7 Strategies to Increase Your Protein Intake
Protein is one of the three macronutrients which your body needs to live and function properly -- the other two being carbohydrates and fats.
When it comes to dieting, losing body-fat and improving your body composition, protein intake is one of the first things which I like to analyse and address.
This is due to the fact that most Western diets contain too much carbohydrates and insufficient protein.
Resulting in higher body-fat levels and an environment which isn't conducive to muscle maintenance or growth. Neither of these are good for improving the way your body is shaped.
I bring up the point of muscle maintenance and growth for the fact that muscle is what "shapes" your body, giving it that toned look. Which is why it's crucial to maintain as much of it and even build some.
Protein is the building block of muscle, which is why it must be placed as a priority when building your meals and become a regular staple in your diet.
It also plays a huge role in your metabolism. Muscle is what's known as "metabolically active", meaning, that you burn calories just to maintain it.
The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn. Cool, huh!
I want to provide you with 7 strategies you can use to ensure your body receives adequate protein so that you can maximise your efforts in the gym, repair and build muscle tissue, while positively changing the way your body looks.
Before I dive into the strategies, it's worth mentioning how much protein you require per day;
Lightly active = 1.0 - 1.5g p/kg of BW
Very active = 1.5 - 2.0g p/kg of BW
Example 1 - 80kg, lightly active man would require 80-120 grams of protein per day.
Example 2 - 80kg, very active man would require 120-160 grams of protein per day.
The lower number on the lightly active range would see you closer to what is known as protein maintenance, the least amount of protein required to prevent muscle breakdown.
Personally, I would rather consume more protein than what's required, than not enough, to make sure I preserve my hard-earned muscle.
Now that you have some numbers to work with, here are seven ways you can increase your protein intake.
1. Identify all the foods classed as proteins
This means the food contains more protein than any other nutrient. If you're looking at food packaging and labels, this would mean the protein content of the food is higher than that of carbohydrates and fats.
If it isn't, then it isn't a "protein" food. It would be a carbohydrate, or fat, with 'some' protein in it.
Below is a list of protein-dense foods which you can choose from;
- Greek Yoghurt
- Protein supplements
2. Protein in every meal
Given the importance of protein, you must take the approach of making it a staple in every single meal. Otherwise you risk not receiving enough to meet your daily needs and also having the body not prioritise muscle repair or growth.
This might be ok on the odd occasion, but isn't going to set you up for long-term success and body transformation.
You can simply achieve this goal by asking yourself, "Does this meal have a protein source in it?" Yes or no.
If "Yes", great. If "No", grab some protein and add it to your meal.
3. Eat your protein first
If you know from the first two strategies that you generally don't get enough protein in your diet, then this one is for you. Eat your protein first.
When trying to lose weight, there WILL be times when you are hungry.
You will also be gradually reducing you calorie intake, meaning you are eating less calorie-dense food.
To maximise your meals and also ensure satiety, be sure to eat your source of protein first.
That way you know you have ticked the box to prioritise your muscle and can stay fuller, longer.
4. Eat a high-protein breakfast
Increasing your protein intake can't just happen at lunch and dinner meals. It starts from your very first meal, breakfast.
I have written extensively on this topic, in my article, "STOP eating breakfast for breakfast".
This covers this point perfectly.
5. High-protein snacks
Two of my favourite protein snacks are greek yoghurt and beef jerky or biltong.
Greek yoghurt is inexpensive and a simple way for you to get some protein quickly into your diet.
Plain will be the lowest calorie and sugar option, so, if your prime goal is fat-loss, opt for this flavour.
If you aren't too fussed about your body shape and are focusing on muscle gain, then a fruit flavoured yoghurt may be a suitable choice for you.
Beef jerky and biltong are more expensive, but are a lean meat option which are both high in protein.
These can be great to store in the pantry, or take in your bag in case you get held up at work late, or stuck in a meeting.
This is what I personally turn to when I want a treat or just need to up my protein intake.
6. Eating out? Double protein
When going out and indulging on foods which aren't a part of your normal eating plan, it can be easy to rack up the calories and also neglect protein, too.
Which is why I like to advise ordering double protein.
If traditionally, you would order a burger, large chips and a 600mL soft drink or alcoholic beverage, I can let you know upfront there is a tonne of carbs and very minimal protein in there.
Solution: Double protein in burger, small chips and small drink or water.
You will feel as full, with the double protein in the burger and save extra calories by reducing the chips and drink.
Eating a different cuisine, like Mexican or Italian?
Mexican: Instead of nachos or a burrito, save the carbs and have a 'bowl', filling it up with more protein, once again.
Italian: Ask for less pasta and extra meat. I'm sure the restaurant would be able to accommodate that small request.
7. Protein supplementation
I have left this strategy last on purpose, for the fact that I see people run straight towards it, without ever trying to address the other more important areas first.
Adding a supplement to a poor diet is the equivalent of placing a band-aid on a broken leg. It masks a really big issue.
It isn't a replacement, or designed to change what you are already doing. It is there to go on top of what you are doing.
Supplementation = The addition of an extra element or amount to something.
If you have tried all the strategies before this one and are still falling short of reaching your protein intake, then a supplement may well be a worthwhile investment.
When looking for a protein supplement, there are 3 things to look for;
1) Number of ingredients.
You want the LEAST amount of ingredients possible. Ideally, 5 or less. If it has more than that, or includes words you can't even pronounce, then I would re-think your choice.
2) Grams of protein per 100g
The role of a protein powder is to increase your protein intake, so you want something with a high concentration of protein per 100g of powder. The higher the protein, the better it will be for your goals. It also means you won't need as much powder, compared to a supplement with a lower concentration.
The supplement industry is massive and has a million different products on offer. Try not to get caught up in the hype of what they are peddling.
What do you require? A protein powder.
Then search for that and spend as much/little as your budget allows you to, bearing in mind your goals and your budget.
If you are invested in your goals long-term, you're better off to get a larger quantity, as the cost per/kg comes down with a larger order.
My recommendation: Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) from Bulk Nutrients. Website here.
There you have it!
Seven sure-fire ways to increase your protein intake so that you can lose unwanted body-fat, speed up your metabolism and improve your body composition.
Remember, these strategies will work when you do them consistently. It won't happen overnight, but if you stick with them, it will happen!
Until next time,
Eat your protein.