
5. And lastly if all else fails…get some protein powder or bars.
Now is protein powder necessary for eating more protein? No. As you can see from all of the above there are plenty of ways to make sure you’re getting enough protein in without using supplements.
But if you’re still struggling after all of these tips to eat more protein and the convenience of a protein powder makes it easier for you…do it.
If you’re unsure of what kind of protein powder to get I recommend looking for brands that are “cleaner” meaning their powders are mostly protein and aren't packed with a lot of other additives so you're getting the most bang for your buck.
You also want a brand that’s transparent with their ingredients. Try to avoid protein brands that list "proprietary blend". That just means they aren't disclosing how much of each ingredient is in the product and you could be getting a "dose" that isn't effective.
Lastly, I like a Whey Isolate protein for most people because it is a faster digesting protein & more effective for muscle building. Or a vegan protein powder if you’re vegan.