Do you know how much protein your body needs? Protein is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in maintaining and building a healthy body. It is necessary for the growth and repair of tissues, the production of enzymes and hormones and the maintenance of healthy skin, hair and nails. But despite its importance, many people do not consume enough protein in their diets, which can lead to a range of health problems.
Most healthy adults over the age of 19 should get between 10-35% of their daily caloric intake from protein. One gram of protein offers four calories. So, a person with an average diet of 2,000 calories per day would need between 50 and 175 calories a day just from protein. When it comes to building muscle mass, the ideal protein intake depends on a variety of factors, including age, gender, activity level, health and more.
A high-protein diet can be obtained easily by choosing more protein-rich alternatives, including snacks like nuts, eggs and cottage cheese. This doesn’t just mean filling up on heavy meats like burgers, steaks and fried pork chops. Many veggies have high protein levels too, which is helpful for those with vegan or more plant-based diets. Instead of choosing heavily manufactured items and carbs for quick energy, the goal is to find high-protein food options for longer-lasting stamina.
Whether you are an athlete looking to build muscle, a busy professional in need of sustained energy or simply someone who wants to improve their overall health, there are four ways you can increase your protein intake:
- Incorporating more protein-rich foods into your diet
- Using protein supplements
- Experimenting with vegetarian and vegan protein options
- Eating a high-protein breakfast
Continue reading to gain valuable insights into how each of these strategies can benefit you.
Incorporating More Protein-Rich Foods Into the Diet
Incorporating more protein-rich foods into your diet is a simple yet effective method to increase your protein intake. Protein-rich foods are those that contain a high amount of protein per serving, and they can come from both animal and plant sources.
This doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. With a little planning and creativity, you can add more protein to your meals and snacks in a way that is both enjoyable and sustainable.
Here are some ways you can incorporate more protein into your meals and snacks:
Start With Protein-Rich Foods
Protein-rich foods should be the foundation of your meals and snacks. Some examples include chicken, turkey, fish, tofu, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. By starting with a protein-rich base, you’ll naturally increase the overall protein content of your meal or snack.
Use Protein-Rich Ingredients
In addition to starting with protein-rich foods, you can also use ingredients that are high in protein. Examples include protein powder, Greek yogurt, nut butter and cottage cheese.
Add Protein to Your Snacks
Snacks are a great opportunity to add more protein to your diet. Consider packing snacks like hard-boiled eggs, jerky or edamame to help boost your protein intake between meals.
Incorporate Protein Into Your Cooking
Look for ways to add protein to your meals as you’re cooking. For example, you can add canned beans to soups or stews, use Greek yogurt as a creamy topping for baked potatoes or sprinkle nuts or seeds on top of your salads.
Balance Your Meals
It is important to remember that meals should be balanced with protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats. Aim to include a protein source at each meal, along with plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
Types of Protein Supplements To Try
Protein supplements have become increasingly popular in recent years as people look for ways to increase their protein intake and support their health and fitness goals. There are several types of protein supplements available on the market, each with its own unique characteristics and benefits.
To choose, you will have to consider your individual goals, dietary restrictions and personal preferences. It is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian before adding any new supplements to your diet.
Here is a list of some protein supplements that may be helpful to add to your diet:
Whey protein is one of the most popular and widely used protein supplements. It is derived from milk and is quickly absorbed by the body, making it an ideal choice for post-workout recovery.
Casein protein is also derived from milk and is absorbed more slowly by the body than whey protein. This makes it a good option for providing a sustained release of amino acids throughout the day.
Soy protein is derived from soybeans and is a good option for vegetarians or those with dairy allergies. It is a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids.
Pea protein is derived from yellow split peas and is a good option for vegetarians or those with soy or dairy allergies. It is also easily digestible and contains all of the essential amino acids.
Rice protein is derived from brown rice and is another good option for vegetarians or those with allergies to soy or dairy. Like pea protein, this option contains all of the essential amino acids and can be easily digested.
Hemp protein is derived from the seeds of the hemp plant and is a good option for vegetarians or those with allergies to soy or dairy. It is also a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Collagen protein is derived from animal connective tissue and is a good option for those looking to support joint health or improve skin and hair health.
Experiment With Vegetarian or Vegan Protein Sources
While many people associate protein with meat and other animal products, there are plenty of plant-based options that are just as nutritious and satisfying.
Experimenting with vegetarian and vegan protein sources can be a great way to add variety to your diet while also improving your overall health. Not only are these foods typically lower in saturated fat and higher in fiber than animal-based protein sources, but they are also often more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Additionally, incorporating more plant-based protein sources into your diet can help reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Below is a list of some excellent vegetarian and vegan protein sources:
Legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas and black beans, are an excellent source of protein, as well as fiber and other important nutrients. A popular dish made with legumes is hummus, made with chickpeas. These ingredients can also be easily incorporated into a variety of soups.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, chia seeds and hemp seeds, are a good source of protein and healthy fats. While many nuts and seeds can be eaten as a snack on their own, chia and hemp seeds are also commonly sprinkled on soups, salads, smoothies and more.
Quinoa is a versatile grain that is also a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids. Quinoa goes well in salads and soups. It can also be used as a protein-rich side dish.
Tofu and Tempeh
Tofu and tempeh are soy-based protein sources that are popular among vegetarians and vegans and are commonly used as a substitute for meat in many dishes. They can be baked, fried, grilled and more, which makes them versatile ingredients to add to any plant-based dish.
Seitan is a wheat-based protein source that has a meaty texture and can be used in a variety of dishes including sandwiches, stir-fries, tacos, or wraps
Making Protein a Priority at Breakfast
Making protein a priority at breakfast is an excellent way to start your day off on the right foot. Protein is a vital macronutrient that is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue, regulating blood sugar levels and keeping you feeling full and satisfied throughout the day.
Unfortunately, many breakfast foods are high in carbohydrates and low in protein, which can lead to energy crashes and unhealthy snacking later in the day. By incorporating protein-rich foods into your breakfast, you can help ensure that you are getting the nutrients you need to support your health and fitness goals.
Easy Ways To Incorporate Protein Into Your Breakfast
By making a few quick swaps in the ingredients you use in your breakfast each day, you can drastically increase your protein intake. All it takes is a conscious effort and understanding of the protein-rich items that are available in your pantry.
Eggs are a great source of high-quality protein and can be cooked in a variety of ways, such as scrambled, fried or boiled.
Use Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is a creamy and delicious source of protein that can be eaten on its own or mixed with fruit and granola.
Try Protein Pancakes or Waffles
You can make pancakes or waffles with protein powder or by using high-protein flour such as almond flour.
Add Nut Butter
Nut butter, such as peanut butter or almond butter, is a delicious source of protein and healthy fats that can be spread on toast or used as a dip for fruit.
Have a Protein Smoothie
Smoothies can be an easy way to pack in a lot of nutrients, including protein. Add a scoop of protein powder, along with fruits and vegetables, to make a filling and nutritious breakfast.
Benefits of a High-Protein Breakfast
A high-protein breakfast can show a wide range of results for any kind of lifestyle, altering your weight, muscle mass, cognitive health and overall wellness. Here are a few specific ways increasing your protein intake at breakfast can improve your life:
Helps Control Appetite
Eating a protein-rich breakfast can keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer, which can help reduce hunger cravings and snacking later in the day.
Supports Weight Loss
Protein is a key nutrient for building and maintaining muscle mass, which can help boost your metabolism and support weight loss goals.
Improves Muscle Recovery
Protein is essential for muscle recovery and repair, making it especially important for athletes or those engaging in regular exercise.
Provides Sustained Energy
Unlike carbohydrates, protein takes longer to digest, which means that it provides sustained energy over a longer period of time, helping you power through your morning.
Helps Regulate Blood Sugar Levels
A high-protein breakfast can help regulate blood sugar levels and prevent the mid-morning energy crashes that often occur after consuming high-carbohydrate meals.
Improves Cognitive Function
Protein is an essential building block for neurotransmitters, which play a key role in cognitive function and mood regulation. Eating a high-protein breakfast can help improve focus, concentration and overall cognitive performance.
Increasing your protein intake doesn’t require a drastic change in your eating habits. It can be as simple as adding a protein supplement to your routine, adding more protein-rich ingredients to your cooking or making protein more of a priority at breakfast or snack time.
By incorporating more protein into your diet, you will quickly notice an array of improvements in your lifestyle, from your weight, energy level, muscle mass and even mental function. There are so many ways to add more protein into your diet, so there’s bound to be a new protein source or protein-rich recipe that suits your needs. Now’s the time to find it!
Take charge of your health and transform your lifestyle with UCF Health’s Lifestyle Medicine services. Schedule an appointment today to explore how our expert team can support you in achieving optimal well-being and making lasting, positive changes for a healthier life.