Know you need to increase your protein intake but not sure how to go about it? That’s what we’re here for. We’ll give you a quick look at all that protein does for your body, signs that you may not be getting the protein you need to thrive, and 4 easy ways to get more protein in your diet.
Protein provides structure to our cells and tissues. It makes up our muscles and skin, as well as the hormones and enzymes that allow our bodies to function.
A diet rich in this macronutrient supports fat loss and lean muscle gain by keeping blood sugar levels steady and metabolism moving swiftly along. A Journal of Nutrition study showed that women on a high-protein, high-dairy diet while exercising lost more belly fat and gained more muscle than women on a moderate-protein, moderate-dairy diet following the same exercise regimen (1).
Protein minimums are set at 0.36 grams per 1 pound of body weight (or 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight). But we have to stress minimum here. Because if you exercise regularly then those minimums shoot up to 0.64-0.9 grams of protein per pound (or 1.3-2 grams per kilogram of body weight). So a 150-pound person who trains consistently should strive for at least 135 grams of protein a day.
If you aren’t feeding your body enough protein then it will begin leaching amino acids—the building blocks of protein—from your muscles, thereby reducing your muscle mass. But it isn’t just the size of your muscles that decrease from low protein intake. Your immune system function starts to decline as well, leaving you more vulnerable to illness and infection.
Over 1 billion people worldwide are not meeting their protein needs. And if you’re an older adult, you’re more than likely not eating enough protein according to a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging (2). If this is you, following a low-protein diet is adversely impacting your health overall.
Do you suffer from any of these signs of protein insufficiency?
Whether you suspect you need to eat more protein, or you’re meeting your minimums but want to increase your protein intake to support your fitness or health goals, then take note of the following 4 easy tips full of tasty recommendations to satisfy your protein requirements.
All high-protein foods make excellent protein toppers, but some are standouts worth mentioning. They also add flavor and texture for even more satisfying eats.
An easy way to get muscle-protein powder is to take it as a supplement. Specifically, a protein powder. We recommend Amino Co Life, a heart-healthy blend of essential amino acids that is designed to help strengthen your muscles and overall health.
It’s different from your typical collagen, pea, or whey protein supplements because it goes directly to protein’s source—amino acids! The amino acids in Life aren’t attached to a dietary protein. Because they are free amino acids, they are absorbed quicker by the body, and can stimulate muscle protein synthesis 4X more than other protein source on a gram-for-gram basis.
Trade in those pretzels, which have 6.2 grams of protein in 10 twists, for cottage cheese, which has a protein content of 28 grams per cup! Cottage cheese is reported to be as filling as eggs and is high in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which encourages fat loss.
Mix it in with some tuna fish for a satisfying and protein-packed snack, far healthier than protein bars that contain unhealthy additives like sugar alcohols.
Half cup of Greek yogurt has nearly 13 grams of protein. Greek yogurt has nearly twice the amount of protein that traditional yogurt does…plus it’s creamier and thicker.
Still not convinced to trade in the Yoplait for plain Greek yogurt? Studies show that Greek yogurt increases the production of the hunger-satiating hormones GLP-1 and PYY, so you’ll feel fuller for longer and on track with your weight-loss or weight-maintenance goals. It also has fat-loss-promoting CLA.
Sprinkle on 100 grams of chia seeds and you’ve got 16 more grams of protein!
Remember when you were a kid and your mom or dad would feed you apple slices coated with delicious peanut butter? You’re never too old for this protein and antioxidant-rich snack!
Edamame are steamed, unripened soybeans, the highest protein legume you can find, even higher than black beans. Flavor it with garlic or sprinkle on some salt and you’ve got 17 grams of protein in a cup.
Two sources of plant-based protein give you more bang for your buck! You get 7.9 grams of protein in a single serving of hummus and 5 grams of protein in a slice of Ezekiel bread, for a 13-gram protein snack. Never heard of Ezekiel bread? It’s made from several different types of whole grains and legumes and is ultra rich in nutrients and fiber. It also has 90 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids to help protect against inflammation and heart disease.
An easy way to ensure you get more protein is to make sure you eat protein-rich foods at every meal.
For breakfast, trade in the carb-heavy cereal for eggs. Egg whites have more protein than egg yolks do, so even if you’re avoiding the yolk, don’t avoid the eggs!
If you miss the carbs, then eat oatmeal for breakfast. But you’re only getting about 6 grams in a cup, so add flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, or almonds for more of a protein punch. And don’t just have a regular cup of coffee at breakfast. Drink a cup of protein coffee mixed with protein powder, like whey, collagen, soy, or casein for extra energy and to keep hunger at bay well into the afternoon.
For lunch, top your Caesar salad with grilled shrimp. Or eat some lean turkey or chicken breast with a plate full of steamed or roasted veggies.
Have a protein shake as an afternoon snack.
And for dinner, bake some salmon and protein-rich bok choy (half a head offers up 6 grams of protein. Not too shabby for a veggie!). Vegans and vegetarians can enjoy an endive and arugula salad topped with chickpeas and walnuts.
Craving carb-heavy rice or pasta? Wait! Cook up some quinoa instead, a plant-based complete protein, add in some crushed pistachios, sprinkle with parmesan, and eat as a side-dish with your choice of high-quality animal protein or a vegan main dish such as tempeh.
Before bed have a hard-boiled egg or a serving of Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey to tempt a sweet tooth.
Ahhhh…see now? Increasing your protein intake isn’t that hard at all. In fact, it’s really quite tasty!