Have you ever been told you need to increase your protein intake?
I have. But what does this even mean? Why is protein so important and where can you find it?
The fitness gurus seem to have it all mapped out yet when you log your food into my fitness pal, you always seem to fall short of your protein recommendation. If you know all about protein and you nail your daily requirements, thats awesome but this articles probably not for you.
However, if you struggle to meet your daily protein requirements, want to know why protein is good for you, how much you should eat AND how to increase your daily intake then read on. In this article, I'm going to share with you 5 simple strategies to boost your protein intake.
The Important Stuff - What is protein?
For the strategies to make any sense, we must first look at the what, why and where of protein.
"Dude, just eat more protein"
"Bro, you gotta eat like 250g of protein a day"
"Protein helps to boost your metabolism"
All of the above (in their own way) are correct. Protein is a macronutrient that is essential to building muscle mass . It is mainly found in animal products, although it's also found in other sources, such as nuts and legumes. Protein is essentially the body’s building blocks. All of our organs, such as the skin, are built from proteins, as are our muscles, hair and nails. Protein yields 4 calories per gram (same as carbohydrates) yet their role in the body is completely different.
The Science Of Protein (if you hate science, skip this bit)
Protein is made up of amino acids which are made of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen or sulfur. Once digested, protein is broken down into these amino acids. Some of these amino acids are produced by the body however, there are nine amino acids which are 'essential' due to the fact the body cannot create them thus they must be obtained through the diet  . They are:
Thanks to these wonderful amino acids (and a whole bunch of other cool processes), our bodies are able to repair muscle tissue and reward us for our hard work at the gym. As you can see, amino acids (protein) are pretty important so let's delve into the reason why.
Why should you eat protein?
Protein is essential for tissue growth and repair which is highly important for maintaining your metabolism. Simply put, without protein, we won't grow any muscle which, if you're weight training, will halt any progress . This is what happens if you don't consume enough protein:
Protein has been shown to impact satiety levels too. A recent study compared the effects of high protein and high fat snacks on appetite control, satiety, and eating initiation in women. The results showed that the women who consumed a high protein snack in the afternoon were more satisfied when compared to women who consumed a high fat snack . These women also ate less at dinner compared to the women who snacked on crackers and chocolate.
"These data suggest that, when compared to high-fat snacks, eating less energy dense, high-protein snacks like yogurt improves appetite control, satiety, and reduces subsequent food intake in healthy women"
So, already we can see why we should be eating more protein. Especially if you want to build muscle, lose fat, tone up and have normal hormonal function.
How Much Do You Need And Where Can You Find The Good Stuff?
How much protein you consume on a daily basis will be dependant on current weight, age, activity level and fat free mass. General guidelines for a sedentary male individual is 0.8g per kg of body weight. For example, an 80kg individual is recommended to consume a minimum of 64g of protein per day.
However, this is a bare minimum to survive and for most people who are active, this number should be (and is) higher. Most studies suggest that :
The Best Sources Of Protein
5 Simple Strategies to Boost Your Protein Intake
Now that you know the what, why and where of protein, its time to move on to the how. Here are 5 simple strategies to boost your protein intake.
#1 - Prioritise Your Protein
We know protein is essential. With this in mind, it should be a high priority in our daily food choices. One way of boosting our protein intake is to make it a priority when eating. Every time I consume a meal, I ask myself "where is my protein coming from?"
Start by keeping a food diary to identify where you're lacking protein and where you can improve. For example, are you hungry soon after breakfast? Do you need to have a breakfast higher in protein to sustain you until lunch? In addition, a high protein intake decreases levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin and increases your metabolic rate after eating and during sleep [7,8]
Whatever you identify as a work on, prioritise your choice of protein for that meal, which leads us to the second strategy...
#2 - Grab High Protein Snacks
There's nothing worse than consuming empty calories. That is, a snack high in calories that provides no nourishment or 'satisfaction' through lack of fibre, vitamins and minerals or both. These are usually things along the lines of muesli bars, chocolates, chips, biscuits and lollies. Don't get me wrong, these are yummy foods and they certainly have their place, but they're certainly not a high priority snack. With that said, here are some simple, easy high protein snacks:
See it here: Yummy Chocolate Protein Hit!
As seen in the above study, choosing a high protein afternoon snack can seriously help reduce your overall daily calorie intake leading to greater weight loss. This moves to our next strategy....
#3 - Meet Chobani
For my Australian readers, you'll know what I'm on about. Chobani No Fat Greek Yoghurt is an absolute gem with 0g of fat and a whopping 15g of protein per 150g. This means you're getting a lot of yoghurt, for not many calories. For readers outside Oz, any low fat greek yoghurt will do. It's the perfect high protein snack and can be mixed with just about any fruit and/or protein powder.
#4 - Increase Your Meat
I know, it sounds too simple right? That's because it is. Simply increase the amount of meat (protein) that's on your plate. If you have a 50g piece of chicken breast on your plate, increase it to 100g if you're female or 150g if you're a male. Choose any source of meat from the list above and add it to your plate or, if you're vegan, aim for nuts, seeds, legumes, tofu and beans. The key is to make sure you're having a lean cut of meat or you'll see the calories rack up quicker than Usain Bolt running in the 100m.
Now that you know where protein is found, and which source to choose, lets move on to the 5th strategy.
#5 - Eat Some Protein At Each Meal
Several studies recommend eating a minimum of 20–30 grams of protein at each meal. Now, this is the amount of protein, not the weight of food. For example, this roughly equates to 100g of chicken breast or 1 scoop of whey protein powder. Studies suggest this amount of protein promotes fullness and maintains muscle mass more efficiently than smaller amounts eaten throughout the day [9, 10].
Remember, this amount you is only a rough guide and don't worry if you can't consume that amount due to your circumstances. The amount you choose to consume per meal will be dependant on your goal and lifestyle. Ultimately, for the best results, you need to be consistent and able to adhere to your plan of action.
Here's an example of how you may structure your day or meal plan:
Where Do You Go From Here?
Okay, some of these strategies you may have read or heard before however the best thing you can do is to start small and start slow. You now know why protein is good for you, how much of it you should eat AND how you can increase your daily intake. Begin with a food diary, identify where you're lacking protein and make adjustments from there. If you're still unsure, then...
Stuck in a rut and don't know where to begin or need more guidance? If nothing changes, nothing changes. Don't waste your time and effort by going through the motions and not being where you want to be. Fill out the form below and apply for online coaching now. Spots are extremely limited.
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Thanks for reading.
Aidan D'Arcy - Personal Trainer Frenchs Forest