How much protein do you REALLY need?

Protein- it doesn’t matter if you’re vegan, vegetarian, keto or omnivore… you need it to survive.

But depending on who you ask, it can be hard to know if you’re eating the right amount.

Let’s be clear- there is a WIDE range of acceptable protein intake for you to simply be alive.

However, if you are:

  • An athlete
  • Trying to lose body fat
  • Trying to gain muscle
  • Getting older (literally ALL of us)
  • Fighting off food cravings daily
  • Hungry all the time
  • Vegetarian or vegan

…you might want to be a bit more precise with your protein intake.


As with any topic in nutrition, you can find scientific evidence to prove MANY different sides to the same story

(Remember that entire decade in the 80s when we were told that eating fat was bad? And then they said.. NO, its carbs that are bad!) Nutrition science is constantly evolving.

 

This post is not a moral debate. This is about protein intake based on your goals.

I don’t care whether you choose to be vegan, vegetarian or omnivore- protein quality is important.

I would much rather have you eat organic, free range beef 1-2 times a week than crappy, low quality beef 5 times a week, or organic tofu instead of a processed tofu nugget or burger.


So how much protein do you REALLY need to be eating? (And a couple tips to start understanding portion sizes)

The recommended range of protein consumption is anywhere from 0,8g/kg of bodyweight per day to 2,2g/kg per day.

The lower end of the range is the government guideline- which is based on what you need to NOT have malnutrition, not to thrive in your health and fitness. If you have specific fitness or athletic goals, or train in a strength sport, you’ll want to be on the higher end of the range. You really don’t need any more than 2,2g/kg per day… but many active people don’t make it even to half of that!

First- think about your goals and lifestyle: 

  • If you are sedentary and not looking to change body composition in any way, you need less protein than an active person.
  • If you’re older (Masters athlete age) muscle mass and tissues start to break down as you age, so a higher protein intake is important to maintain what you’ve got!
  • If your goal is fat loss, go for a higher protein intake, as protein helps you feel satiated and full for longer and can prevent muscle loss from a lower calorie diet.
  • If you are an athlete, especially in strength sports, you will want to go for the higher end of the range of protein to facilitate muscle recovery and muscle building.

 

Great! So what does that mean for real life?

Let’s use my fictional client Barbara. 

Barb weighs about 60kg and is looking to lose some fat. She just started going to the gym and lifting weights. In order for her to feel satisfied with her food intake, facilitate muscle recovery and help her build some muscle I would recommend around 1,8-2g/kg of protein per day.

Currently, Barbara eats a fairly healthy diet… but her protein intake could be a bit higher.

  • Breakfast: 2 pieces of toast with avocado
  • Lunch: a small piece of chicken with pasta and salad
  • Dinner: lentils or tofu with mixed veggie stir fry and quinoa
  • Snack: an apple or banana and fat free yogurt

With this diet, she is lucky to get to about 50-60g of protein per day… which is on the low range of the spectrum. She might struggle to recover well from the gym, she might have some food cravings, and she might feel hungry throughout the day. It’s also going to be A LOT harder for her to build some new muscle!


Here’s how Barb could easily add in more protein to hit her goal of around 1,8 g/kg- 2 g/kg : 

  • Breakfast: 2 pieces of toast with 2 eggs
  • Lunch: a larger piece of chicken with garbanzo beans and salad
  • Dinner: tofu AND lentils or a decent size piece of fish with mixed veggie stir fry
  • Snack: fruit, almonds and Skyr or a protein shake 

Now Barb is making it to around 105-115g of protein per day-

this might sound like a lot of food for some of you, but this is going to help Barbara avoid feeling hungry during the day, support her fitness goals, and help her lose body fat. Remember, eating LESS when trying to lose weight isn’t always the answer!


So what is YOUR first step to eating enough protein?

Start writing down what you eat. Identify the protein sources in your daily diet, and use your friend Google to search for nutritional information- this can help you understand the composition of your protein sources a bit better! For example, you may hear all the time that peanuts are a great source of plant protein. While they do contain SOME protein, peanuts would actually be a better source of fat than protein.

If you are just starting out- aim for about 2 palms worth of protein rich foods (fish, chicken, tofu, tempeh, eggs) in each main meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner). While weighing and measuring your food, and logging it in an app like MyFitnessPal can be very helpful, it can also be overwhelming for some. 

This can help you understand your protein sources a bit better:

Some coaches would tell you to immediately go out and buy a food scale and start weighing and measuring everything you eat. That is ONE way to do it, but it is not the ONLY way to start being more conscious of your protein intake. Hand measurements (like the ones found in Precision Nutrition) can actually be pretty accurate, and you don’t look like a weirdo pulling out your food scale at a dinner party.

If you need help figuring this out (remember, this is stuff they don’t teach you at school!), message me!

Use this grocery list to help you better plan out your protein sources during the week.

Download the list here.

And if you need more guidance as to how to start structuring more protein rich meals… DON’T BE SCARED to reach out for help to reach your goals! This blog post can also help you easily add in more proteín to your daily intake. This is complicated, and with so much conflicting information out there, its no wonder you don’t know where to start.

Lets go over your diet and see how to make some changes for the better.

Send me a DM on Instagram or an email at gillian@bitesize.es and lets schedule a call to chat about the best way to structure your diet

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