Humans have known about the power of protein since the early 19th century. That’s when protein first got its name, from the greek word proteios, which means “holding first place.”
Protein is, indeed, the most important macronutrient. Its importance is so universally understood that protein supplements generate over $20 billion worldwide.
We all need protein to live, but exactly how much do you need to thrive? And how can you make sure that you hit that number every day?
Below, I’ll answer some popular protein questions and share 3 easy ways you can sneak more protein into your daily routine.
Protein is crucial for life. It’s made up of what we call “essential” amino acids because they’re necessary for building and maintaining muscles and bones. Protein helps to regulate many cellular processes that affect everything from immune function to the oxygen levels in your blood.
This powerful macronutrient is also critical for weight loss. It increases satiation, decreases hunger, and builds muscle. Plus, protein fortifies your bones, improves brain function, and aids your immune system. It’s a super-nutrient you need daily.
Protein is made up of amino acids. Your body can make some amino acids but not all of them. In order to get the amino acids that we can’t make, we have to eat foods that contain them.
Animal protein—like fish, eggs, beef, and poultry—contains all the 9 amino acids that we need to receive from the food we eat. That’s why they’re referred to as “complete proteins.”
If you’re a meat eater, look for organic, free-range, and grass-fed sources. These options are protein-rich and provide a variety of other essential nutrients.
Do you prefer plant protein? There’re plenty of ways you can pack in protein as a vegan or vegetarian. In fact, my three tips below will apply to meat munchers and plant people alike!
Protein should be eaten evenly throughout the day. But there’s also a golden window when your body is primed for protein. In the first 30 minutes after intense exercise, your body can best use carbs and protein for recovery and muscle repair. That’s why a lot of gym junkies have a protein smoothie right after their workout.
The recommended daily allowance for protein is outdated. In fact, the measly 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day that’s recommended was a number formulated during World War II. This recommendation was set in order to safeguard the public’s health during possible food shortages.
The RDA is actually the minimum amount of protein you need to prevent a protein deficiency. It’s not the ideal amount of protein you should have each day. It’s not even close to what you need for optimal protein synthesis, muscle gain and maintenance, weight management, or glycemic control.
Instead of a mere 10 percent of your diet consisting of protein, shoot for 20-30%. Or, shift the RDA up to at least 1.2 to 1.6 grams of protein for every kilogram of your target body weight. For example, if you weigh 175 pounds and want to weight 150 pounds, you should eat between 80 and 110 grams of protein each day.
If you’re thinking that’s a lot to manage, here are three easy ways you can sneak a little extra protein into your diet each day.
Hitting your high protein target can be easy. These tricks will boost your daily intake by 50 grams!
Bump Up Your Baked Goods
Add protein powder to your baked goods to give them a boost. These high-protein goodies are full of healthy fat and fiber too! They’ll give you that full and satisfied feeling.
This is my favorite Saturday morning breakfast. The batter whips together in seconds in your blender. Then simply pour it into a hot pan, flip, and serve with a drizzle of maple syrup. You won’t believe how much protein is in each serving!
Collagen is known for its convenience. Because this protein powder is nearly flavorless, you can add it to your coffee, smoothie, soups, and baked goods easily. Try this tasty banana bread, or add a few scoops of collagen to your favorite baked recipes to increase their protein content.
Swap Your Carbs
A few simple swaps can bump up your protein big-time. Try out these swaps next time you’re meal planning.
Quinoa or Sorghum Instead of Rice
Quinoa has double the protein as white rice, with over 4 grams per half cup. Want to push your protein even higher? Try sorghum. This ancient grain packs in 10 grams of protein per half cup.
Chickpea Pasta Instead of Wheat Pasta
One cup of cooked spaghetti has 8 grams of protein. That doesn’t sound too shabby, until you learn that Banza’s chickpea pasta has nearly twice the protein, three times the fiber, and 30% fewer net carbs compared to traditional pasta.
Snack on Some Seeds
Seeds are a great source of fiber. They also contain healthy monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and many important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Chia, hemp, and flax are top picks. 2 tablespoons will give you about 6 grams of protein.
Chia seeds were a staple in the ancient Aztec diet. Recently, they’ve gained attention, recognized as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid.
A super simple way to increase your protein is to stir some chia seeds into your glass of water. Add a squeeze of lemon or a splash of fruit juice to give your drink a little flavor.
When blended with garlic and lemon, hemp seeds create a creamy dressing that rivals ranch. Try out this recipe if you have a high-power blender at home. If not, or if you’re short on time, simply sprinkle a few tablespoons of hemp seeds on top of your salad.
Try out this recipe or make your own! Simply whip together your favorite homemade oatmeal and add a few spoonfuls of ground flaxseed to the mix. My favorite way to enjoy this quick breakfast is with a scoop of sunflower seed butter, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a few dark chocolate chips.
Get 52 Protein Recipes Perfect for Weight Loss
Protein is a power player in how your body functions and looks, but it can be hard to fit in. Try out these tips. Then grab my recipe e-book and start incorporating some of my favorite high-protein recipes that I use in my own home!