Protein is one of three essential macronutrients, including carbohydrates and fat. Each macronutrient is important, but protein is specifically necessary for an assortment of functions in the body. However, consuming enough protein can be a challenge for many people, especially given the Standard American Diet is filled with sugary, processed foods. Despite the challenge, it’s essential to consume enough protein daily.
Why Protein is Important?
Protein is responsible for building new muscle, tissue, nerves, and more. It also provides energy for your body and creates enzymes, antibodies, and hormones. Hence, consuming enough protein is necessary for a healthy body, strong muscles and bones, and happy hormones. Protein is especially important for those who are regularly active and/or strength train.
How Much Protein Do I Need?
Protein needs will vary depending on your health and fitness goals, current health status, weight, age, and gender. Unfortunately, many Americans consume far less protein than they should, usually landing around ~40g per day. An effective, general rule of thumb that I like to stick to says to consume at least 1g of protein per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should aim to consume 150g of protein every day. If you strength train frequently, you can increase this goal to up to 1.2g of protein/pound of body weight. Alternatively, if you are rather sedentary, consume closer to 0.8g of protein/pound of body weight.
Sources of Protein
Luckily, protein is not hard to come by. There are various animal-based and plant-based sources to help you reach your protein goals, including:
- Hemp seeds
Include both- animal-based and plant-based- proteins daily for a well-rounded diet.
How to Eat Enough Protein
As you likely know, consuming adequate protein can prove to be a challenge. These tips will help you to increase your protein intake to a range that is healthy for you!
- Plan your meals ahead of time. The night before or morning of, plan your day and meals beforehand. This will help take the guesswork out of each meal.
- Make sure every meal and snack includes protein. While planning ahead, be sure to include a source of protein at each meal and snack. See the list of protein sources, above.
- Supplement with protein powder. Protein powder is a great diet supplementation. You can add it to oatmeal, yogurt, baked goods, smoothies, or milk/water for a protein boost.
- Slightly increase portions. An average dose of animal protein is around 4 ounces. However, if you slightly increase this serving size to 5-6 ounces, you can greatly increase your protein intake.
- Load up on veggies. As mentioned above, some planted-based foods are rich in protein. Include more of these high-protein plants in your diet: edamame, peas, broccoli, and mushrooms.
- Choose snacks wisely. It’s easy to load up on carbs and fats while snacking throughout the day. Be intentional about choosing high protein snacks, such as: hard-boiled eggs, sliced turkey, cheese, yogurt, and/or nuts.
- Prep your favorite protein in bulk. At the start of each week, plan out your protein for the week and cook in bulk. For example: cook enough ground beef and chicken breast for 5 days at a time. When you’re hungry, your protein is already cooked and ready-to-eat.
It might sound difficult to consume enough protein regularly, but with a little preparation, it is possible. And, it can be quite delicious too! Also, consuming adequate protein is important to reach your health and fitness goals.