Fitness

Are You Getting Enough Protein? (Hint: most people aren’t!)

If you’ve dipped even a toe into the fitness world, you’ve probably heard about the importance of protein.

But usually, we don’t hear much past “get more” when we start optimizing our diets to help us meet our health and fitness goals.

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What is Protein? 

Protein is a macronutrient composed of amino acids, which are the body's essential building blocks. These amino acids are vital for numerous physiological processes, including:

Muscle Growth and Repair: Protein provides the necessary amino acids for muscle synthesis and repair, making it crucial for athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and anyone aiming to maintain muscle mass.

Cellular Function: Proteins are involved in countless cellular functions, including enzyme activity, hormone production, and immune response, ensuring optimal health and vitality.

Satiety and Weight Management: Including protein in meals and snacks can enhance feelings of fullness and satiety, potentially reducing overall calorie intake and supporting weight management goals.

Hair, Skin, and Nail Health: Collagen, a protein abundant in the body, is essential for maintaining the health and elasticity of connective tissues, contributing to healthy hair, skin, and nails.

In short, if you aren’t getting enough protein, you will struggle to lose fat, gain muscle, and even maintain healthy hair, skin, and nails.

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How Much Protein Should I Be Getting?

How much protein you should be getting depends on various factors, but here are two simple equations that can help you find a baseline number to get you started.

If you are a Sedentary Adult, use this equation to find out how much protein you need to avoid a protein deficiency:

0.36 x Your body weight in Pounds = Protein in grams per day

For example: A 150-pound adult would do the following calculations:

0.36 x 150 = 54 grams of protein per day

Now, it is important to keep in mind that these amounts are only to prevent deficiency! For optimal health, more is needed.

While there are a lot of factors that go into this, here is what we would recommend:

If you maintain a normal level of activity (walking, hiking, gardening, etc), start here:

0.6 x Your body weight in Pounds = Protein in grams per day

Using that same 150-pound adult, we would do the following calculation:

0.6 x 150 = 90 grams of protein per day

If you are highly active (strength training multiple times per week, training for a marathon, participate regularly in sports) then it should be:

1 x Your body weight in Pounds = Protein in grams per day

This means that our 150-pound person would now need 150 grams of protein!

As you can see there is a wide range, and finding what is best for you will take some trial and error.

The most important part is for you to be aware of how much protein you are getting and then adjust the amount you take in as needed to support your activity level.

Incorporating Protein into Your Diet:

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You may be looking at these numbers and thinking, “I’m not even getting enough to avoid deficiency; how am I supposed to get more than that?!”

That’s okay! The first step is to get in the habit of eating enough protein to avoid deficiencies. Once you can easily do that, you can increase your protein intake to account for your activity.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you get started on adding more protein to your diet:

1) Add high-quality sources of animal protein.

Grass-Fed / Grass-Finished Bison or Beef: Many of us tend to fall back on steak - and that’s okay! A quality cut of meat should need little to no seasoning and should be paired with a veggie and a healthy carb.

Put it on top of a salad, mix ground beef or bison with beans or lentils and veggies for a dal or stir fry. The options are endless!

Fish: Again, quality is key, but remember that there is more to choose from than salmon and tuna.

Tilapia and cod are typically easy to find and great for day-to-day meals.

Sushi, especially sashimi, feels like a nice treat and is packed with protein.

Like any animal protein, make sure you’re pairing it with vegetables and healthy carbs and fats to enjoy a well-rounded meal.

Pasture-Raised Chicken:
Eggs: A versatile protein source, eggs can be enjoyed scrambled, boiled, poached, or as omelets and frittatas.

Greek Yogurt from Grass-Fed Cows: With a higher protein content than regular yogurt, Greek yogurt makes a nutritious breakfast or snack when paired with fruit, nuts, or granola.

Grass-Fed Sheep's Milk: Sheep’s milk provides many of the same benefits as cow’s milk. It’s a great option for those who don’t care for plant-based alternatives because it tends not to impact those with lactose intolerance while still providing a good amount of protein.

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2) Embrace Plant-Based Protein Sources

If you don’t eat meat - no sweat! Meat is a quick and easy way to get protein into our bodies, but it is by no means the only way.

One thing to note if you don’t get your protein from meat is that no single plant-based protein has all the amino acids that build up the type of protein our bodies need. In order to get those in without eating meat, you just have to make sure that you are getting protein from various sources.

On a daily basis you should try to eat legumes, lentils, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. This will ensure that you are getting the amino acids you need to support your body and its muscle health.

Tofu and Tempeh: These soy-based products are versatile and can be used in stir-fries, sandwiches, salads, or grilled as a meat substitute.

Seitan: Made from wheat gluten, seitan is a high-protein meat substitute that can be used in sandwiches, stir-fries, or grilled dishes.

Legumes: Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are excellent sources of protein, fiber, and various nutrients. Incorporate them into soups, salads, stews, or as the main ingredient in veggie burgers and dips.

Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and hemp seeds are rich in protein, healthy fats, and micronutrients. Sprinkle them on yogurt, oatmeal, or salads, or enjoy them as a snack.

Remember, if you don’t eat meat you should prioritize diversifying your plant-based protein intake to ensure you get all the necessary amino acids for your body!

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3) Consider Protein Powders

Quality is key when incorporating protein powders. Regardless of the base of the protein, make sure the ingredients are sourced from quality places. If you aren’t sure where to start, check out our article on finding the right protein powder for you.

Plant-Based: Plant-based protein powders derived from sources like pea, hemp, or rice protein can be added to smoothies, shakes, or baked goods to boost protein intake conveniently.

Grass-Fed Whey: Whey from grass-fed cows provides a clean and effective energy source and is generally easier to find than other protein powder sources.

Egg White: Great for vegetarians and those who have difficulty digesting whey or pea proteins.

Protein is a fundamental nutrient vital to overall health and well-being. Whether you follow an omnivorous, vegetarian, or vegan diet, there are plentiful options to meet your protein needs and enjoy a varied and nutritious diet.

By incorporating diverse protein-rich foods into your meals and snacks, you can fuel your body, support muscle growth and repair, and thrive on your wellness journey.

If you still need help honing in on how much protein you need and how to incorporate that into your diet - give us a call! Our professional nutrition coach can create a personalized plan to help you reach your health and fitness goals.

Mint Condition Fitness has personalized programs led by professional fitness and nutrition coaches who are ready to help you begin making progress on your health goals and start living the life you envisioned.