If you've been following me for a while, you know that I am a big proponent of building and maintaining muscle through resistance training and proper nutrition. Whether you're a guy, girl, average joe, or competitive athlete, muscle is important. Here's why: having a good amount of lean muscle tissue is going to help you with your RMR (resting metabolic rate). Individuals who have more muscle tissue can burn more calories at rest throughout the day. More calories burned means more calories allowed in your daily budget. If your daily caloric budget is high (high for your age and body type) it will give you more room to enjoy food and life. More room to eat out and get drinks with friends, and more room to hit Five Guys for a fat, juicy burger. If you have a lower RMR, it's going to be harder for you to lose weight since your body isn't burning a lot of calories at rest, AND you'll have less wiggle room when it comes to your food intake. Both of those things make for an unfortunately disappointing fitness journey.
Other than mixing up your training, lifting weights, and tracking your food intake, prioritizing protein and getting enough each day is extremely important. Just in my first four years of coaching alone, I would say that 90% of the individuals that come to me are missing out on a lot of protein. The RDA says you should eat 50g of protein each day, but this is only for sedentary individuals. Protein intake is much different for those of us who need to nutritionally support an exercise regimen. I always recommend aiming for at least 1g of protein per pound of lean body mass for those of you that are working hard in the gym each day.
Protein is a macronutrient just like carbohydrates and fats. Unfortunately, they don't show up in seemingly every single food we eat like carbs and fats do. So, getting all those grams of protein can seem impossible at times. Thankfully, I've put together a list of six strategies to help you eat more protein. These are strategies I use each and every day, too. Believe it or not, protein just doesn't conveniently show up each day for me either.
1. Prioritize Protein
This strategy is in my opinion, the most important one you'll hear about today. And quite frankly, it's no more of a strategy than it is the truth. There's no magic trick here. There's no magic food here either. This is just the cold hard truth. You absolutely have to prioritize your protein. If you're not thinking about how much protein you need in the meal, how much protein you need in the day, and how much protein is in the food you're about to eat, You'll never hit your goal. Carbs and fats are easily accessible and convenient. They'll come. Don't stress out about those. Think about protein first, and then add your carbs and fats to your meal. Sure, constantly thinking about protein each meal will be an extra hassle for the first week or so, but isn't it worth being a protein pro down the road? Plus, what's a few extra moments of thinking going to hurt?
2. 30 in 30
I'm not talking about a 30 for 30 on ESPN. This is a very simple reminder to help you get a kick-start on your protein intake for the day. Beware: this is extremely simple and easy to follow. Within 30 minutes of waking up, eat 30 grams of protein. Whatever form of protein you'd like. Breakfast shake, eggs and egg whites, greek yogurt, and FairLife milk are options that I like to put to use in the AM. Trust me, getting ahead early in the morning will make the rest of your day easier, especially if you're on the go.
3. Utilize but Don't Abuse Protein Powder
Whey powder is an extremely useful source of protein. Great for feeding your muscles after a vigorous workout in the gym, whey is a quick absorbing protein that is great for your post-workout recovery. Not only is it great for recovery, but its convenience is an added bonus. With whatever liquid you'd like, protein shakes take seconds to make and you can bring them with you wherever you are. Although it would be extremely easy to get your daily protein goal from only whey shakes, I advise against it for a couple of reasons:
1. Although protein's satiety is great, the fact that the shakes are in liquid form won't help you feel full.
2. Protein shakes are often consumed by themselves which makes it easy to neglect great vitamins and minerals from other food sources.
Take a serving after your workout, and perhaps another if you need some help hitting your protein for the day. But don't abuse it!
4. Take it Slow
For the most part, clients who come to me for coaching aren't trying to hit a protein goal each day. They just happen to eat 30-60 grams of protein each day. Depending on their lean mass, I'd like them to start eating a lot more protein right away, but that can be extremely difficult. So once you've figured out where your protein currently is and where it needs to be, slowly build it up every week or so. For example, I had a client start with me last week and they were at about 45 grams of protein each day when they needed to be around 150. That's a big jump. So what we're doing right now is slowly taking them up until 150 seems like no problem at all. It's all about fitting practicality into what's optimal.
5. Focus on What's Practical
In fitness, there is all of this b.s. being thrown around about how we all have to live the life of a competitive bodybuilder in order to be lean, healthy, and achieve our goals. We need to "eat chicken and broccoli eight times per day" in order to get fit. Are you kidding me? Get real. The name of the game with your success in fitness is making what's optimal, the most practical for your life. If you work from home and you'd rather spread your protein intake out through five meals, go for it. If you're crazy busy and you'd rather do it in two with a protein shake in the middle, go for it. The plan that is the most important is the one that will allow you to be the most consistent.
6. Break it Down
This last strategy ties into numbers four and five, but I still wanted to bring it up.
When we see a big number that is associated with a "big" change, we tend to freak out. Let's pretend that your protein goal is a debt you have. If you have $100,000 dollars in debt, of course you're going to freak out about how you're going to pay that off. But if you break it up into smaller chunks and create a budget that you can stick to, it won't seem too difficult, and it'll become easier to reach over time. The same goes with your protein. If you like to eat three meals in a day, figure out how you can divide your goal between those meals and whatever snacks you have. Break it down and simplify it.
Whether you're competing for a show or just trying to lose some weight, protein is so important. If you're under-eating it, you have to find a way to make that change. Apply whatever is most practical for you. The above strategies help me and my clients hit our daily protein goals, and may they do the same for you.
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Thanks for reading!