Are you getting enough protein in the day?
Are you getting enough protein in the day? You might be, but potentially not at the right times.
Here’s the thing about protein – your kidneys break the protein down that we eat into amino acids. The body can use that pool of amino acids to build everything we need – hormones, muscles, skin, nails, cells – basically everything!
Protein is also very slowly digested (much slower than carbohydrates). When we eat protein, it helps us feel full and satisfied after a meal or snack and it helps control our blood sugar levels better.
How much protein is enough?
As a safe bet, you could aim for 1g of protein per kilogram of body weight. To find your weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2.
Here’s a quick example:
We watch a lot of Paw Patrol in our house. Say Mayor Humdinger weighs 175lb.
Humdinger’s weight in kilograms is roughly 80kg. At minimum, he should eat 80g of protein per day. In food, this could look a couple of ways:
- He could eat a giant 12oz steak at supper time.
- He could eat 2 eggs at breakfast, 4oz of chicken at lunch, 4oz steak at supper, and some yogurt and nuts for snacks.
Does it matter when we eat our protein?
Your kidneys will be more efficient at utilizing the protein if it’s spread throughout the day. Your body will only be able to handle a certain amount of protein at once to convert into amino acids. The rest will be stored for later as fat.
Not only that, but your energy through out the day will feel significantly better when protein is showing up in small amounts at every meal and snack.
Breakfast can be the hardest meal to get enough protein for a couple of a reasons – one, carbs are easy and fast for a quick grab and go (think bagels, muffins, fruit, cereal), where as protein is not as fast and easy. The second reason is many people don’t feel hungry early in the morning for breakfast. Remember eating protein make you feel fuller. So reaching for something like hardboiled eggs early in the morning feels like way too much work and unappetizing.
The tough part is protein at breakfast is critical to starting your day well! So how do we make this easy if it’s so good for us?
Here’s a couple ways to sneak protein into your day to improve your energy levels and hit the right amount you need:
I highly recommend a smoothie, especially if you are not hungry in the morning. We can pack so much protein in there, and sipping on liquid sits easier on the gut then does eating a full meal. Try these in your smoothie as sources of protein:
- Greek yogurt
- Protein powder
- Hemp hearts
- Chia seeds
- Nut butters
- White beans (yes really!)
The hardest meal to think of ideas, right? Try these easy protein ideas:
- Rotisserie chicken. It doesn’t always have to be in a wrap or salad. I eat pieces of chicken for lunch often with other finger foods. Think charcuterie style or adult lunchables.
- Cottage cheese
- Protein shake
- Leftovers from the night before
- Canned beans thrown onto a salad
- Turkey pepperoni sticks
- Hardboiled eggs
- Protein-rich dips like hummus, black bean dip, or tzatziki
- Mini cans of flavoured tuna
This meal usually isn’t hard to get protein in, but your portion size of protein can be a little smaller, especially when we’ve had enough at the other two meals and a couple snacks. The real problem is (at least for my house) is that it’s often still frozen when I get home from work. For FAST protein at supper, here’s some of my favourite ideas:
- Canned tuna or salmon (tuna melts, wraps, salmon cakes, salmon ramen noodle bowls)
- Canned beans
- Eggs (scrambled, poached, fried, omelettes, frittatas – we love it all!)
- Bean-based pasta. This has enough protein all by itself. Add pasta sauce and a salad and voila – you’re done!
- Rotisserie chicken. Put it in your cart every week and de-bone it as part of your meal prep. Meals like butter chicken, stir-fry, chicken enchiladas come together very fast when this is ready to go for you!
- Shredded beef/chicken/pork. I love having these in the freezer. A quick reheat and we can do nachos, wraps, or a tasty salad.
Always pair a quick portable protein with some carbohydrates at snacks. I splurge on pre-portioned things here to make my snacks grab-and-go. Here’s what I love:
- RX Bars (check the natural food aisle at your grocery store)
- Trail mix
- Pre-portioned cheese
- Mini hummus containers
- Roasted beans/lentils (my favorite brands are Three Farmers and the Good Bean)
- Hardboiled eggs
- Mini Egg Frittatas (try the Veggies Made Great brand)
- Tuna and cracker snack packs
Give it a try – spread your protein throughout the day in smaller portions, starting with breakfast (drink it if you need to!). I guarantee you will feel better energy throughout the day, and your kidneys will be breaking down protein at steady rate without storing extra protein as fat.
If you need help with your specific protein intake or have significant dietary restrictions, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. I work with my clients all the time to set them up on a specific nutrition plan that meets their body’s unique needs in a simple way.