You may hear people say, “if you want to lose weight, you need to eat more protein” or “you don’t have enough protein in your diet”. But what does this actually mean? Are there “preferred” sources of protein? Can you get too much? How much protein should I be eating?
The best way to understand protein is to back into it, so that’s what we’ll do.
Protein is an organic compound, comprised of 22 amino acids. Amino acids make up 75% of the body and are necessary for every function we do. The body doesn’t store amino acids like it does with starches and fats (of course right? Why would it store the good stuff?) So this means we need to be taking in amino acids every single day. And again, protein is comprised of amino acids, so you need to be getting it every day.
Protein should be 10-35% of our total daily caloric intake. A lack of adequate protein in the diet can result in loss of muscle mass, decreased immunity (you may get infections easier, get sick easier), as well as weaken the heart and the respiratory system.
The best sources of protein
When you increase your protein intake, you run the risk of having a “high-fat” diet. This can easily be avoided by choosing protein sources that are low in fat and limiting the “high-fat” protein sources. Limit the amount of animal fat you consume as well as certain oils
How protein affects weight
Protein is a “hunger-management” food- which means it helps you feel fuller for longer periods of time. So when you hear about people eating 6 small meals a day vs 3 larger meals, what they are doing is making sure they are getting protein every 2-3 hours to keep that “hunger signal” down in your brain. When you consume protein, it sends a signal to your brain to decrease your hunger. Protein helps maintain muscle mass, which in turn raises your resting metabolic rate. The bottom line? Protein helps you burn more calories when your body is at rest. Protein also helps maintain blood sugar and insulin levels- leveling out the sugar “highs and lows”- aka helps neutralize those cravings.
Amounts of protein are based on age, sex and weight
Like we discussed earlier, protein should make up 10-35% of your total calories for the day. Generally speaking, that’s about 46 grams of protein for women consuming a 2,000 calorie diet, and about 56 grams for men. An easier way to figure it out is to take your weight, divide it in half and subtract 10. Endurance athletes (marathon runners) need 50% of their total calories per day to be from protein, and pregnant/breastfeeding women need 10-20 grams more protein than they were getting before.
- Egg whites: 7 whites = 25 grams
- Cottage cheese (nonfat): 1 cup = 28 grams
- Yogurt (nonfat, plain): 1 cup = 14 grams
- Chicken breast: 3 ounces (cooked weight) = 25 grams
- Turkey breast: 3 ounces (cooked weight) = 25 grams
- Turkey ham: 4 ounces (cooked weight) = 18 grams
- Ocean-caught fish: 4 ounces (cooked weight) = 25 to 31 grams
- Shrimp, crab, lobster: 4 ounces (cooked weight) = 22 to 24 grams
- Tuna: 4 ounces (water packed) = 27 grams
BEANS, LENTILS AND GRAINS
- Beans (black, pinto, etc.): ½ cup (cooked) = 7 grams
- Lentils: ½ cup (cooked) = 9 grams
- Quinoa: ½ cup (cooked) = 6 grams
- Tofu: ¼ block = 7 grams
- IsaLean Shake-24 grams of protein
- IsaLean Pro- 36 grams of protein
- IsaPro- 18 grams of protein
- IsaLean bars- 18 grams of protein