Protein, protein, protein. It’s always been a hot topic in any conversation about diet, nutrition, exercise, and health. Some people say to eat more of it, some say to eat less of it. Some say to eat it from animal sources, some say plant based only. Some say to religiously track it, some say to eat it intuitively. Just about everyone says you need it to build lean muscle.
In this blogpost, we’re going to break it down simply. How much protein you should eat, what type of protein you should eat, and what to stay away from. We are going to answer the following questions:
How much protein should I eat? What type of protein is best for building lean muscle?
Is whey protein powder good for building muscle? What are the best ways to eat more protein? Let’s dive in!
How much protein should I eat?
There is a lot of conflicting information about how much protein you need to be healthy and build lean muscle. Some experts say to weigh and measure it down to the gram, some say to just listen to your body and eat intuitively.
I have a fairly simple approach to portioning that will keep you on track with your protein intake without having to religiously weigh and measure it all the time. I will add that if you are a professional athlete or have very specific sports related goals, then I am in full support of being more regimented with your intake portioning. But for your average person, the following guide works pretty well.
My greatest suggestion is to keep it simple. If you overwhelm yourself with complicated recipes or the burden of having to weigh and measure all of your food, you run the risk of burnout. So, here’s my simple recommendation.
Divide your plate into thirds. Fill ⅓ with high quality protein. Fill the other ⅔ with vegetables.
It doesn’t get any easier than that.
Of course, you may add carbohydrates like gluten-free pasta and bread or potatoes and other starchy fruits and vegetables. You may experiment and discover that your body feels good with a bit of rice, oats, and other whole grains. All fine. But in the beginning, keep it simple. If you are looking to build muscle, you can increase this portion slightly more to sustain your goals.
What type of protein is best for building lean muscle?
My favorite protein choices? Stick with chicken, turkey, lamb, game, fish, and broths. As far as pork and eggs, I would say that it depends on the person. For instance, some of my clients eat eggs and feel great, others discover that it’s a trigger food. You need to experiment with your body to find that out (my program is designed to take you through that process, click here for more info). If possible, choose organic, free-range, hormone and antibiotic free. Grass-fed beef is fine one to two times per week for most people as well. I am a huge believer in getting protein from natural sources and whole foods.
Is whey protein powder good for building muscle?
I’m willing to bet that you have a few friends that just swear by their protein shake. Especially in the “gym culture” world, everyone seems to have a protein powder that they love and drink religiously. Additionally, there are numerous snack bars that claim to be excellent sources of protein. But not all of them are quality sources of protein. How do you know what is healthy and not?
Here’s what to watch out for:
For many people, whey protein is a huge irritant and inflammatory ingredient. It can cause digestive issues, bloating, and discomfort. There are countless other sources of protein that are cleaner, more nutrient rich, and far better for your body than whey protein.
Artificial Sweeteners, Preservatives, and Sugar:
When it comes to both protein shakes and protein bars, it is almost impossible to find one that doesn’t have at least one of these three offenders. The “low sugar or “low carb” products almost always have artificial sweeteners and ingredients. The rest have tons of sugar. Almost all of them have preservatives and artificial ingredients. Let me be clear, there are a few on the market that hit the narrow criteria of no artificial ingredients, preservatives, all natural ingredients, etc. but you need to be highly selective and cautiously read all ingredients in order to find them.
This is prevalent in many bars and shakes, especially for those labeled as “vegan” or “plant based”. Low quality soy is one of the worst things for the body and is something you should steer clear of if you’re looking to calm inflammation.
What are the best ways to eat more protein?
So, what are the best ways to eat more protein? First, make sure to nail the basics. Make sure you are getting good servings of high-quality protein at each meal. You’re going to feel better, have higher athletic performance and stay fuller longer. Again, stick with chicken, turkey, lamb, game, fish, and broths. If possible, choose organic, free-range, hormone and antibiotic free. Grass-fed beef is fine one to two times per week for most people as well.
For quick protein sources try bone broth and collagen-based protein bars and shakes. You can also eat meat sticks or jerky, as long as you can pronounce all the words on the ingredients list and you keep an eye on sugar, sodium, MSG, and any other flavor additives that are unhealthy. Nuts and nut butter have a small amount of protein, and the fat will keep you feeling full longer. Also, don’t shy away from simply having a “mini-meal” as a snack as well. A little taco meat in a gluten free tortilla, tuna and gluten-free crackers, or paleo chicken salad on a gluten-free wrap can be satisfying and delicious.
If you’re interested in increasing athletic performance naturally, getting conclusive answers about a health challenge you've been dealing with, or reaching specific health and wellness goals, I invite you to set up a free consultation here where we can chat about your needs and I can share more about my testing process and wellness program. We’ll see if we’re a fit to work together and move on with next steps from there.