INCREASING PROTEIN TO MEET YOUR GOALS
Building muscle is a time game… so are dietary adjustments, especially when it comes to adding or taking away calories. If you find your current protein intake is a far cry from the protein required for your goals, starting small is best.
The last thing you want to do is suddenly stuff your body with nutrients it’s not used to processing on the reg. A sudden increase in protein, especially without adequate fiber & water, can lead to gastrointestinal distress. Let's be real, nobody likes being glued to the porcelain throne. Additionally, protein is a dense macro nutrient: It takes your body significantly longer and more energy to break down 1g of protein than it does to breakdown 1g carb. This can translate to feeling full or "stuffed". Ever notice how satisfied you feel after eating a decent portion of quality meat? That's isn't by accident-- it's protein's density! If you're new to the protein game, suddenly increasing your intake can leave you feeling bloated and over-stuffed as your body works to process greater quantities than it's used to. If your current intake is low:
Start by increasing your daily intake by 20-30g.
Adapt for 4-7 days before increasing another 20-30g.
Additionally, increase your water intake
& eat plenty of fibrous foods and vegetables.
This is a general recommendation. If you need to progress slower, or find you adjust quicker, by all means! Pay attention to how you feel and watch how your body reacts to your increase in protein each week, especially in your workouts!
GETTING MORE PROTEIN INTO YOUR DIET
1. Set a protein target for meals, snacks, & post workout
I prefer to start getting my protein intake up early in the day as I find it is the hardest macro nutrient to consume all of (remember, protein is dense!). Having a lot of protein left at the end of the day can create some serious issues for your tummy and protein goals. I generally feel "stuffed" after eating about 40g; if I have tons of protein left over by evening time, I end up eating so much protein that I feel too stuffed to eat another bite! That, or I miss my protein target all together because I literally can't eat anymore. Save yourself the forced protein binge and make protein your most important macro to distribute evenly throughout the day. Assign protein target ranges to every meal and be sure to hit them! Here is a good place to start from:
General Meal Protein Targets:
20-40g of protein per meal
10-20g of protein per snack
10-20g following your workout
These ranges are based on my personal guidelines to achieve my protein count, but I feel they are a good range to begin from. Experiment with your own meals/snacks and adjust accordingly!
2. Identify Protein Dense Foods
Having a mental list of protein dense foods makes hitting your protein target much easier. Get into the habit of reading nutritional information for anything you put in your shopping cart. If it doesn’t come with a nutritional label, google it or use a food tracking app to find the information. Learn what main protein dense foods you actually enjoy eating, and which ones are easiest for you to incorporate into your lifestyle. Put them on the top of your grocery list, and you’ll be more likely to put them into your cart, and in turn, in your body. This is a general list. You will certainly find things that aren’t on it but could fit right in.
PROTEIN DENSE CHEAT SHEET
Keep in mind that most of your protein should be coming from real whole foods. Protein powders and bars are acceptable in moderation and should only supplement part of your intake.
If you’re a vegetarian, examine your protein dense food choices closely. Many vegetarian friendly protein options also come with a fair dose of fat and/or carbs. Find your favorite sources and get creative in how you use them for your meals.
3. Focus on Easy Protein Additions
One of my favorite ways to sneak in more protein, is simply seeing if I can “buff” up my current snacks and meals with a dash or two of a protein dense addition! If you do this every time you eat, it quickly adds up throughout the day. To me, a protein buffer is a super fast addition: it’s gotta be easy to prepare and throw into my food. My current favorite go-to buffers:
EASY PROTEIN "BUFFERS"
Fat Free Cheese
Reduced Fat Cheese
Nuts + Seeds (watch fat)
Powdered Peanut Butter
Nutritional Yeast (not pictured)
Chicken Bacon (not pictured)
Making some eggs? Toss in 4 slices of diced chicken bacon for an extra 10 grams and half a serving of cheese for another 5. Blending up a protein smoothie? Instead of using 1 cup of almond milk, try 3/4 cup with some protein packed fage 0% yogurt instead. Heating up your oatmeal? Throw some powdered peanut butter and protein powder in there for up to 30 additional grams! Simply switching from almond milk to fat free milk will boost you 9 grams. The point? There are so many ways to get creative and add extra protein to your meals. Find a few sweet and savory protein buffers to garnish your meals with. Trust me-- they will certainly add up!
- Mix protein powder into yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, jello, pudding, or cottage cheese
- Mix a few servings of egg whites into your oatmeal
- Mix a few servings of egg whites into soups, crumbled over a salad, or in a stir fry
- Mix powdered peanut butter into yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, pudding, or cottage cheese
- Blend powdered peanut butter into your smoothies
- Blend Fage 0% or other protein dense yogurt into smoothies
- Blend cottage cheese into your smoothies
- Use fat free, reduced fat, or lower calorie protein fortified milk as your liquid in smoothies
- Use a protein dense bread or wrap, like P28 or Joseph’s Lavash Wraps
- Use protein fortified cereals or pastas
- Add an extra fat free/reduced fat cheese to salads, wraps, eggs, or melted on meats
- Add lean chicken, canned tuna, or turkey bacon to salads, wraps, eggs, or stir frys
- Add nutritional yeast to savory recipes
- Add nuts and seeds to your yogurt, oatmeal, cereal, or salads (watch the fat content)
Next, we cover supplementation & protein fortified snacking! Carry on, dear reader:
( Part IV | Protein Packed Foods + Supps )