Struggling to lose body fat? Eat more protein.
Having late night sugar and snack cravings? Eat more protein.
Feeling bloated and sluggish? Eat more protein.
Now, yes there is such a thing as too much protein and of course first you need to check if perhaps you already are consuming enough already, but from experience as a Personal Trainer, about 70% of our clients that commence their health and fitness journey with us (majority of which are women over the age of 30 and most of which are wanting to lose body fat), we find that they don’t eat anywhere near as much as they need to. Which is why I often have to help them calculate their macros and work out how much they are currently having and how much they should add to help them with fat loss and building lean muscles. Most of the times I find their diet consist of “quick grab” processed starchy carbohydrates with very little protein in each meal, most of the time pretty much lacking any protein at breakfast despite the fact that their breakfast is “what is considered healthy”.
A lot of our clients think having a piece of salmon at dinner and an egg throughout the day is enough to hit their protein goals, well it’s not.
A bowl of oats with berries is a perfect example of healthy but not so balanced meal, whilst oats are fantastic for your digestion and have a lot of beneficial nutrients, alone they don’t have enough protein to make it a fully balanced meal. And berries have very minimal protein.
So how would you improve that? Well, you can add a boiled egg to your breakfast along with the oats which contains about 6g of protein, another great option is reduce the amount of oats and add some high protein Yoghurt like low fat Chobani or Evia, some of my favourites for its protein to fat ratio and other healthy gut bacteria. Or you can source a good natural protein powder and add a scoop of that or even half a scoop after you’ve cooked the oats. Or just switch to yoghurt and protein smoothies if you like.
Ok, so how much protein should we aim for per day?
The recommendation is to aim for 1 – 2g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. For a sedentary person at the lower end around 1g and for an active person who wants to build lean muscle and exercises 3 or more times per week I would recommend to aim towards 1.5g per kilo of bodyweight at least and up to 2g.
So, if you weight 70kgs your minimum protein intake daily should be around 70g.
Now that’s 70g in macros not in weight, do you understand the difference?
For example, a 100g of cooked chicken breast has around 30g of protein, a boiled egg has about 6.5, 100g of boiled quinoa around 8g, 100g of Chobani low fat yoghurt 9.2g, you get the idea.
So 100g of chicken does not equate to 100g of protein.
So how do you work this out?
The easy way:
Here is what approximately 70g of protein per day can look like. Keep in mind I am not calculating calories or any other macros like fats and carbs in this, I am just giving you idea of what it looks like to hit your protein goal only.
Breakfast: 170g of high protein yoghurt with ½ cup of berries (approx. 18g of protein)
Lunch: 100g of grilled or oven roasted chicken breast, this can be added to salad or a wrap, (approx. 30g of protein)
Snack: boiled egg (approx. 6.5g of protein)
Dinner: 60g of cooked beef mince, can be in your Bolognese sauce or any dish you add it to, (approx. 12g of protein)
Late night snack: 1 slice (approx. 35g in weight) of deli turkey breast on Cruskit cracker or rice cake. (approx. 5g of protein)
Making it a total of 71.5g of protein per day.
Breakfast: 1 egg on toast with avocado, slice of cheese, whole egg and cheese will also bring your fat macros up as opposed to yoghurt, making it a higher calorie meal, (approx. 15g of protein)
Lunch: 140g of boiled quinoa (can be in a salad) (approx. 6g of protein)
Snack: 1 serve of Whey or Plant based protein shake, this can be in a smoothie with almond milk (depending on brand anywhere between 22-28g of protein)
Dinner: 180g of grilled salmon (can be alongside veggies and rice), (approx. 38g of protein)
Making it a total of 84g of protein per day.
Of course depending on which carbohydrates, you pair your meals up with you will also get a bit of protein from things like rice, beans, lentils, even bread and vegetables. But the foods listed above are the foods that contain most protein, so I focused on those to give you an idea of what 70-85g of protein looks like per day.
If your goal is to gain more muscle as well as stay lean and you do heavy weight training at least 3-4 days per week I would recommend to aim for higher amount, towards the 1.5 or 2g of protein per body weight. I hit about 2.2g of protein per kilo of my bodyweight because I dedicate about 5hrs of heavy weight lifting per week. So I need more protein to support muscle recovery.
Just as a ball park when I say heavy weight lifting, I am not talking about circuit bootcamp with 3-5kg dumbbells, I am talking about gym or home gym style training with anything between 8kg dumbbells to 70kg barbell squats and deadlifts as a female and most likely heavier for males. In this case your goal is probably to gain lean muscle mass and not just shed a few kilos of bodyfat. Which is the ultimate way to keep the fat off, once you lose it and to keep your body healthy and young, but that’s a subject for another article, which I will post next week. I don’t want to digress too much.
A more precise way to workout your protein, where you can learn a skill for life and get creative. (A bit more advanced).
Scales and My Fitness Pal app is my go-to when it comes to fat loss, portion control and macro/calorie tracking.
No you don’t need to weight and track your food for the rest of your life, but I highly encourage you to do this for a little while may be a couple of weeks, to first find out and work out your macros which will help you balance out your diet and to learn your portion sizes. Over time you will learn what your day on a plate should look like and you will be able to eye ball your portions of protein, carbs and fats. You will be armed with knowledge to help you lose fat and keep it off for life. You will also get an idea how many calories you are consuming in those healthy fats that every raves about which are great, but in moderation. Remember calories you don’t burn (healthy or not), store as fat, making you gain weight.
So this is how I work out my protein macros and other macros too using scales and food tracking app.
Step 1. Use small food scales to weight your food when you prepare it at home, I prefer to weigh cooked food, for the first few days just weight the normal amount that you would eat. For example, weigh your piece of cooked salmon or your piece of chicken or if you are having plant-based meals then weight your quinoa, beans, lentils, tofu etc. You can weight it raw or when cooked.
Step 2: Enter the food and weight into My Fitness Pal diary (tip: search for cooked or raw when searching for the food) to make sure it’s more accurate. This of course is a bit trickier to do when you are preparing things like Lasagne or spaghetti Bolognese or a stew as your ingredients will be all mixed. In that case you can create a quick Recipe in MFP app and decide how many portions are in the dish you are cooking, this recipe then will be saved for next time in your setting and you can easily enter it into your diary, a little more work, but worth it for accuracy sake.
I will write a more detailed article about macros, how they work and the benefits of tracking them even for a shot time to get your nutrition ducks in a row.
Step 3: Take a look at the end of each day in the Nutrition section how much protein you have hit on average over those few days you tracked and decide whether you need to increase it to the above mentioned recommended amount by adding that extra egg, cottage cheese, lentils, chicken, tuna salad or whatever you prefer into your daily eating plan.
Step 4: If you decide you need to increase your protein, then track again and make sure you are hitting that goal.
Why is protein so important for our health?
There is a lot of misconception that lots of protein is for bodybuilders or guys who want to build muscles. Well, that is not the case at all. Protein is super important for women as well and especially as we age.
Protein is an essential amino acid that our body absolutely needs to function properly. Your body uses amino acids to build and repair muscles and bones and to make hormones and enzymes.
Protein helps repair tissue, not just muscle tissue, but cartilage, bones, skin and nails.
Protein helps you digest food and build new cells.
Did you know our muscle tissue deteriorates approximately 1% each year after we enter our 30s and even more if we are sedentary? Which contributes to our ageing greatly. But we can reverse that by resistance training with weights and ensuring we are getting enough protein in our diets.
How does protein aid fat loss and how it helps to keep it off?
Protein is satiating and is likely to help you stay away from afternoon or late-night snacking, it provides you with important nutrients and eliminates unnecessary cravings, we crave things when we lack something, unfortunately often we crave not the things we lack, but the less healthy versions of it, funny our minds and taste buds work that way.
Protein is also more feeling and doesn’t spike your insulin like carbs do, giving you a steady level of energy throughout the day.
You will be less likely to feel lethargic after your meal if it’s protein rich rather than carbohydrate rich. Now I am not against carbs, quiet the contrary, carbs also play an important role in our diet, but that’s for another day.
Protein helps build and maintain muscles, muscles burn fat, the more muscle you have in your body the more likely you are to maintain leanness even as you get older, especially after having kids or hitting menopause for women. Having more muscles in your body will make your life easier and better as you age, I can promise you that.
Which is why my mum who is a doctor and now 65 years of age hits the gym regularly focusing on resistance training and ensures she eats enough protein to stay young and healthy. She has no intensions of becoming a bodybuilder she is just trying to age well and stay as healthy as possible to play with her granddaughter.
Is there such a thing as too much protein?
Yes, there is. Which is why I had suggested approximate protein macros above.
- Consuming too much protein can put you in caloric surplus just like any other macros such as carbs and fat. If you don’t use the calories from the protein and burn it off doing daily chores and exercise, you will store it as fat.
- Too much protein can be toxic and not good for your kidneys.
The chances of you consuming too much protein are unlikely unless you are a bodybuilder, you would need to be consuming over a kilo of meat a day along with a bunch of eggs to really go overboard. As I mentioned at the start based on my experience over the years with my clients, I almost always find that we need to increase their protein intake and reduce carbohydrates.
I hope you find this article helpful and walk away with more knowledge feeling more confident adding some protein into your diet and understanding the true benefits.
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