Why Is Protein Important? Plus Strategies For Increasing Your Intake & How Much You Need To Eat
90% of the food diaries I review result in me telling my client they aren’t eating enough protein.
Protein is the most important part of your diet when it comes to losing fat and gaining muscle.
Let’s discuss why protein is so important, strategies you can use to increase your intake and how much protein you need to eat.
Why Protein Is So Important
- Protein helps reduce hunger levels.Protein has what we call a satiating effect on the body – it stops you from feeling hungry. Which, if you are trying to lose fat, is a pretty useful tool.For this reason, when are you in a calorie deficit (eating less than you burn), protein becomes ever more important.
- Protein burns more calories when eating it.Your body burns calories whilst digesting food. This is known as The Thermic Effect of Food. Of all the macronutrients (carbs, fats & protein), protein has the highest thermic effect. This helps to increase your metabolism meaning you burn more calories.
- Protein reduces cravings.As we mentioned before, protein helps reduce hunger levels.Studies have shown that eating a high protein breakfast reduces your urge to snack throughout the day. One study in men showed that increasing protein to 25% of daily calories reduced cravings by 60%, and reduced the desire to snack by half. (Credit to Authority Nutrition.)
- Helps build and repair muscle.When you start lifting weights two things happen:
1) You build muscle.
2) Providing your diet is in check, you will lose fat.
The magazines call this “toning”. Protein provides the building blocks for muscle. High protein diets aren’t just for bodybuilders and weightlifters. Everyone can benefit from having more protein in their diet.
Simple Strategies To Increase Your Protein Intake
There are certain things you can do to start increasing your protein intake right now.
- Start your day with a protein shake/smoothie. A key constituent of protein shakes is usually whey protein. Contrary to popular belief, whey protein on its own will not make you bulky. Whey protein is a healthy protein source – around 60% of human breast milk is actually whey protein.One of my go to strategies is to get my clients to start the day with 1-2 scoops of protein. This immediately adds at least 20-40g of extra protein and helps make up a high protein breakfast. Which, as you now know, helps to reduce hunger and cravings.You have a couple of options here. You can either make a shake and have it with your breakfast OR make a breakfast smoothie. The latter is my favourite option as it’s quicker and more convenient for most people.(I’ve put together a free download of 100 smoothies for you to try and experiment with. You can download that by clicking the link below)
- Swap your regular yoghurt for Greek yoghurt. Greek yoghurt has up to 15-20g of protein per serving. Regular yoghurt has up to 10. A worthwhile swap. Opt for the low fat version if you are looking to save calories.
- Eat more eggs. Eggs are a quick, easy and convenient source of protein. What’s better is there plenty of ways you can eat and cook them depending on your preference.4 whole eggs will give you roughly 24g protein and around 240 calories. That’s a pretty solid ratio. If you want to drop some of the calories and fat, opt for 2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites. Be aware though, the yolk in the eggs is the best bit. Both in the nutritional sense and with taste. I’d only opt for egg whites if you are trying to save calories.
- Make 30-40% of every meal protein based. For many of my clients this is our starting point. And it’s easier than you think to do.1 can of tuna contains 35g of protein.
150g of chicken contains 30-35g of protein.
150g of lean beef mince contains 30-35g of protein.When your goal is fat loss, making the majority of your plate consist of protein and veggies will serve you well. Fill the rest of your calories with quality carbs and fat and you’re set.
- Consume protein rich snacks. If you’re a snacker, have some protein rich food on hand to get you through the day. This will stave off any craving you have to reach for the biscuit tin come mid afternoon. Foods like lean meats, protein shakes, cottage cheese and yoghurt are good choices here.You will likely find that once you start increasing your daily protein intake, your desire to snack will decrease.This is a good thing if your goal is fat loss.
How much protein do you need?
This is one of those questions where the answer is “it depends”. There are a few factors to consider here. What is your training goal? What is your starting point? What does your diet currently look like? There is no one size fits all when it comes to your diet. That said, there are some ballpark figures we can recommend.
The least amount of protein you need is 0.8g/kg of bodyweight. So a 60kg woman would need 48g of protein per day. Bare in mind that this figure is for the average person who does little to no activity and has no desire to change their body composition.
Since you are reading this post, I think it’s safe to say we can disregard that number.
An active 60kg woman who wanted to change their body composition would be better off shooting for between 1-1.5g per kg of bodyweight. For this example we would be looking at between 60-90g of protein per day. For the reasons we mentioned earlier in the article, I would prefer to see you at the higher end of this scale when the goal is fat loss.
A highly active 60kg woman could push this number up to 2g per kg of bodyweight. That would equate to 120g of protein per day. It is not uncommon for me to use this approach when working with clients. It works.
There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. These figures work well for someone of average bodyweight. If you are male above 20% bodyfat or a female above 30% bodyfat, using the above figures will result in too much protein. For these individuals use your target weight as the figure to calculate your protein intake from.
Consuming enough protein could be the difference between you reaching your goal or not. It’s that important. Hopefully this article has taught you this and how you can go about applying this to your life.
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