Part 2 | Finding Your Protein Bullseye

Welcome to Part II, wherein we learn how to target your protein goals for physique success! If you missed part 1, click below: 
( Part 1 | But What About Protein? )


Building muscle and hitting regular gym sessions requires a butt load of discipline, dedication, and drive. Unfortunately, you need more than that to fully realize your fitness goals: lifting is only one part of the equation and, in reality, a very small part of your day (yet one we look forward to hopefully!). Poor nutrition--among other variables-- will only make this process longer and more difficult. Generally, this is the opposite of how we want to progress through our transformation journeys! The reality is: for most of us, transforming your body takes a long time. f you really want to get serious about changing your body from the inside out, you must accept that this process hinges on three things:

1. Very long term commitment-- seriously, like years…

2. Structured progressive loading-- solid training programs with a goal of progress over time

3. Supplying your body with adequate building material to grow-- getting enough protein!

First things first: figuring out how much protein you’re currently eating daily. Yes, you will have to track your protein intake at the very least. If you’re committed to building muscle, read on!

PROTEIN INTAKE: Tracking With A Food Log

My favorite method for monitoring my protein intake --among other things--is tracking everything I eat by weighing my food on a scale, then plugging it to a food tracking app. There are lots of different food tracking apps available for your smart phone these days. Find one that works for ya and start plugging your food in. You can measure your food out with cups and spoons, but I highly recommend a scale for greater accuracy. 

YOUR MISSION:  Log everything you eat, and pay attention to your protein intake for at least 3-4 consecutive days. Don’t adjust your eating too much-- eat as you normally would. After 3-4 days, do the following equation:


Step 1
: Add the protein total of all 3 or 4 days
Step 2: Divide your total protein intake by 3 or 4, however many days you tracked

A snapshot of one day in the food tracking app Fat Secret

A snapshot of one day in the food tracking app Fat Secret

Imaginary Amanda's Protein Log:
Day 1 - 60g,
Day 2 - 53g,
Day 3 - 39g,
Day 4 - 78g

Step 1: 60 + 53 + 39 + 78 = 230
Step 2: 230 / 4 = 57.5
Imaginary Amanda eats around 57.5 grams of protein daily

And there ya go, that’s your current daily protein average. Time to see how that stacks up against what you should be in-taking for your fitness goals!

PROTEIN INTAKE: Tracking With Your Hand

palm protein-01.png

If you don’t want to track your food-- I didn’t for years, let’s be real--you can use the palm of your hand as a portion size guideline; or imagine the size of a deck of cards.

1 inch thick palm full OR 1 card deck size
or 20-25 grams (generally)

The major con of this method is you can only really use it on protein dense foods. Mixed foods don’t apply as accurately to this specific measuring method. What's a mixed food? Foods with more than one ample macro nutrient. French fries are a great example! They have tons of carbs, but they also have tons of fat too. Be mindful of what you measure using this method.

YOUR MISSION: Keep an eye on how many “palm fulls” of protein dense foods you eat daily. How many protein dense palm fulls are you averaging in a day? Here’s a beginning list to get you started. I did my best to single out protein dense sources only, meaning most of the foods on this list aren't going to contain many carbs or fats.


POULTRY/MEATS | Chicken breast, Turkey breast, Pork, Lean beef, Top round steak, Lean bison/buffalo, Lean game meat
SEAFOOD | Salmon, Tuna, Trout, Halibut, Talapia, Other white fish (lean), Lobster, Oysters, Shrimp, Other shell fish
DAIRY/OTHER | Fat free/low fat greek yogurt, low fat/fat free cottage cheese, 

Tracking your food will give you the most control and flexibility, but this is a great exercise to start developing more nutritional awareness! 


You've diligently tracked and monitored to discover your current protein intake! How'd ya do? Let's take a minute to flashback to that example from before, featuring Imaginary Amanda:

Imaginary Amanda's Daily Protein Average is 57.5 grams.
Imaginary Amanda's main goal is to build lots of muscle and gain strength.
Imaginary Amanda lifts hard 5-6 days a week, but has been struggling with lifting heavier.

Why is this 57g of protein daily a big problem? Grab a calculator and check out the chart below.
Can you figure out why 57 grams of protein is too little for Imaginary Me?

*Based on National Academy of Sports Medicine's current recommendations & my own personal experience

*Based on National Academy of Sports Medicine's current recommendations & my own personal experience


If Imaginary Amanda weighed 57lbs and was a bodybuilding Hobbit, this protein number might be adequate! However, Imaginary Amanda is just like me, 150lbs, 5’6’’, and decidedly not a Hobbit… 57g of protein daily for the goal of muscle building + strength gains is far too little. Imaginary Amanda should really be eating about 150 grams of protein daily! That's a 100 gram increase to what Imaginary me was eating! YIKES!

If you’ve done the math, you may be wondering how in the heck you’re gonna squeak in all that extra protein. Good thing I got a whole 3rd post dedicated entirely to that! 

Read on!
( Part ||| - Beefing Up Your Protein Intake