Protein is the all rage these days.
OK maybe not, but it is discussed a lot and for good reason.
Because protein is probably...err...is the number one nutrient your body needs and most of us just aren’t getting enough of it.
Last September, I had a fitness challenge for my Ripped Girls group for a week. One day I asked the challengers to aim for 80 grams of protein. Do you think that’s a lot? Do you even know how much protein that is?
If you don’t think it’s a lot and know how much it is, you can stop reading right now. You’re good.
But if you just gave me a shoulder shrug, keep reading.
When it comes to protein, people want to know:
What is protein? Hint: It’s not nuts or nut butter.
How much should I eat?
How can I eat more without having to consume half a cow every day?
And not to worry if you have wondered these same questions. I talk with so many people that are unsure about protein, so my goal today is to simplify it for you and give you some easy peasy ways to get more into your daily food.
So why do we NEED protein?
Because I said so, that’s why. Sorry, my mom voice was coming out there. But to put it simply, we need protein to build and maintain muscle, keep our bones strong, and support blood, cell, and organ functions.
Sooooo….pretty much everything that has to do with you being a fully functioning human body.
There is more to it than that though.
Protein helps our body feel satiated after a meal. Ever have a donut or cereal for breakfast? I bet within 2 hours you were famished. That’s because you pretty much just consumed a meal full of carbohydrates and zero protein. Our bodies quickly digest carbs and either use the fuel or store it for later. And because they are digested so quickly, we become hungry in a short amount of time.
Protein helps us achieve the body composition we are after, fat loss or definition, which goes back to feeling satiated after a meal. When we feel satisfied from our food, we will eat less food and less often, which helps us lose fat. And if definition is your goal, then protein helps build and maintain that muscle.
Now, I purposely avoided all the science of protein because I don’t want to put you to sleep, but if you were to Google search “why does the body need protein”, you’ll come up with over 76 million results.
Yeah, protein is kinda important my friends.
OK Michelle, I need protein in my diet, but what exactly is a protein?
I gotchoo covered girl.
Foods that are considered great protein sources:
Poultry (chicken, turkey)
Nonfat Cottage Cheese
Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt
Nonfat Cheese (mozzarella)
Protein powders (no carb)
Foods that are not really protein sources, but people like to believe they are:
Low to high fat cheeses
Beans and nuts are considered carbohydrates and fats respectively. Yes they have some protein in them but at the end of the day, the amount of carbohydrates and fats you’re consuming will outweigh the protein by a wide margin.
And while many vegetables such as kale or broccoli do have a good amount of protein in them, the sheer volume you would need to eat to make an adequate serving of protein is ridiculous.
For example, one cup of broccoli contains 2.6g of protein. Ideally, any meal we eat should have approximately 20-30g of protein. Anyone up for eating 10 cups of broccoli at once? If so, send me a picture of your face afterwards.
So now that we’ve established why your body needs protein and where you can find it, how much do we really need to consume on a daily basis?
Well that depends on who you believe because there is a lot of misinformation out there.
But a good rule of thumb is anywhere between 0.8-1 gram per pound of bodyweight. So someone who weighs 150lbs would need to consume between 120-150g of protein per day. I guess my 80g per day recommendation during my September challenge wasn’t so bad after all. ;)
Actually, I suggested that amount because most of us don’t come close to the recommended amount above. We eat things like cereal or bagels for breakfast. Then lunch comes around and we eat a sandwich or soup and salad combo. 3pm hits and we are grabbing a sugar filled coffee beverage and a scone. And finally, at dinner, we sit down to pizza (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) or maybe a nice burger and fries.
The common theme with all of these meals? Carbohydrates. A lot of them.
And probably 90% of the people I work with have this same daily diet when they come to me for help, but all it takes is a few simple tweaks to go from eating all the carbs to eating all the protein.
If our goal is approximately 120-150g of protein for the average woman, here is what a typical day could look like:
Breakfast - Protein powder mixed with 1 serving of oatmeal
Lunch - 4-5 ounces of chicken breast over a bed of salad greens & veggies
PM Snack - Protein bar
Dinner - Bunless or lettuce wrapped burger with a side of veggies
These are simply examples and you can create a million different combinations but my point is to simply show you how easy it really is. It’s not rocket science but we like to think that it is.
Some other simple suggestions include:
3-4 egg omelettes with added veggies
Protein shakes (protein powders vary, so be sure the serving equals 20-30g of protein)
Stir fry bowl with veggies instead of rice
So if you’re currently not consuming enough protein, don’t try to jump up to fast. You’ll end up feeling really full in a short amount of time. Give the body time to adjust. Take a few days and start to slowly increase the amount of protein you consume. If needed, add a digestive enzyme prior to each meal to help your body break down the protein easily.
After a few weeks, you’ll be ordering a double double at In-n-Out in no time while simultaneously shocking the person behind the counter. ;)
I am a wife, mom, grandma & former professional “diet and exercise hopper" who understands the challenges of being 40lb overweight after having children & the damage repeated sense of failure can cause to your confidence and self-esteem.