Regardless if you are an elite athlete or someone who frequents a gym a few times a week, you need protein. But how much protein do you actually need becomes a common question. Look at all of the various diets out there today, they all limit carbohydrates or fat (maybe both). You never see a diet that says eliminate or go low-protein. It would be detrimental to your lean mass and when your lean muscle mass starts to diminish, so will your metabolism.
What Are Your Numbers?
There are baseline numbers that are floating around the internet that men should take in around 56g of protein each day and women should strive for 46g per day. While this sounds attainable, it’s not individualized based on someone’s nutritional needs. For many who are weight training heavily each day, that would not be enough protein to see any results with maintaining your muscle let alone gaining lean muscle mass. There are many factors that go into how much protein you should be consuming each day. Some of the factors include age, weight, body composition, and your daily activity level.
Here is a better strategy I tell many people who ask me this very question. You should strive to take in anywhere from 0.7 – 1.0g of protein per pound of bodyweight. For instance, if you weigh 200 pounds, you will want to strive to have between 140 – 200g of protein each day. If you are striving to add some quality muscle mass or you’re an athlete, try to hit a number on the upper end of the spectrum.
Protein CAN Make You Fat
Protein isn’t magic. It won’t magically on its own turn you into a muscular freak or a lean and strong female. You’re going to need to put in the work at the gym. And the fact of the matter is, you CAN get fat from eating too much protein. At the end of the day, protein contains calories. If you put yourself in a caloric surplus by eating meals that are super high in protein, it could be stored as body fat in the same manner as fat or carbohydrates.
You need to find that happy medium where you are hitting your 0.7 – 1.0g per day of protein while filling in the remaining macronutrients (carbohydrates and fat) to achieve your desired outcome and results – such as weight loss or muscle-building.
What Are the Best Protein Sources?
While I’m not a fan of the term “best” in this instance, there are some sources you should consider as your primary protein sources. Clearly, if you are a vegan or vegetarian, what I’m about to list wouldn’t apply as you would be looking more along the lines of plant-based protein sources.
The list below contains a few options for you to consider when trying to meet your daily protein requirements. These should make up the bulk of your protein sources.
- Beef Tenderloin
- Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast
-Egg Whites or Eggs
- Extra Lean Ground Beef or Ground Round
- Eye of Round
- Flank Steak
- Ground Turkey, Turkey Breast Slices or Cutlets (fresh sources, not deli cuts)
- Protein Powder
- Ribeye Steaks or Roast
- Top Round Steaks or Roast
- Top Sirloin
- Top Loin
Some other protein sources that have a combined fat component to them could be:
- Low-Fat Cottage Cheese
- Low-Fat Yogurt
- Low or Non-Fat Milk
- Natural Almond Butter
- Natural Peanut Butter
- Nuts (Almonds, Peanuts, Pistachios, Walnuts)
- Seeds (Flaxseeds, Pumpkin, Sunflower)
If you find it difficult to take in enough protein through whole food options or if you’d like to utilize a protein following a workout to start the recovery process, a whey protein powder (such as Beast Protein) would be a great choice. The liquid protein source is easily and quickly digestible and shuttles nutrients out to the working muscles much faster than a whole food meal would. While I do not recommend replacing whole foods with protein shakes, they can come in handy when in a pinch or when used post-workout.
An Easy Way to Hit Your Numbers
Hitting your numbers for the day isn’t rocket science. However, in order to do it successfully, you need to be tracking your macros. I always like to use the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” When people say they can’t seem to lose weight, I like to ask them how many calories they are consuming each day. Do you know what their response generally is? “I DON’T KNOW.” They give me a look like, “Why would you ask me such a question?” Yet the answer to everything they just said lies in the numbers and tracking them. If you’re supposed to consume less than 2,000 calories per day in order to lose weight and you’re somewhere above, weight loss isn’t going to happen.
The same applies to your protein intake. If you want to see results, you need to be hitting your numbers. You can do this the old school method by writing everything down with a pad and pen but a much easier method and one I recommend is the use of the MyFitnessPal app. Having the ability to scan a barcode and enter your servings makes life so much easier and less time consuming on your end. And while it may seem like a pain in the rear end to track everything, it all comes down to how bad you want to see the results you’re seeking?
Another tool that you should consider purchasing and learning how to use properly is a food scale. This would allow you to accurately weigh out your food items to ensure you are on track with your calories and macros for the day.
Combine all of the information laid out in this article and you’ll be on your way to seeing the results you desire and achieving your health and fitness goals.