How to eat enough protein in your diet
Are you eating enough protein to be able to hit your training goal?
The food that we consume on a daily basis will have a massive outcome on our desired goal. Unfortunately, with so many different articles giving conflicting advice, many individuals get confused about the types of foods they should be eating, how much should they eat, and when should they be eating???
Nutrition can be a very complex subject but I have always strongly believed that food should be enjoyable, it should fuel our bodies in the most optimal of ways, and most of all it should be simple.
Lets start with the basic rules first of all…. always get the basics right:
- Make sure that you eat breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Depending on activity and training levels, eat a mid morning and mid afternoon snack
- Only consume foods that our body is designed to consume – i.e what mother nature provides; vegetables, meats, fish, nuts, seeds, fruit, and dairy
- Regularly hydrate the body throughout the day
- Ensure you get a good balance of each Macronutrient – Protein, Fats and Carbohydrates
Note – This is generic, there will be some individuals who will need to adapt to suit their needs, i.e. Dairy is not for those who are lactose intolerant, and others will be vegetarians etc. The Macronutrients will still need to be consumed.
For this article, let us look at the balance of Protein.
Why do we need protein?
Protein is vastly important as it is essential for growth and repair, not just for our muscle. When consumed protein is broken down into Amino Acids which are then used to build bone, skin, hair, nails, blood cells, hormones and so much more. A low protein diet is not just detrimental to muscle breakdown, it will lead to poor health and improper body functioning.
In relation to being active and performing regular exercise, both cardiovascular and weight bearing exercise, protein uptake should be increased to grow and repair the muscle tissue.
What foods give us protein?
Protein comes form a vast array of foods, the first food types that come to mind is fish, meat and dairy. Obviously vegetarians and vegans will have to use other sources than meat and animal products, this will be covered in a different article.
Protein is also found in nuts, seeds, beans, pulses and vegetables. Below is a list of food sources, along with the grams of protein roughly found in each – this will be useful to understand for the second half of this article.
- Chicken and Turkey – 25g per breast (referred to as a lean meat due to very low content of fat)
- Steak – 25g
- Mince – 20g
- Fish, salmon/cod – 25g
- Eggs – 1 egg = 6g
- Milk, Cheese, Yoghurt – 6 – 14g
- Beans – 15 – 25g (per 100 grams)
- Broccoli – 3g (per 100grams)
- Soya – 25g (per 100grams)
- Cottage Cheese – 14g
- Whey protein powder – 1 scoop = 24g
- Lentils – 13g
To summarise the above list:
- The grams of protein are estimates and depends fully on amounts used.
- Yes red meat such as Steak, Mince, and dairy products is packaged with saturated fat but this is good for you so long as consumed in moderation.
- Not all foods in the above list will have the complete chain of amino acids (this will be covered in a different article).
How many grams of protein should we consume everyday?
My experience over the years, with personal trainer clients and students, is that a lot of individuals do not eat enough grams of protein each day to match their goal. Below is a rule of thumb as to how many grams of protein per day individuals should consume:
- Sedentary/ Inactive individuals: 0.8g of protein for each kg of bodyweight, i.e. an individual who weighs 65kg will need to consume around 52g of protein per day. This would be for an individual who sits down all day at work, drives home, then sits down all evening, before going to bed and waking up the next day to do the same thing.
- Moderately active individuals: 1.2g of protein for each kg of bodyweight, i.e. an individual who weighs 65kg will need to consume around 78g of protein per day. This may be someone who is active on a daily basis but is not exactly participating in any intense exercise.
- Endurance individuals: 1.4g of protein for each kg of bodyweight, i.e. an individual who weighs 65kg will need to consume around 91g of protein per day.
- For hypertrophy (muscle growth… this includes the training goal of wanting muscle tone!): 1.8g of protein for each kg of bodyweight, i.e. an individual who weighs 65kg will need to consume around 117g of protein per day.
As mentioned, these are a rule of thumb. Some individuals that desire good results in muscle growth (this does not mean growing bulky body builder type muscles for both male and females – it simply means growing well defined muscle) may very well look to consume 2 – 2.5g of protein for each kg of bodyweight, i.e. an individual who weighs 65kg will need to consume around 130g – 162.5g of protein per day.
When this is explained to a lot of individuals, it can often seem that it is a lot of protein to consume and most people are eating way below what they should. You do have to make sure that you back up this correct nutrition with the relevant amount of training and activity, and you must be training at the right intensities – you must ‘overload’ the body to give the need for growth and repair. It is just the same as if you train hard, you must make sure you apply the correct nutrition to back the effort that you are putting in.
Are you eating enough protein on a consistent daily basis? My advice to anyone reading this is to track consistently what your daily intake is, at least until you have a good understanding of what you should be eating to give you the optimal nutrition for your goal. Use an App such as MyFitnessPal to give you the information of the amount of daily grams of protein.
Weigh yourself, ensure you understand what your end goal is, and then make sure you know how many grams of protein you should consume each and everyday.
The good news is, once you get the correct protein content right and are ensuring you are getting your protein from a variety of different sources, you will more than likely getting the correct amount of fat in your diet as well.
Ensure you have a good variety of fish, red meat, lean meat, vegetables (dark, leafy veg ideally), nuts and seeds and you will be getting the required vitamins and minerals packaged within those foods as well.
Eat as mother nature provides and buy from good quality sources – ideally from your local butchers, fishmongers and green grocers.
There is so much more that we will teach you on the topic of protein, we will continue this subject in a series of other articles. To see any other related articles, simply search for ‘protein’ in the search option on our menu bar.
We have recently done a great podcasts on the importance of protein and fat in the diet, it is Episode #3: How to be fat adapted and can be listened to by clicking in the following links:
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