I *thought* I was eating healthy.
A bowl of Shredded Wheat with skim milk and berries for breakfast is filled with good fiber. It keeps the system moving…
Kinda. (This easy breakfast would rank as a ‘good’ choice.)
That was my thinking six years ago…
…then I became more enlightened about portions and the real importance of eating enough protein, smart carbs and healthy fats.
At the age of 45, I completely reshaped my body and dropped my body fat by 3%.
What was the difference?
It’s the key component to a healthy diet…
…but many people overlook or underestimate its importance.
Much of the confusion revolves around getting “enough” protein and choosing the “best” sources.
But there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to protein consumption.
- Getting “enough” protein is relative. A person’s ideal protein intake depends on their individual body, goals, and preferences.
- The “best” sources of protein, including plant-based protein, may vary from person to person. Some sources may be higher-quality than others, but intolerances and allergies need to be taken into account, as well as what a person is able to eat on a consistent basis.
Let me take a sip of my Synergy Raw Kombucha Trilogy drink so that we can get crystal clear.
When you finish this important read, you’ll have some great ideas on…
- WHERE to get healthy protein,
- good SOURCES for protein (whether you’re a plant-based eater or meat eater),
- the BENEFITS of eating enough protein and
- some of the DOWNFALLS of not getting enough.
How important is protein?
We need protein consistently from our diets in order to GROW, MAINTAIN, and REPAIR our tissues, hormones, and immune system.
Protein is the cellular building block of our bodies.
And during PREGNANCY, protein is even more important to create a new human life.
Some people may want to eat more or less protein depending on their preferences and goals, but we all need a bare minimum of protein to PREVENT issues like:
- losing muscle mass (which can cause a drop in your metabolism)
- having skin, hair, and nail problems
- healing more slowly if you get cuts or bruises
- experiencing mood swings (something none of us needs on top of those pesky mom hormones!)
- being more likely to break bones
If weight loss is your goal… focus on eating more sources of LEAN protein.
🤫Here’s a little secret — our bodies DO NOT store protein! It is immediately put to use.
That’s a really important fact that’s worth repeating… our bodies do not store protein. (It DOES store carbohydrates and fat.)
For my clients who are on a weight loss journey, I suggest to eat a source of quality protein when they’re hungry so that it will give them satiety and keep them on track for their goals.
The benefits of protein
Unless you have a specific medical reason to keep your protein intake low, most people will benefit from eating more protein.
The specific benefits of a higher-protein diet include:
- Appetite control: Eating a high-protein diet seems to improve satiety.
- Weight and body composition management: Higher protein intakes may help people eat less when they’re trying to lose fat, increase the number of calories burned through digestion (the thermic effect of food), and retain muscle during fat loss.
- Muscle growth or maintenance: Keeping protein levels high, combined with exercise, helps people gain vital muscle mass and hang onto it over time, especially as they age.
- Improved cardiometabolic health: High protein diets can help lower blood pressure, improve glucose regulation and blood cholesterol, and more.
- Better strength: Higher amounts of protein combined with exercise can also aid in strength gains.
- Improved immune function : Proteins are the building blocks of antibodies, and serve several functions in the immune system. People who are protein-deficient are more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections.
- Faster recovery: Higher protein intakes help to repair tissue damaged during exercise, as well as after injury.
There’s a big misconception out there that if you want to get more muscular, you just eat protein.
We have all these visions of big, bulky men at the gym chugging their protein shakes, but protein does not build muscle…
…it is a building block FOR muscle.
You also have to lift heavy weights to grow those muscles — it’s a two-fold system.
The benefit of protein and strength training
When we eat higher amounts of protein combined with exercise, it can aid in strength gains. For me personally, this was a huge breakthrough.
At the age of 45, I reshaped my body and dropped my body fat by 3%.
Just like I helped my client Alyssa, mom of 3, drop 7 pounds and 2% body fat this past year.
We both had to be more strategic with our workout time and lift heavier weights.
As an expert fitness trainer and a Precision Nutrition Level 2 nutrition coach — it’s a golden combination to help my clients gain more body confidence by building their strength and changing their body composition.
How much protein do you need?
Protein needs depend on a variety of factors including your age, weight, activity level, health status, goals and more.
Here are some general guidelines:
- Sedentary people should aim for a bare minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day (Or 0.36 grams per pound.)
- Adults over 65 should aim for 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. (Or 0.55 to 0.91 grams per pound of bodyweight.) New research shows that most older people need more protein than the bare minimum recommendation to slow down muscle loss.
- Athletes and active people should aim for between 1.2 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. (Or 0.55 to 1.0 grams per pound of bodyweight.) People who are overweight and obese may want to stick to the lower end of this range, since protein needs are not as high relative to their bodyweight.
- Healthy people who want to change their weight or body composition should strive for 1.6 to 3.3 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. (Or 0.75 to 1.5 grams per pound.) Going above the threshold for active people (2.2 grams of protein per kilogram) may not be necessary, but there’s little evidence it’s harmful.
So let’s do the math to give you an example.
A 165 pound person whose goal is to reduce overall body fat would strive to eat 0.75 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound.
165 x 0.75 = 123 grams of protein daily (minimum recommendation)
165 x 1.5 = 247 grams of protein daily (high-end recommendation)
An average between the two: 185 grams of protein each day. I will admit, that is a LOT of protein to intentionally consume over the course of a day. It will require you to be strategic about planning out meals and to have your pantry stocked.
But fat loss doesn’t require perfection.
My clients have successfully lost weight and body fat by simply incorporating a lean source of protein at each meal.
The point is to be more mindful and work on the continuum of making good, better, best food choices.
For example, if you typically eat a bowl of “healthy” cereal for breakfast, you could improve your choice, and opt for an egg white scramble instead, or 2 hard-boil eggs, or Skyr yogurt instead of a carb-based bowl of cereal.
A complete overhaul of your nutrition— all at once— isn’t’ the answer…
…simply because you’re not building the HABIT of eating better.
You’re trying to eat perfect all the time and that’s a diet mentality.
I actually dislike the word “diet”.
Focus on the continuum: good, better, best.
Another example, if you already eat some protein for lunch, ask yourself how could you incorporate MORE lean protein— at lunchtime.
Ready to dive into more useful info…
…I’m sharing some of my favorite recipes (and clients’ favorite recipes) and snack ideas that are protein focused.
…and how to take more small steps to work on the continuum.
xoxo, Coach Cassandra
P.S. If you need some more simple tips to implement immediately, shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Nutrition doesn’t have to be a guessing game, or complex. I’m here to help you out.