If you are an avid gym-goer, you’ve probably been asked the question “What kind of protein powder do you use?” This is a common question among most exercisers because of the common knowledge that protein is an important part of one’s diet. But sometimes it can be difficult to find healthy ways to get enough protein in order to keep up with your ever-increasing gains. Protein bars and shakes can be a good option to help increase protein intake, but oftentimes these also contain large amounts of sugar and other ingredients that our bodies could do without. Before we talk about some ingenious ways to get more protein without relying on unnecessary supplements, shakes, or bars, let’s quickly discuss why protein is so important for your body.
Protein is one of the three main macronutrients (carbohydrates and fat are the other two). Protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks for almost everything in our bodies. They can be broken down and re-assembled in many different ways. However, our body does not store extra amino acids so the protein that we intake is always getting used and recycled. Therefore, if we don’t get enough protein, our body will start taking it from other parts that we actually need (like our muscles) so it’s important that we replenish lost protein by eating enough of it.
Most people know that they need protein every day, but they’re unsure of just how much. The answer to this question can be a bit complicated and depends on several different factors. A good to place to start is the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), which can be calculated using the following formula: 0.8 g/kg (0.36 g/lbs). For example, a 150-lb person (68kg) would need 150 x 0.36 (or 68 x 0.8) or approximately 54g of protein per day. This generally works out to be about 10% of an individual’s daily caloric intake. However, the RDA is a very broad recommendation and doesn’t take into account many important factors, such as one’s carbohydrate intake, biological sex, age, when protein is eaten, what kind of activities are done, etc. For a more accurate protein recommendation, a nutrition professional can calculate the correct macro breakdown based on an individual’s weight, activity level, age, fitness goals, etc.
Once you have a more accurate macro number for how much protein is needed daily, trying to actually meet that number can become difficult. Oftentimes, athletes have no issue getting enough fat, and can usually get enough carbohydrates as well, but usually struggle to find ways to eat enough protein. Here are several ingenious ways to add more protein to your diet:
- Add Greek yogurt to your eggs – seriously. If you like to eat scrambled eggs for breakfast, add a serving of Greek yogurt for some extra protein. Added bonus: it will make your eggs more fluffy!
- Use Greek yogurt as a sour cream substitute!
- Eat more beans! That’s right…black beans, lentils, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, etc. can be added to a salad, soups, a burrito bowl, or even a veggie scramble.
- Snack on hummus. This is great to dip vegetables and/or pita chips in.