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8 Expert Tips on How to Increase Protein Intake
No matter your stance on animal or plant-based, sufficient protein intake is essential to our overall health and fitness.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance for the average adult is a meager 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily, but research suggests we may actually need and benefit from much more protein than that.
Keep reading to learn more about the importance of protein as well as several ways to increase your intake to take advantage of its many health benefits.
- Protein is an essential macronutrient used throughout the body in several capacities.
- Protein is made up of amino acids, some our bodies make and some we must get from food sources.
- Even if you're getting the recommended daily value, you will likely need more protein each day depending on your goals and training.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PROTEIN
Made up of amino acids that our bodies use as building blocks for growth and energy, protein is a macronutrient that is needed in large amounts for proper body functioning.
In fact, just twenty amino acids are used to make up thousands of proteins in our bodies that serve our health in many ways.
These proteins play an important role in the structure and growth of our cells, and they are part of the many chemical reactions that our bodies rely on for energy and immune function.
Protein is responsible for:
- Building Muscle
- Balancing Bodily Fluids
- Building, Maintaining, and Repairing Cells, Tissues, and Organs
- Supporting Immune Health
- Improving Cognitive Function
How much protein you need, depends on a variety of factors including your training style, goals, and personal factors.
Take our free quiz to calculate how many grams of protein you need to accommodate your lifestyle.
8 WAYS TO GET MORE PROTEIN INTO YOUR DIET
Although protein is an essential component of balanced nutritional intake, many people find it challenging to consume enough each day.
Below are eight excellent ways to work more protein content into your healthy diet.
1 - STRUCTURE MEALS AROUND A HIGH-QUALITY PROTEIN SOURCE
When planning your meals, make protein the priority and plan to include a high-quality protein source with each meal.
Protein is a crucial component of a highly nutritious meal, but not all the protein available is considered high-quality. So what determines a protein’s quality?
A protein’s quality is determined by its amino acid content, digestibility, and ability to support metabolic function.
Our bodies can make many amino acids, but there are nine amino acids we cannot produce and must be obtained from food sources. These are called essential amino acids, and they include leucine, isoleucine, lysine, histidine, methionine, valine, tryptophan, threonine, and phenylalanine.
While some plant proteins fit the category, animal protein is more commonly known as high-quality protein sources because they typically contain the nine essential amino acids and are easily digested and used in the body.
HIGH-QUALITY PROTEIN SOURCES:
- Grass-fed or pasture-raised beef
- Dairy products
- Tofu and soy products
- Nuts and seeds
2 - PRIORITIZE ANIMAL PROTEINS
Foods derived from plants and animals both provide protein, but there are some key differences between the two.
Animal proteins pack more bang for their buck when it comes to comparing their protein contents.
Animal products contain more grams of protein per weight when compared to plant proteins.
And if you’re looking for a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine of the essential amino acids our bodies cannot produce, animal protein is ideal.
ANIMAL-BASED PROTEIN SOURCES:
- Eggs or egg whites
- Dairy products such as cottage cheese, milk, and yogurt
- Red meat
- Poultry such as chicken and turkey
This doesn’t negate the importance of including plant proteins in your diet as well, especially if you follow a vegan diet.
Plant proteins come with their own set of health benefits, but most are considered incomplete proteins. So you will need to combine different plant proteins to get all the essential amino acids your body needs.
PLANT-BASED PROTEIN SOURCES:
- Beans such as black beans, kidney beans, and garbanzo beans
- Nuts or nut butter such as almond butter and natural peanut butter
- Whole grains
- Nutritional yeast
- Pea protein
- Chia seeds
- Cooked quinoa
Also important to consider when aiming for adequate protein in your meals is the balance with other nutrients. For example, animal protein products have more protein than carbohydrate and fat content, whereas plant protein products tend to have the opposite.
Carbohydrates and fats are important nutrients, but we typically do not have difficulty meeting our daily needs. If you are trying to increase your protein intake without shifting other macronutrients, animal products are a very convenient way to add protein to your meals.
Furthermore, the body is able to digest animal proteins more efficiently than plant proteins. Due to its fiber content, it takes longer for the body to digest and use plant-based protein.
3 - INCREASE PROTEIN PORTIONS
Including a protein source at every meal is key to meeting your needs.
So if you’re looking to boost your consumption, increasing your protein portions at each meal is an easy way to make that happen.
You’re already preparing meals and snacks, so add a little more to your plate to increase your protein intake. You might even consider cooking large batches of certain foods to have on hand for multiple meals.
For example, chicken breast, hard-boiled eggs, and homemade veggie burgers are easy to cook in bulk and can really help you meet your protein goals.
Starting the day with a high-protein breakfast is also helpful in meeting your needs as it sets the tone for the rest of the day’s meals.
4 - EAT PROTEIN FIRST
Just as protein is the main focus when planning meals, protein should be the primary focus when it’s actually time to sit down and eat those meals. But unfortunately, no matter how hungry we may be when meal times come around, our stomachs have limited capacity.
Eat your high-protein foods first to ensure that you don’t fill up on other items that may not serve your body in the same capacity.
Carbohydrates and healthy fats are also essential macronutrients, but most of us consume sufficient amounts daily without much effort.
Protein works as a key component of satiety by reducing the hunger hormone ghrelin and also boosting peptide YY, the hormone that helps you feel full. For this reason, protein influences body composition by playing a role in weight management or weight loss.
The satiety index is a helpful tool for understanding how different foods affect your feelings of fullness.
Consistently, high-protein foods have proven most effective at producing satiety over the years.
5 - UTILIZE HIGH PROTEIN SNACKS
For many of us, our busy schedule is the biggest barrier to getting enough protein in our diet.
With just a little planning, you can set yourself up for success by packing high-protein snacks to take along for the ride.
To ensure you’re meeting your recommended daily protein intake, add high-protein snacks to your meal prep process.
Just as you plan your high-protein breakfast, lunch, and dinner, arrange for a protein-rich snack to eat during the car ride from the gym to work or from work to your kid’s ball practice.
HIGH-PROTEIN SNACK IDEAS:
- Protein Coffee
- Hard Boiled Eggs
- Protein Shakes and Smoothies
- Fruit and Nut Butter
- Protein Smoothie Bowls
6 - SUPPLEMENT WITH PROTEIN POWDERS
Protein powders can supplement the gaps in your diet, increase your overall protein intake, and help your muscle recovery after strenuous exercise.
It’s important to remember that not all protein powders are created equal.
When choosing a protein powder, find a supplement that uses high-quality protein and natural ingredients.
Look for a protein powder that has been third-party tested so that you can trust what's on the label and have peace of mind with the ingredients that you are putting into your body.
You can find BSCG Certified Drug Free protein powders here.
7 - INCREASE PROTEIN INTAKE WITH MEAL PREP
If you’re meal prepping, you’re ahead of the game.
Planning to include high-protein foods in your meals and snacks can help ensure you’re getting the necessary grams of protein that your body needs each day.
In addition, meal prepping eliminates the need to scramble when searching for something with decent protein content on the go, and it helps avoid the boredom of eating identical meals day after day.
A protein-dense meal can be simple, like protein oats with peanut butter.
An easy, protein-rich snack can be as convenient as a protein shake or a hard-boiled egg.
Have a little more time? Try adding Greek yogurt and chia seeds to your favorite protein smoothie.
8 - PROTEIN SWAPS
Another easy way to increase protein intake is to make small swaps in some of your everyday foods.
Even the slightest difference in protein content can impact your day’s total protein intake.
More grams of protein per serving makes your intake more efficient and helps you reach your goals.
SIMPLE FOOD SWAPS
- White rice to Brown Rice
- Pasta to Quinoa
- Regular Yogurt to Greek Yogurt
- Enriched Pasta to Whole Wheat
WHY YOU NEED TO EAT PROTEIN AROUND THE CLOCK
The body cannot store protein for future use, so it’s important to spread your protein consumption throughout the day.
Once your needs are met, any extra protein consumed is stored as fat.
By eating protein throughout the day, your body has more of an opportunity to utilize it efficiently.
Adequate protein intake is crucial to muscle growth and maintenance, but we don’t just need it after a hard-hitting workout. Protein is a part of the many chemical reactions that our body relies on for normal day-to-day survival.
By supplying our body with protein around the clock, we are providing it with the necessary tools to maintain bone health, maintain digestion, and communicate on a cellular level.
Protein is an essential macronutrient vital to many aspects of our overall health.
We know that protein serves as the building blocks for muscle growth, but it also plays a role in our immune function, weight management, and even cognitive health.
Whether your goal is managing your body weight, building muscle mass, or healing an injury, your daily protein intake is important. And even if you are meeting the minimum recommended amount, you likely need even more.
If you need to increase your protein intake, don’t fret. You can meet your needs through a variety of sources, including whole foods, protein shakes, and protein powders.
While some sources may offer more of a protein boost than others, a varied diet of animal products, plant protein products, and protein powders can work together to create an overall healthy diet that serves your body well.