Hey awesome MOT family, Emily here. Today we’re talking about protein…what is it, why do we care about it, how to increase your intake, good sources of it, etc. We’re focused on females in this conversation mostly because they struggle with this so much.
Let me start by saying that protein is more than just a macronutrient. It is the key nutrient in supporting healthy muscle, balanced metabolism, cell turnover, organ function, and much much more. About 60% of your body is made of water…guess what the other 40% is–yep, protein!! Eating more protein is directly linked to higher bone density, slower rate of bone loss, slower rate of muscle loss, increased resilience to stress, increased lean muscle mass, etc.
A good rule of thumb to follow = 1g of protein for every pound of ideal body weight (ex: 140lbs=140g of protein a day). I know this can sound like a huge jump for those of you that are only getting 40-50g a day right now. I find the easiest way to increase protein intake, is to aim for 30-40g at every meal. Here are two meal examples that would reach that goal:
1. 4oz cooked ground beef (23g), 1 cup of cooked sweet potato (2g), 1/2 avocado (2g), 1/2 cup of black beans (7g)
2. 4oz steak (28g) and 2 eggs (12g)
Try building your meals from a protein first mindset, and worry about the carbs and fat after that.
When we consume protein, we are eating for the amino acids that build protein. There are 9 essential amino acids and 11 non-essential amino acids. The 9 essential amino acids cannot be made by your body and must be consumed through food. Different proteins have different percentages of these amino acids, but when you look at a food label and see “7g of protein” it tells you nothing about the amino acid profile of those 7g of protein.
I know my opinions on this topic can be controversial, but I have seen so much evidence for animal-based protein sources to be prioritized over plant-based protein due to their bioavailability (ability for our bodies to actually use it). To put this into perspective, to get 25g of protein from beef, you would need to consume about 4oz which is 180 calories. To get 25g of protein from kidney beans, you would need to consume 3 and a half cups which is 385 calories. To get 25g of protein from quinoa, you would need to consume 3 cups which is 666 calories. Animal-based protein is the clear winner here for nutrient density per calorie. To take a quote from Dr. Gabrielle Lyon “Animal-source foods provide high-quality protein and various key nutrients that are highly bioavailable and more difficult to obtain via plant foods only. Various long-chain fatty acids (Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and DHA), minerals (zinc and iron), and vitamins (vitamin D and vitamin B12) are either (nearly) absent or less bioavailable in plants, where anti-nutritional factors may further complicate absorption and metabolic use. For example, compared with ruminant liver, young children would need more than 100 times the portion size of pulses to achieve a similar proportion of requirements for commonly lacking micronutrients—iron, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B12, folate, and calcium.”
To supplement your intake here are some protein powders and meat sticks with clean ingredients that I like:
Meat sticks: Chomps, Paleo Valley, Archer, Carnivore Crisps
Protein powder: Promix, Just Ingredients, Simply Tera’s, Ora Organic
This is a loaded topic, so don’t feel like you need to know everything right away. I’ve linked some sources below to learn more:
How to Heal Your Metabolism by Kate Deering
Deep Nutrition by Catherine Shanahan
The Dorito Effect by Mark Schatzker
If you have any questions for me, shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Emily PT, DPT