Protein breaks down into amino acids, the building blocks of your entire body. Protein is the most essential macronutrient for those who lead an active lifestyle because of the crucial role it plays in muscular growth (hypertrophy) and muscular repair. It’s essential for catalyzing enzymes, repairing and replicating your DNA, maintaining cell structure, and maintaining immune and cellular function. Protein gives our bodies the “toned” or “hard-bodied” shape we often hear people saying they want to achieve, and protein intake will influence lean mass (muscle) retention on a diet. You should never skimp out on protein, especially if trying to lose weight, and you should keep it around 0.8-1 gram per pound of body weight when you’re trying to lose fat. If protein falls too low, you risk losing a disproportionate amount of muscle as you lose weight and you’ll potentially end up looking what we call “skinny fat” instead of looking lean (Barnum). It’s acceptable to lower fat or carbs when attempting to cut weight or lose fat, but protein is the last macro that should ever be lowered. The only time you should lower protein intake is if you lose a substantial amount of weight (Cagney).
In our last post, we told you what we believe to be the best method for you to figure out how many calories YOU need to eat each and every day. If you haven’t read that post yet, make SURE to read that FIRST.
So now that you’ve got your calories squared away, there are three ways to break down your appropriate caloric balance: by proteins, fats, and carbs. Because we believe the calorie + protein combination are the two most important numbers to focus on, that’s what we’re going to show you next: how to figure out your daily protein intake.
Let’s go back to our person who calculated that he/she should be eating roughly 1813 calories per day. That same person weighs 145 pounds. Here comes the super easy math:
Take your weight and divide it by 2.2.
145 / 2.2 = 65.9 and we’ll round this up to 66.
Now take THIS number and multiply it by 2.
66 x 2 = 132.
Our person who weighs 145 pounds need to eat around 132 grams of protein per day.
The Why? and How?
Why: 5 Reasons Why You Should Be Eating Protein:
- Muscle Protein Synthesis: pound of muscle uses up to 150 calories a day, whereas a pound of fat only needs about 3 calories a day. Simply having a lot of muscle burns calories.
- Thermic effect: Protein increases your metabolism its fat burning effects
- Increase in Glucagon which leads to greater fat loss during calorie restriction and less fat gain during overeating.
- Cardiovascular Health: sufficient protein helps lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Satiety and Prevention of Weight Cycling Effect
Each of these reasons are outlined in even further detail in our book, The Total Health and Fitness Makeover.
How: Protein Sources
Since you know it is important to increase your consumption of protein, from where should you get your protein?
First, there are three main sources of protein — animal, vegetable, and supplements.
By far the best source of protein is animal: MEAT. Meat in its natural form (non-processed, organic, and steroid free) is one of the healthiest things a person can eat. Animal meat is an excellent source of high quality protein.
Birds, fish, eggs, cow, chicken, lamb, game…the list goes on, and it is always a good idea to eat a wide variety of meat. Chicken might be a great source of lean protein; however, certain fish varieties will provide a better concentration of healthy saturated fats, beef will provide a quality source of iron and new amino acids, and eggs are loaded in nutrients that are not easily acquired in other food forms.
Non-animal sources of protein such as soy products, beans, nuts, and other protein-dense veggies do provide protein; however, they are not ideal sources of optimal proteins. In order to get the five benefits of eating protein discussed above, you should be consuming probably about 30% of your daily caloric intake from protein and this would be very difficult to do on a non-meat diet.
How can I get 20 grams of protein post workout quickly and easily? I don’t have time to cook meat, I know I shouldn’t eat processed meats; what is a busy person to do? This is where supplements are useful and probably necessary. Quality protein supplements can be an excellent way to meet your dietary protein demand–especially for the person with a busy lifestyle. In addition, supplemental protein like whey protein can provide you with powerful antioxidants, lower high blood pressure, and increase lean muscle mass.
How do I choose?
We published this article https://strongfigure.com/kind-protein-buy/ to help people figure out what supplemental protein they should buy.
Get Started Today!
- Figure out a rough estimate of how much protein you need to consume each day.
- Figure out how many meals you want to eat each day. Let’s say you want five meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks). Divide 132 by 5 and you get about 26.5 grams of protein for each meal. That’s easily one chicken breast, a salmon filet, a scoop of protein powder, a bowl of cottage cheese, and 3 eggs with a couple slices of bacon. It’s super simple to meet your protein requirements. And this isn’t even counting the protein found in cheeses, nuts, beans, or nut butters. Trust us, it’s easier than you think!
More tips on protein and how to eat enough can be found in our new book. Pre-order yours now for 25% off (and get the workbook for free!) First 50 purchasers will also receive a free macro eval from Steph.
Popular Protein Q&A Probs:
Q: Is it a myth that people need to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight?
A: No, it’s not a myth! This depends on you and your goals. Remember, we’re all different. If you’re an athlete or you train with heavy weights, stick to the number here and focus on getting a few more carbs for your energy, fueling, and refueling needs. If you’re not lifting super heavy or you’re injured and you need to preserve muscle mass, you can up your protein to one gram per pound of body weight. If you’re trying to cut weight for a competition or drop a couple pounds for a beach trip (I’m just being real), sure, bump up your protein and cut back on the carbs.
Note: Don’t overly cut carbs though! If you’re calculated to eat 132 grams of protein but you bump your number to 145, you’re adding 52 calories of protein. That’s only about 13 grams which would be maybe a half a chicken breast. Cut out the same amount of carbs: 52 calories or 13 grams of carbs. That’s like half an apple. It’s not a huge change but it could be enough for a subtle difference that you’re looking for.
Success Story: I recently worked with a friend of mine who couldn’t work out due to an injury. I kept her on a higher protein plan (1 gram per pound of body weight) to preserve as much muscle possible. Check out her muscle definition! This is coming off of four months of zero weight-lifting.
Q: Can you eat too much protein?
A: Yes. You can eat too much of anything. Although, if you are going to eat “too much” of any of the three main macronutrients then protein is the one to overeat.
In reality, the chances that excess protein contributes to body fat stores are insignificant, and arguably physically impossible under normal or even slightly hypercaloric conditions that most athletes face on a daily basis. Only until theoretical extremes – either for protein intakes or calories or both – are achieved will there be any significant contributions to body fat from excess protein intake. – Dylan Klein
And from a landmark 2012 peer-reviewed study, the authors concluded:
Among persons living in a controlled setting, calories alone account for the increase in fat; protein affected energy expenditure and storage of lean body mass, but not body fat storage.
What About Carbohydrates and Fat?
On Monday, we’ll be releasing the nitty-gritty on the most complicated of all the macros: carbs and fats. And to thank all of our subscribers, tomorrow you will receive ANOTHER free gift! That is how much we love you!
UPDATE: 8/13/15: If you aren’t a subscriber, please sign up so you don’t miss out on future offers. And don’t forget that our eBook, The Total Health and Fitness Makeover will be available again this November. We are currently working on adding our Recipe Book, and turning our eBook into a printed book version.
Barnum, James. “How To Lose Body Fat and Keep It Off.”
Cagney, Krissy Mae. FD 2.0: Flexible Nutrition for the Modern Athlete, 2015.
Bray GA, Smith SR, de Jonge L, Xie H, Rood J, Martin CK, Most M, Brock C, Mancuso S, Redman LM: Effect of dietary protein content on weight gain, energy expenditure, and body composition during overeating: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2012, 307:47-55.
Klein, Dylan. “Protein Will Not Make You Fat.” T Nation. T Nation LLC, 24 Sept. 2013. Web. 12 July 2015. <https://www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/protein-will-not-make-you-fat>.
I am not a licensed medical doctor, nor do I claim to be, and my advice should not be taken as such. I am not liable for any information given or results, see our terms and conditions for further information.
Melissa Shevchenko says
Another great one guys. Keep up the great work 🙂
Stephanie Wimer says
Thank you Melissa!!! 😀
Love the articles thanks so much!
Stephanie Wimer says
You’re very welcome, Jenny–so glad you enjoyed it!! Thanks for commenting! 😀
I like reading your articles, but the part about plants and Protein is just misinformation, as time and time again it has been proven with natural body builders who make vegan gains, that there is in fact sufficient and complete proteins found in plants. there are numerous examples of them with a simple internet search and on Youtube. Meat does more harm than good, and The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that men and women obtain 5% of their calories as protein. This would mean 38 grams of protein for a man burning 3000 calories a day and 29 grams for a woman using 2300 calories a day. This quantity of protein is impossible to avoid when daily calorie needs are met by unrefined starches and vegetables. For example, rice alone would provide 71 grams of highly useable protein and white potatoes would provide 64 grams of protein.8
Thank you for your reply. I am surprised someone with the name “Vegan” likes reading our articles. The World Health Organization’s primary purpose is to prevent people from starvation. Our purpose here, is to help our readers to achieve optimal performance and aesthetics with their nutritional choices. Protein, specifically protein from animal sources, is the best way to accomplish the goals our average reader has and 5% of your calories from protein is not enough to meet those goals. Furthermore, we recommend protein based on empirical and anecdotal research. At this time we do not feel comfortable recommending a diet that does not include protein from animal sources. Thank you and we hope you continue to like reading our articles.