The Protein Struggle: How to Hit Your Protein Every Day!
The biggest struggle for most newbie flexible dieters is almost always hitting their protein. You are told you need to hit a certain protein goal for the day but you have no idea how to get there! It seems like you will never be able to hit that goal but with today’s post, I am going to make you into a seasoned veteran who hits their protein errday!
When I first start working with a client, we do our 3-day tracking assessment to see what their typical intake of calories and macros is. I outlined this initial assessment process exactly in a previous post and highly suggest you read that one first if you have yet to do so.
Honestly though, I do not think there has been a time where their protein intake was high enough, so I am always teaching my clients strategies on how to hit the increase protein goals I’ve given them.
I start by saying, “Alright ‘insert name’, the first thing we need to do is increase our protein intake.” And almost always the response I get is, “Ok, so nuts are high in protein right!?” I don’t know why nuts have been given this title as high protein but they are far from it! If you search the internet, nuts are always on the list of so-called high protein foods but I’m here today to give you the low down on this nonsense!
This post is going to teach you how to strategically hit your protein with ease so you can maximize the benefits to not only your physique but also your health!
Here’s what’s on the curriculum for today:
Why is protein so darn important?
- High Protein Frauds
- What is considered high protein?
- How to be strategic with your protein intake
- How to fit it into your lifestyle
Why is Protein So Darn Important? It's The Most Important Macronutrient.
Dietary protein is one of the most important factors when improving not only your physique but also your health.
Proteins are made up of amino acids which are essentially the building blocks of life.
Our bodies break down protein we eat into individual amino acids and enter a storage reserve of amino acids that we have circulating in our blood.
Think of this storage reserve of amino acids as an all-you-can-eat buffet for your cells, Vegas-style!
This is extremely important because our bodies need these amino acids in order to produce very important molecules such as:
- Enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and antibodies.
Without those 4 being produced efficiently, our bodies are going to be playing catch up trying to react to all the needs to our body rather than being proactive and being ready for whatever need our bodies have.
Protein can be pulled from our structure tissues (muscles, tendons, organs) if we are in dire need of amino acids but that is not something we want to happen often for long term health.
Protein is the jack of all trades. It can be broken down to do the job carbs and fats do but the carbs and fats cannot do the job protein does.
Ohh and it helps burn stored body fat as well! Knew that would catch your attention!
- Increases level of hormone glucagon which helps to regulate our body fat. Helps body to break down stored glycogen into glucose for body to use.
- Also, it mobilizes adipose tissue (body fat) into free fatty acids (fuel) for our cells! Just think of all that fuel you have sitting around your body!
Are You Eating Enough Protein?!
These Questions Will Help You Paint the Picture
- Are hungry 1-2 hours after your previous meal?
- Are you tired when you shouldn’t be!?
- Are you flabby when you used to be muscular!?
- Do you feel weak when you lift weights, run, do yoga, or anything strenuous throughout everyday life!?
- Are you getting injured and not recovering quickly!?
- Is your hair falling out!? (weird but is an important sign of lack of protein intake.)
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you more than likely are not eating enough protein!
I don’t think anyone wants to answer yes to any of those questions so let me help you change all those yes’ to no’s!
The High Protein Mirage
The High Protein Struggle Frauds
In order to truly understand what constitutes high protein, I want to use our example of nuts to help paint the picture.
I have a female client who is 5’2″, 140lbs and is maintaining her bodyweight on 1680 calories.
Her macros are 140g protein, 56g fat, and 154g carbs which equate to 1680 calories.
So let’s take our almonds example. 1 serving of almonds (1oz) is 160 calories, 14g fat, 6g carbs, 6g fat. If she were to eat all of her calories in almonds, she would be taking in:
- 147g fat, 63g carbs, 63g protein.
So if we compare to her original macros above, she is over by 91g fat, and under by 91g carbs and 77g protein.
Do you see the problem here? We have this idea that a food that is categorized as high protein but only 15% of the calories come from protein while almost 79% of the calories come from fat. This is a high-fat food, not a high protein food!
By all mean am I not saying that you shouldn’t be eating almonds or anything high in fat but to say that it is a high protein sources is completely wrong.
She is going to need much higher sources of protein in order to hit her protein goal for the day.
Other High Protein Frauds
Next, we have the Fiber One “Protein” Bars
Just think of the casual shopper who doesn’t look at the food label, and sees this with “protein” on the front and thinks “Hey, this has protein and my trainer said that I need to get in more protein so let me get some of these!” But little does that person know that this bar only has 6g of protein per bar. It also has 6g fat and 18g carbs which total up to 140 calories.
- Only 17% of the total calories of this bar are coming from protein!
I could go on for days with examples of this all around the grocery store but the moral of the story is that there is a certain criteria necessary for something to be called high protein.
The High Protein Club:
How Do You Get into the Illustrious High Protein Club?!
- At least 50% of calories are coming from protein.
- The protein grams to fat g ratio is around 3:1
- Protein content should greater than carb content. May only can be close to 1:1 ratio when there is minimal fat content.
The High Protein
High Protein Sources
SO YOU TALK ABOUT THIS PROTEIN STUFF LIKE ITS MAGICAL, BUT WHERE THE HECK DO I GET IT!?
Well since I love you all so much and want to make this as easy as possible for ya, I created The Ultimate Protein Cheat Sheet! This bad boy has all the high protein sources, how much protein they each have, recipes on how to integrate them into your diet, and much much more!
The Protein Struggle Puzzle
How to Fit All That Protein Into Your Lifestyle
So now that we know what are truly high protein sources, we must figure out exactly how to fit all this protein into our current lifestyle.
- We must first figure out how many meals a day we want to have most days so we can get a picture of how much protein we need spread out throughout the day.
I outlined exactly how to mold your meal timing around your current lifestyle in a previous post. I highly suggest that you read that one first in order to do this optimally.
Now you need to look at your how many meals a day you have and figure out how you want to distribute your protein throughout the day in order to hit your protein goal.
Next, you will need to figure out what your top 5 protein sources are. Use the high protein cheat sheet I gave you above to do this. This does not have to be set in stone but will give you some clarity on what protein sources will make up the bulk of your intake.
Then, you need to look at how you are going to integrate in your protein with your carbs and fats in order to hit your total macros for the day. Think of the meals you will have and what other components will add carbs and fats to the equation.
Ex. Chicken Sandwich:
- Carbs in the meal: Bread, Tomato, Lettuce, Sauce (siracha, ketchup, etc) and any other veggies toppings.
- Fats: Fat content in meat, Cheese, Mayo, and any other fatty sauces
Lastly, a strategy that I think is the most important when starting out, is to put your at least 2/3 of your meals in the night before into myfitnesspal so there is no guessing the next day on what you are going to eat.
This will ensure that you are not sitting there at 8pm with 80g protein and minimal carbs and fats left. This inevitably leads to a massive protein shake which leads to the PROTEIN FARTS………..
Real-Life Example: Mid 40's Working Mom
I know this all can sounds a bit overwhelming but let me walk you through a real life example of how it looks. Lets bring back my female client from before who is consuming 1680 cals, 140g protein, 56g fat and 154g carbs.
She decided that 3 meals and 1 snack throughout the day fits her lifestyle best.
Her top 5 protein sources are Eggs/Egg Whites, Chicken Breast, Protein Powder, Top Round Steak, and Non-Fat Greek Yogurt.
So this is what her meals look like:
Meal #1 @ 7:15am is: 54g protein, 59g carbs and 16g fat
- This is usually a Cinnamon Toast Protein Milkshake or Birthday Cake Protein Milkshake only 315 calories, 34g of protein, 43g carbs, 5g of fat
- 1 whole egg and 2 servings liquid egg whites with sautéed veggies (broccoli, peppers, kale) topped with 1/2 serving 2% mexican cheese, 1/2 oz avocado, and 4 tbsp salsa: 20g protein, 15g carbs, 9.5g fat
- 1 coffee with 1 serving sugar french vanilla creamer: 0g protein, 1g carbs, and 2g fat
Meal #2 @ 12pm is: 35g protein, 30g carbs, 14g fat
- This is almost always some type of big salad. She loves to bring salads with her to work because they are portable and easy to prepare at work.
- This salad consists of spring mix, baby tomatoes, baby carrots, mushrooms, and sliced green peppers. Protein source is 4 oz grilled chicken (weighed out raw before cooking). Salad dressing is 1 serving of the Bolthouse Farms Cilantro Avocado dressing (highly recommend these brand dressings). Then sprinkled 1 serving 2% sharp cheddar cheese on top.
Pre Workout Snack at 5pm is: 30g protein, 30g carbs, 5g fat.
- Varies depending on her sweet tooth or not. But can be as simple as a protein smoothie or Protein Cookie Dough!
Workout at 6:30
Meal #3 @ 7:45-8 is: 35g protein, 46g carbs, 21g fat
- This meal is usually a wild card because it really depends on whether she is going to have ice cream or not. Most night she will fit in an ice cream cone so we will go with that. If no ice cream, she would’ve simply just added in some jasmine rice or another wrap in order to make up the carbs for the ice cream
- She will have 4 oz top round steak with sautéed peppers and onions in 1/2 lavash bread with a 1/2 serving of On The Border Monterey Jack Queso (which is the bomb if you’ve never had it!), 1/2 oz avocado and 1 serving chunky salsa. This meal saved her some carbs and some fats for her ice cream.
- Her ice cream consists of 1 serving of some kind low-fat frozen yogurt ice cream in a normal sized ice cream cone topped with some sprinkles.
- 1 tsp Now Foods Omega-3 Fish Oil
And that’s what a typical day looks like for her hitting her macros but more importantly, hitting her protein! It’s definitely not as hard as you think it is!
Takeaways from her day of eating:
1. She knocked out 50g of protein with breakfast
- By doing this, she only has 90g (sounds like a lot) of protein left for the rest of the day.
2. Not one of her meals had less than 30g of protein.
- By her being super consistent with her protein intake, she was never falling behind and having to play catch up with her protein intake.
3. She utilized a protein shake to help her hit her protein goal.
- Protein shakes are super convenient when trying to hit your protein and when mixed with berries, are super duper tasty.
- If you are in need for some protein shake recipes, check out some of my favorites HERE!
4. She allowed herself some flexibility to fit in a treat
- At the end of her day, she had 35g protein, 46g carbs, and 21g fat so she knew that if she wanted to have some ice cream, here dinner needed to be high in protein, low in carbs and moderate/high in fats.
- By making her low carb fajita steak lavash wrap, she hit her protein, saved about 25g carbs and knocked out the majority of her fat while saving 5g for her ice cream.
- She has that ice cream almost every night and has been losing body fat like a champ! Why? Because she fits it into her macros (her budget)!
The Moral of the Story: Protein is King
We need to consume protein to stay healthy, fit, and happy so we can live a long and amazing life! There is no doubt about that. So if you have not yet, click here and check out the cheat sheet I made so you can ensure that you hit your protein every single day!
If this post helped you in with protein mastery, please feel free to share on Facebook, Pinterest, family, friends or with anyone you think needs to improve their protein mastery! That means you have to share it with everyone because everyone needs to improve their protein intake!
Also, tell me in the comments what your Top 5 protein sources are! Can’t wait to read them!
Thanks and God Bless,