Find out my top tips for eating more protein each day, including 3 sample meal plans with 120g, 150g, and 200g of protein.
You’ve probably heard that you should be eating more protein if your goal is weight loss. But how much do you actually need to eat, and how can you break that down throughout the day?
In this article, I’m going to share how I personally hit my protein goals every day, along with all the tips and tricks that help my clients do the same. Plus, I’ve included 3 sample meal plans to show you exactly what a high protein diet for fat loss looks like.
If you’re landing on this blog for the first time, I’m Andres Ayesta and I’m a registered dietitian who teaches busy professionals and parents how to lose weight by taking their nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle habits to the next level. And, I show you how to do all this in a way that still gives you time for your family and helps you crush your career goals.
Protein is one of the three macronutrients. When we eat foods with protein, our body breaks it down into smaller building blocks called amino acids. Then, these amino acids are used to build and repair almost every kind of body tissue. I’m not going to give you all the details of the science here, but basically there are nine amino acids that your body can’t make, so it has to get them from food. We call these nine amino acids “essential amino acids”.
Foods that give us all nine essential amino acids are called complete proteins. Most complete proteins come from animal sources, like chicken, turkey, beef, dairy products, and eggs. However, there are a few complete plant-based proteins too, like soy and quinoa.
When your goal is fat loss, the amount of protein you eat each day is very important for a couple reasons.
First, protein helps you feel fuller for longer, so you naturally eat fewer total calories throughout the day. This happens through the effects protein has on hormones that regulate your appetite. Another thing that’s helpful about protein is studies have shown it can help reduce late-night overeating. This is a huge struggle for many people that keeps them stuck at their current weight or causes them to gain more weight.
Finally, protein is so helpful for fat loss because it helps you maintain muscle mass. Muscle tissue burns calories even when you’re not moving or exercising, so, when you have more muscle, it makes it easier to lose fat.
Now, when you lose weight, it’s common that you’ll lose some muscle along with fat. However, this is something you want to minimize as much as possible. One way we do this is by getting enough protein, so your body has the materials it needs to repair and grow your muscle.
This is also why I highly recommend strength training when you’re losing weight, so you can increase the amount of muscle you have, which then increases the number of calories you naturally burn each day.
The first step of increasing your protein intake to match your fat loss goals is to determine a goal for the number of grams of protein to eat each day.
A good way to estimate your protein intake is to eat 0.8-1.2 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. I like to simplify this even further and suggest starting with 1g of protein per lb. of body weight. So, for example, if you weigh 150 lbs., you would eat 150g of protein each day.
This becomes a bit more difficult if you’re carrying a significant amount of extra weight right now. So you can also use your goal weight for your protein goal. For example, if you weigh 220 lbs. and your goal weight is 160 lbs, aim for 160g of protein every day. The best way to make sure you’re hitting these goals is to use an app, such as MyFitnessPal or Cronometer, to track your food intake. Tracking also allows you to become familiar with the amount of protein in the foods you commonly eat, so you can plan your meals to prioritize protein.
This amount of protein in a single meal is enough to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis, allowing you to maintain and build muscle mass. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this is the minimum. If you have a higher protein goal, you might need to be up at 30 to 40 grams of protein per meal, with a couple of snacks.
When you get hungry between meals, there’s nothing wrong with snacking. But if you’re always going for high carb, high fat, and low protein snacks like crackers or cookies, you’re probably going to struggle to reach your goals. Instead, try to eat more protein-rich snacks like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, protein smoothies, or plant-based options like roasted chickpeas and edamame. This will help you reach your total daily protein goal and keep you feeling full and energized throughout the day.
If you are struggling to hit your protein goals from whole food sources alone, consider supplementing with protein powder. Both plant-based protein and whey protein are good options depending on your preferences. They’re a great way to get more protein when you’re short on time or craving something sweet. One thing to keep in mind is you want to get the majority of your protein from whole foods. Protein powders are a way to fill in gaps in your nutrition, rather than making up a large part of your daily intake.
Most of the time, choose fresh, lean, and minimally processed sources of protein. This includes chicken, turkey, fish, tempeh, tofu, greek yogurt, eggs, cottage cheese, lean beef, and shrimp. If you follow a plant-based diet, beans and legumes will be important protein sources for you. But keep in mind that these protein sources also contain a significant amount of carbs, so they’ll add some extra calories to your diet.
The last thing I want to take you through is 3 sample meal plans for different protein targets. For some variety, since everyone has different goals, I’m going to share 3 sample days with 120g, 150g, and 200g of protein. In each of these plans, I’ll focus mainly on the sources of protein. But, I’ll also share some ideas for what you might have along with the protein sources for a complete meal. Planning your meal around the source of protein will help you make sure you’re hitting your daily goal.
While eating a high protein diet is important, it’s also essential to keep your total calorie goal in mind. To lose fat, you must be eating in a calorie deficit (eating fewer calories than you burn each day). So, grams of protein is a key number to track. But, eating 200g of protein, without watching how many calories you’re consuming, might result in weight gain instead of weight loss.
Okay, there you have it! 3 ways you can incorporate more protein into a full day of eating to reach your fat loss goals. If you want the PDF version of the sample plans I walked through today, I have a guide I created that includes everything you need to know about protein.
It goes through the best protein sources, the 3 meal plans I shared in this article, plus 3 ADDITIONAL protein meal plans, and finally it has a list of all my favorite high protein snack options and branded products.
If you want the guide, click here: https://link.7-figuresystems.com/widget/form/qf3YyMgrsl98k2uQAid7
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