We always hear peeps talk about increasing protein intake on social media but they don’t really go into much detail about WHY it’s important to do so. So I want to explain that to ya’ll. I’m also going to help you figure out how much protein you need for your goal/s, how to calculate it as well as some protein hacks to meet those requirements. Protein is NOT just for people who train. Training or not (I bladdy hope you are training), all of us have protein requirements in order for our bodies to function well.

Let’s get started! 🙂

Protein is one of three macronutrients (macros) in nutrition. Macronutrients are the main/most important nutrients our bodies need to function at their best and are required in large amounts. They are: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Just an FYI: Micronutrients refer to all the vitamins & minerals and are required in small amounts. For example, Vitamin C, D, Iron, Zinc etc. (fruits & vegetables)

Protein is as important for your body as a karamonk (cardamom) is in a curry. It is the “main ou” / “sterring” / “VIP” macronutrient and it should be prioritised if you want to reduce body fat, build muscle & strength, maintain muscle mass and stay fuller for longer. 

Here’s why:

1. It is the only macronutrient that contributes to building and maintaining muscle mass. Muscle tissue is the most active tissue in your body – The more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism and the more calories you’ll burn while doing absolutely fokkol. Building and maintaining muscle mass will also contribute to a strong/capable/energised body. It is even more important to have a high protein intake while in a calorie deficit for weight/fat loss, so that you are not losing muscle in the process.

2. It is the most satiating/filling macronutrient and it fills you up for less calories. Have you ever had a bowl of plain oats or cereal for breakfast and notice how quickly you get hungry after that? Like within an hour or two? Add some protein powder & fruit, or egg whites to the oats, or have some eggs (whichever protein of choice) in addition and then tell me again. One of the main reasons why people don’t do well with their eating habits is because they’re hungry all the time – majority of peoples diets consist of carbs and fat and minimal protein. You want to stay fuller for longer so that there is no need to snack unnecessarily, and protein will help with that.

3. Protein has the highest thermic effect of food (TEF). TEF is the part of your metabolism that measures how many calories/energy your body burns while digesting, absorbing, and disposing all nutrients from food. This means that your body burns more calories while digesting/processing protein in comparison to the other macronutrients. Not by serious amounts though. Just more.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0,8g per kilogram of body weight. This is the minimum requirement needed in order for your body to work proper. For example, if you weigh 65kg (multiplied by 0,8) you will need around 52g of protein per day. You’d be surprised as to how many people don’t reach their minimum without even realising it. 

If you experience some of these symptoms, there is a possibility that you might not be getting enough protein. Go and check with your Doc if you suspect it.

– Brittle hair and nails
– Getting sick often
– Weak/fatigued
– Hungry a lot of the time
– Moody and brain fog-ish
– Muscle weakness
– Stress fractures

Now I’m going to give you the protein requirements taking into account the population and the goal – this is how we determine who needs how much protein. You decide where you fit in mos.

Person 1:
– General population
– Generally healthy, average physical fitness, decent chance of living to an average age
– No major fitness goals, just wanting to be healthy
– 50-100% more than the RDA of 0,8g per kg of body weight
– 1.2 – 1.6g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight
* For example, if you weigh 65kg (multiplied by 1.6) your protein target will be 104g of protein per day

Person 2:
– A person that wants to optimise and maximise their health & fitness levels
– Wanting to train well, increase athletic performance, & achieve a good body composition that prevents chronic disease
– Achieving normal to lean body composition (lean body composition meaning defined muscle and lower body fat percentage. “Toned”)
– 1.6 – 1.7g of protein per kilogram of body weight
Note: If you’re obese, you’ll say 1.6g multiplied by your goal weight/lean body weight. For example, if you weigh 120kg and your goal weight is 90kg – You’d say 90kg X 1.6 = 144g protein per day

Person 3:
– Really serious about physique & athleticism
– Next level advanced training
– Competitive athletes with high calorie needs
1.6 – 2.2g of protein per kilogram of body weight

Person 4:
– Elite athletes/body builders etc.
– Highest level athletes/competitors
– Up to 3kg of protein per kilogram of body weight
Note: This is not us. Lol. Even person 3. But if you are and you’re reading this, great to “see” you here! 🙂

Now that you have a rough idea of how much protein you need to be consuming per day, it’s going to be necessary (if you’re serious about hitting that protein target) for you to familiarise yourself with protein foods and how many grams of protein they have. For example, 100g of raw chicken breast has 22g of protein. 2 large eggs has 12g of protein. 1 can of tuna (120g) has 30g of protein. 1 scoop of protein powder has around 20-25g of protein. You will have to do the homework. Google is great. Food labels are great. MyfitnessPal is great.

You can track your protein intake using a simple pen & paper or an app like MyfitnessPal. Whatever is easiest for you. Like this:

   

If you’re not up to tracking anything at all for whatever reason, just aim to have protein at every single meal. Make it a priority.

Here are some of examples of high protein foods. Note that these are lean sources of protein, meaning that they don’t have any fat or carbs in them. Pure sources of protein. You will get the most grams of protein out of these foods for fewer calories in comparison to foods with protein AND fat in them.

– Chicken breast
– Egg whites
– Low fat cottage cheese
– Greek yoghurt
– Tuna in brine
– Protein powder
– Lean cuts of ham/bacon (not fatty cuts)
– Pork tenderloin

Side note: Foods that have protein and fat in them makes it lower in protein (in grams) & higher in calories. Eg. Whole eggs, steak, salmon, mince, pork chops, chicken thighs, Cheeses. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these foods and you must/can include them into your diet. Just know your protein target!

Some vegan/vegetarian options
– Protein powder
– Egg whites
– Whole eggs
– Tofu
– Seitan
– Edamame beans
– Lentils
Note: Most of these foods are mix of protein & fat/carbs. Egg whites & protein powder are the only pure protein source from this list. For example, lentils have protein & carbs in them.

*Important note about protein powder. Not all powders are the same. I recommend choosing a powder that is “lean” – meaning minimal to no carbs or fats in them. You will have to check the nutritional label on the packaging. Check for the macros: Protein, Carbs & Fat.

Let me show you mine. You’ll see each scoop has 20g protein, 1,5g carbs & 1.5g fat.


Some hacks for you.

– Try aim for 25-35g of protein per meal
– Add protein powder to smoothies, yogurts, oats
– Make french toast instead of a normal sandwich. Egg whites are good for this because it’s low in calories and high in protein. 1/2 cup has 14g of protein. Here’s a BOMB sandwich I made. Total protein was over 40g!

 

– Have protein snacks. Boiled egg, cottage cheese on crackers, protein yogurt AKA proyo (plain yogurt with protein powder  mixed into it), greek yogurt and berries, prawter (protein water lol)
– Find high protein recipes/meals. Preferably ones that include calories & macros. There are plenty online for free. For example, my “high protein brekkies recipe book” – download it for free here!
– Bake high protein cookies/muffins/treats (plenty recipes online)

Final notes:

– Don’t be afraid to increase your protein intake.

– Build your meals around your protein. Always think of the protein source first before the fibre/carbs, fats and other things.

– Increasing protein or using protein powder won’t make you gain weight. It’s all about your overall calorie intake for the day. If you are overeating in general on a regular basis, you will gain weight. Know your protein target but also your calorie target for your goal.

– Always listen to your body and see how it responds to different foods/proteins.

– Increasing protein will be an adjustment for your body. It will take some practice and patience to get it right and to start feeling good. Ease into it. You probably won’t reach those targets straight away and that’s ok. Play around with it.

– Fibre intake is equally important.

– Protein farts can be lethal if your digestion isn’t good. So up that fibre and make sure you are taking a sh!t everyday. 25-30g of fibre per day is good for health.

– Farting is one of the funniest things in the world to me.

I hope you learnt lots! Let me know in the comments and share this article with others who will find it helpful.

Lots of love,
Lee