If there were one single habit that I feel produced the biggest fitness results, it would be eating enough protein to support an active lifestyle. Notice I am using the word active. The average active person will need about 0.8 – 1.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. This means that a 180 pound man would need about 144 – 180 grams of protein each day.
Now consider his sedentary counterpart. He would need about 0.4 grams per pound or about 72 grams of protein. An amount very easy to get with normal balanced eating. Bodybuilders often say the hardest part of bodybuilding is eating. Training is fun. Eating (especially healthy foods) is often a chore. My point is, the average active person has to make a concerted and well planned effort to meet their required protein intake. This will not happen by accident.
I guarantee that if you never tracked what you ate, you will be nowhere near 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. You wouldn’t want it. You would rather eat buttered pasta. Carbs and fats are super easy to find and eat. Walk into any convenience store and you have an unlimited array of food choices that are high in carbs and fat (usually both in the form of junk food). Ever try to find some lean protein? Very hard! (Although I must admit that food choices are trending healthier these days. I can now get protein shakes in almost any convenience store.) This brings me to my first point…
Eat Protein at Every Meal
In order to hit your protein targets for an active person, you must eat protein at every meal and snack. If you decide to have chocolate for a snack, this sets you back from your total. Remember, the average sedentary person has a need for protein that is half or less of what an active person needs. So when you are out at breakfast and your friend orders pancakes and a piece of fatty sausage, they may actually be getting the amount of protein they need (but you don’t have sedentary friends, do you?!?!?).
At first glance, it seems reasonable to say eat a decent amount of protein at every meal, but once you try you will realize how difficult it is to get whole food protein sources at most places. You would be hard pressed to piece together a meal with 40 grams of protein at McDonalds that doesn’t smash your calorie intake for that day.
You have to plan ahead and make sure that every meal you have contains some protein (ideally from a whole food), and some fruit and vegetables. Protein is slightly acidic, so fruit and vegetable intake will help to keep your body balanced and healthy. This is important because you must remember to still eat balanced. Just because you are eating more protein doesn’t mean you can eat junk otherwise.
You Must Plan Ahead
As I said before, finding carbs and fats, even healthy whole food sources, is super easy. Most of us can find fruits, whole grains, nuts, olive oil, etc. almost anywhere. Protein sources (especially lean ones) are much harder to come by. As a result, you must plan for this. This usually means meal prepping and assuring that you have whole healthful protein sources ready for the whole day.
I think you would be hard pressed to find a fit person who is not meticulous about watching what they eat. And they will probably say protein is the one macronutrient that you must plan for. If you leave the house for work with no prepared meals, you are going to have a really hard time hitting your desired macros.
Here is what my days worth of protein looked like for me. I am aiming to get 180-220 grams per day.
Breakfast: Egg White Grill (25 grams) and Core Power Shake (45 grams)
Morning Snack: Cheese Stick, Turkey Slices, and Carrots (25 grams)
Lunch: Chicken and Rice (40 grams)
Afternoon Snack: Turkey Wrap (25 grams)
Dinner: Pizza 🙂 (30 grams)
So hopefully you got some insight on what types of things you can eat to make sure that you are getting enough protein each day. Thanks for reading!