Learn why protein is important, how much protein you should eat a day, and the truth about protein and weight loss.
You have heard me say it before. Protein is the nutritional key to unlocking sustainable fat loss. It is the macronutrient EVERY SINGLE CLIENT of mine in the FASTer Way discovers they are undereating. It is also the macronutrient that keeps my clients satiated during the morning hours before they break their fast. It is the macronutrient that not only aids in fat loss but more importantly sustains it.
Before we dive into how much you should be eating and the best sources to get it from, let’s first talk about why protein is important to the body.
Why Protein Is Important
Protein is one of 3 nutritional building blocks of the human body, also called macronutrients (carbs, fat, protein) and is found in skin, hair, hails, bones, muscle – virtually every tissue in our body.
Protein Is Essential for Muscle Growth
Protein is an essential nutrient for muscle growth. It helps build and maintain muscles by providing amino acids needed for building new tissue. In addition, protein supports healthy bones and teeth, aids digestion, and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Protein Helps To Build Strong Bones
Most people think of calcium and vitamin D when it comes to supporting bone health, but dietary protein is crucial in the prevention of osteoporosis and bone strength as it makes up approximately 50% of bone volume and about 33% of its mass.
Protein Supports Healthy Skin and Hair.
Protein supports healthy skin and hair by helping maintain moisture levels in our bodies.
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What Is Protein
The macronutrient, protein, is made up of 20+ amino acid chains that are the star player in all those important functions mentioned above, especially building muscle tissue and repairing cells. Of these 20 amino acids, the body self-produces 11 which means we need to get the other 9 amino acids from food sources.
The 11 amino acids our body produces are referred to as “non-essential” (we can make them in our sleep), but the other 9 are called “essential” (we have to work to get these into our body). The 9 essential amino acids include:
- Leucine (BCAA)
- Isoleucine (BCAA)
- Valine (BCAA)
Have you heard of BCAAs? Ever wondered what in the world they are? Those first three amino acids are known as branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) referred to as such due to the branched-chain-like nature of their molecular structure. I know, I know. I just yawned too.
But the reason you will hear of BCAAs in supplements or from athletes is that they play an especially heavy role in muscle building, endurance, recovery, regulating blood sugar, and counteracting a stress hormone called cortisol.
This article is focused on those 9 essential amino acids – the protein we are responsible to fuel our bodies with in order to optimally thrive.
The Two Types Of Protein
There are two types of protein found in our diets that are classified based on whether or not all 9 of the essential amino acids are present. Complete proteins contain all 9 essential amino acids. Incomplete proteins only have a few.
Complete proteins are primarily found in animal-based food sources such as fish, chicken, turkey, eggs, dairy products, beef etc.
Incomplete proteins are generally found in plant-based food sources such as nuts, grains, vegetables, beans, seeds etc.
This information begs a couple of questions. How do vegans/vegetarians get enough protein? Are certain protein sources preferable to others? How much of these 9 essential proteins do I need each day? What does any of this have to do with weight loss?
Let’s start with how much protein you should consume in a day and why this is essential to sustainable fat loss and fit living.
How Much Protein You Should Eat A Day
We have talked about the different types of protein and the dietary sources that provide this essential macronutrient, but let’s talk about how much protein you should eat a day.
According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020, adults ages 19 years and older should consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight daily or roughly 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This translates into approximately 56 grams of protein per day for a 150-pound adult or 11% of the recommended total calories if based on a 2,000 calories/day guideline.
But it is important to note that not everyone needs the same amount of protein every day. Some people actually require more than others. This is because different individuals have varying levels of muscle mass, so they need more or less protein based on what percentage of their total body weight is made up of lean tissue.
A quick tip for when you are analyzing your plate for protein – you want approximately one fist size of protein at each meal/snack.
For my FASTer Way clients, we are proactively replacing excess, disease-promoting body fat with lean, mean muscle tissue to reach a sustainable, fit body fat percentage (Learn how to assess your disease risk by calculating your body fat percentage HERE).
There are multiple strategies we use to do this, but two primary players are increased protein intake + muscle building cardio and strength training. To give you an idea, my clients set their protein intake to 25% of their daily caloric requirements.
Knowing how much protein you should eat a day and appropriately increasing your intake will also help you feel full and limit low nutrient-density snacking (goodbye pretzels before dinner).
I am willing to bet my favorite pair of stiletto heels that you are undereating protein. So is the easy answer to simply eat more protein? Unfortunately, no.
The Truth About Protein And Weight Loss
We have chatted about how much protein you should eat a day and established that it is very likely you are undereating it, but unfortunately the truth about protein and weight loss is not a straightforward one. Running some numbers to determine how much protein you should eat a day, and then simply increasing protein intake is not enough.
One, you must be utilizing these essential amino acids to your body’s benefit. If you simply increase protein consumption without increasing your body’s demand for it (strength-building exercise), then you have effectively managed to add 4 kcals/gram of protein to your overall intake without optimally using it.
Two, a lot of protein is high in saturated fat and salt negatively impacting someone with a predisposition for heart disease or high blood pressure.
Three, if the protein is increased it needs to be consumed throughout the day. Due to a process called protein synthesis, our bodies can only use approximately 25-35 grams of protein in one sitting (or roughly every 2 hours). To translate this into muscle-building dialogue, your body will only use 25-35 grams of bioavailable protein for skeletal muscle synthesis per meal.
This leads us to point number four (I warned you this was not straightforward). Not all protein sources have the same bioavailability. The simple explanation of bioavailability is the percentage of amino acids the body can use after the protein source has been digested. This article is an excellent reference on protein bioavailability with great resources, but if you don’t want to take the time, not to worry, because another post/podcast episode is coming soon on the best dietary sources of protein including the breakdown of protein bioavailability.
Food was meant to be enjoyed, but we need to learn to be mindful consumers of how we are fueling our bodies. The right food at the right time for the right reasons.
If you would like to learn a sustainable way of living fit and well where food is leveraged as fuel to prevent disease, strengthen your body, and lose fat fast, then join my next round of the FASTer Way To Fat Loss that starts Monday September 12!
Stay tuned for more on protein including a food list of the best dietary protein sources, understanding supplements, and protein powders, and lots of delicious protein shake recipes to help you reach your goals.
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As you are starting to look at your plates and you’re thinking, how do I know if I have enough protein on this plate, approximately the size of your fist. So for example, a chicken breast size of your fist. Welcome to the imperfectly empowered podcast with DIY healthy lifestyle blogger on former, empowering you to transform your life. One imperfect day at a time. Hello, and welcome back to the imperfectly empowered podcast. I am your host, Anna Fuller. Today we are chatting the truth about protein and weight loss. We’re going to learn why protein is important, how much protein you should actually eat in a day. And the truth about how it has anything to do with losing weight or more importantly, sustain. Weight loss. You’ve heard me say it before. Protein is the nutritional key to unlocking sustainable fat loss. It is the macronutrient, every single client of mine in the faster way, discovers they are undereating. It is also the macronutrient that keeps my clients SATD during the morning hours, before they break their fast. And it is the macronutrient that not only aids in fat loss, but more importantly helps to sustain. So let’s first, before we dive into how much you should be eating and the best sources to get protein from let’s first talk about why protein is important to the body. Protein is one of the three nutritional building blocks of the human body. Also called macronutrients. Those are carbs, fat protein, and is found in skin, hair, nails, bones, muscle, virtually every tissue in our. Protein is an essential nutrient for muscle growth. It helps build and maintain muscles by providing amino acids, needing for building new tissue. It also supports healthy bones. Teeth, age digestion helps regulate blood sugar levels. I mentioned that it helps to build strong bones. Most people think of calcium and vitamin D when it comes to supporting bone health. But dietary protein is crucial in the prevention of osteoporosis and bone strength. As it makes up, hear this, it makes up approximately 50% of bone volume and about 33% of its mass. I mentioned that it supports healthy skin and hair. It helps maintain moisture levels in our bodies. Protein has endless roles in physiology and optimally thriving in our bodies. But what is protein? Don’t worry. I’m not gonna put you to sleep. Hang with me. This is actually important to understand. Especially once we start talking about supplements, protein powders, we’re gonna address it in a way that you’ve probably never heard before. We’re going to simplify it so that you can understand the why behind the. Let’s first chat. What is protein? The macronutrient protein. It is made up of 20 plus amino acid chains. Just going to address 20. And these are the star players in all those important functions mentioned above, especially building muscle tissue and repairing cells of these 20 amino acids. The body self produces 11. Which means we need to get the other nine amino acids from food sources. So this is dietary protein, the 11 amino acids that our body produces are referred to as non-essential, you’ve probably heard that before. Non-essential just simply means like we can make them in our sleep. All right. These are non-essential for us to prioritize because our bodies have been fearfully and wonderfully made and they are making. In our sleep. These are non-essential. We can kind of put those aside. We don’t need to worry about those 11. However, the other nine are called essential amino acids. This means we have to work to get these into our body. Again, we mentioned all of the important functions that protein provides for our bodies. So these nine are essential that we add them. Into our diet, the nine essential amino acids Garity for these names Lu Ising valine trip. Fan lycine nein histidine Fenella three Aine. They all sound like Lord of the rings characters. They’re not, they are the nine essential amino acids. And here’s an interesting side note for any of you who are in fitness programs, nutrition programs, you’ve read up on supplements or protein powders. The list goes on. You’ve probably heard of B, C a. Have you ever wondered what in the world? They actually are. You’ll hear of people. Like I take my BCAs in the morning. What are BCAs? Those first three amino acids that I just listed. Luine ISEL and valine. Those three are actually known as branched chain, amino acids, or B C A’s BCAs they’re referred to as such due to the branch chain, like nature of the molecular structure. I know, I just said, molecular, please don’t fall asleep on me, hang in there. But I, you know, I think it’s important to understand. You’re being told and what are BCAs, you’ve heard fitness influencers talk about them. What are they? So the reason that BCAs are especially discussed in weightlifting or body building, or for athletes is of those nine essential amino acids. They are. Sort of like the first string lineup, if you will, they play an especially heavy role in building muscle, improving endurance, regulating blood sugar, counteracting a stress hormone called cortisol. I’ve mentioned it before. So that’s part of the reason that you’ll hear people specifically taking BBCs, especially if they’re athletes or in that fitness world, because they do play a large role, especially in. The muscle building process, which is ultimately the breakdown and then the repairing of cells to build muscle this entire podcast though, moving forward. I want you to understand that the protein that I’m talking about is these nine essential amino acids, the protein that we are responsible to fuel our bodies with in order to optimally. So when we talk about protein, I want you to be able to associate that we are talking about those nine essential amino acids, which are the building blocks then of protein. So we talked about the nine essential amino acids, but there are two types of protein then based on whether or not all nine of those essential amino acids are present. These are called complete proteins. And incomplete proteins. And I, you know, I shouldn’t have to say this, but if some of you are like, just super, super knowledgeable about this stuff, please understand that I am simplifying things. I am not taking a deep dive because nobody will listen. and I recognize that. So I’m trying to keep this. Simplified and understandable without causing overwhelm. I want this to actually be useful, not just informational. So understand that they’re basically broken down into complete proteins, which contain all nine of those essential Menino acids and incomplete proteins, which only have a few of them, not all nine or they’re miss, even if they’re just missing one of the nine, it is considered an incomplete protein. Complete proteins are primarily found in animal based food sources, such as fish, chicken, Turkey, eggs, dairy products, beef, et cetera. Right? I don’t need to expand on that animal based food sources, incomplete proteins are generally found in plant based food sources, such as nuts, grains, vegetables, beans, seeds. Leges if you will, et cetera. This begs a couple questions, right? If you synthesized what I just said, a question that would be very reasonable is then how do vegans and vegetarians get complete protein or does it really matter? Do you need complete proteins or do you just need a whole bunch of incomplete proteins? How many of these proteins do I need each day? How much protein ultimately, should I be consuming in a. What does any of this have to do with weight loss or fat loss in my world, let’s start with how much protein you should consume in a day. And why this is essential to sustainable fat loss. All right. So how much protein you should eat in a day? According to the U S D a dietary guidelines for Americans, adults ages 19 and older should consume approximately 0.8 grams of protein per kilo. Now one kilogram is 2.2 pounds by the. Of body weight daily, or roughly to break this down to terms we can understand and use roughly 0.4 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This translates into approximately 56 grams of protein a day for a 150 pound adult to convert that into another number that is 11%. Of the recommended total calories a day. If you are following the general recommendation of 2000 calories a day guideline, that’s 11%. Here’s what is important to understand. Not everyone needs the exact same amount of protein. Every day. We cannot generalize. This is how many grams you should eat a day across the. Some people will require more than others. This is because different individuals have varying levels of muscle mass. Which could require more or less protein based on what percentage of their total body weight is made up of lean tissue. So just how much kprotein should you eat a day? Now, when we talk about body weight, we talk about weight loss versus fat loss. If you have not heard my whole spiel on the importance of body fat percentage, there’s multiple podcasts episodes where, you know, I’m addressing other areas like macronutrients and the importance of, you know, body fat percentage over. The number on a scale, et cetera, but just understand that there is a number that is of your total body weight that is ultimately made up of lean. Tissue. And this is essentially what protein is helping to build. You have tried it all worried. You will never lose the extra weight or reclaim the energy you once enjoyed, want to achieve bat loss without spending hours in a gym or eliminating entire food groups from your diet. Well, now you can in the virtual faster way to fat loss with on a, my six week fitness nutrition program, you will learn how to pair effective 30 minute workouts with all natural evidence-based nutritional strategies to leverage what you eat. And when you eat to reset your metabolism and burn fat fast, even that stubborn belly. I am a dual certified nurse practitioner, passionate about teaching sustainable strategies to promote fat loss and prevent disease. I have cheered on thousands of clients who have done just that with the faster weight program in my six week program, the average client currently sheds seven inches of body fat. 93% report, more energy and 89% state that their mental health has improved 100% of clients report. They feel this program is sustainable. Curious to try the program, but not sure if the strategies will work for you. Try the faster way strategies for free head to www.hammersandhugs.com and sign up for. Free seven day fat loss accelerator course today and start your own transformation story for my faster way clients, we are proactively replacing excess disease, promoting body fat with lean mean muscle tissue to reach a sustainable fit body fat percent. I included a link. I’ve not done a podcast episode on this yet. It is coming hang tight. I’m trying to make it very applicable for people. But if you want to learn how to assess your disease risk by calculating your body fat percentage, you wanna click on this link. It’s going to talk about how to understand total body weight appropriately, what you should do with the number on the scale. I’ll give you a hint. You should ditch your scale. The majority of you should be ditching your. And measuring body fat percentage. So be sure to click on that link. Like I said, there’s a podcast episode coming, something I’m very passionate about because we need to be using numbers that actually matter not ones that just simply destroy our mental and emotional health, like the number on a scale. There are multiple strategies that we use in my faster rate of fat loss clients in the program to do this. But two primary players in fat loss are increased protein intake. Plus muscle building cardio and strength training to give you an idea of this increased protein intake. My clients set their protein intake to 25% of their daily caloric requirements. If you missed it, the example, the general recommendation that I gave above for the average say male, who’s 150 pounds is 11%. Ours is 25% and this is not unique to my program. This would be a fairly common percentage. I am willing to bet my favorite pair of stiletto heels that you are under eating protein. And I love my heels. So this begs the question is the easy answer to all of this to simply eat more protein. Well unfortunately. The truth about protein and weight loss is not a straightforward one. Simply increasing your protein intake is not enough. It’s not enough one. You must be utilizing these essential amino acids to your body’s benefit. If you simply say I’m going to eat more protein, because this is all, you know, we always have these fads that go around without actual explanation of the why behind the what or the how behind the why the reality is you see all of these associations eat more protein, improve weight loss, but here is the thing. If you just run a number to determine how much protein you should eat a day and simply increase your protein intake without increasing your body’s demand for said protein. With strength, building cardio strength, building exercise. Then you have effectively managed to add four calories per gram of protein to your overall daily intake without optimally using it. I am not all about calorie counting. You guys have heard me talk about the power of macronutrients, power of tracking macros. However, I made clear that is a podcast episode that I did by the way, check out macros tracking macros. First counting calories, but you still need to understand that the foundational principle of calories and calories out that is still foundational, meaning there does still to some degree have to be a calorie deficit, meaning this simply because protein, although it does absolutely aid in fat loss and sustainable fat loss, you still have to match it with energy. Now, what people don’t understand is also the way to maximize the energy out piece, which is we’re talking about exercise, exercise, activity, thermogenesis. We’re talking about non-exercise activity thermogenesis, right? Just your daily movement and increasing your non-exercise calories burned. There’s so many strategies to maximizing the energy out, but I’m trying to make the point that even though I’m all about tracking macros, I’m not all about calories and calories out because the quality of the calories matter, they matter, we don’t wanna deprivation mindset, which is what calorie tracking more often than not remotes. Not always, but more often than not. We went to see food as. To be mindful about what we’re eating. It is much, much easier to do that when you understand what tracking macros involves and understanding what you are fueling your body with and how it is effectively empowering strengthening, healing your body. So you cannot just determine how much protein you should eat a day and then increase protein without matching that increase with the appropriate exercise truth. Number two. A lot of protein is high in saturated fat. And especially if it has been processed, it is also going to be very high in salt, this poses some significant chronic health issues, or could negatively impact someone who has a predisposition for heart disease or high blood pressure. I would be a perfect example of this, even though I am a very. Body fat percentage, heart disease. High cholesterol is a very real issue in my history, as well as in my genes. I don’t have it yet, but it is a risk factor. Know your risk factors. So for me to just simply increase my protein without mindfully assessing what type of protein I am feeling my body with could result in too much saturated fat could result in too much salt. So again, to just simply increase it. You have to be careful. You have to actually understand the protein that you are fueling with three. If the protein is increased, it needs to be consumed throughout the day. Due to a process called protein synthesis. Our bodies can only use approximately 25 to 35 grams of protein. In one, sitting, one, sitting, being defined as roughly two hours to be able to actually use that protein digest it, metabolize it, et cetera, create its availability to the body. So to translate this into muscle building dialogue is again, the goal is to increase protein intake with the right protein match. It. With effective strength building exercises, because we want to replace disease, inducing fat with lean muscle tissue. That’s the goal here, but if we’re increasing our protein intake men, especially because, you know, men’s protein intake can actually be quite high. If you are packing in 60 grams of protein at dinner time, physiologically speaking, your body might see 35 of those grams in that sitting your body will only use 25 to 35 grams of bio of available protein for skeletal muscle synthesis or muscle building per meal. So realistically you want to consume. Approximately 30 grams per meal. This could be a protein shake in between lunch and dinner that has about 30 grams in it. Dinner should have 30 to 35 grams. When you break your fast in the morning, we practice intermittent fasting in my program, my husband and I have done it for five years. Big fan of 16, eight intermittent fast. But the bottom line is when I break my fast, I try to be intentional about incorporating anywhere from 20 to 30 grams of protein, because I want to spread it out in chunks over the day to make sure that I am benefiting from the bio availability of that protein. However, this leads us to point number four, I warned you. This was not straightforward, not all protein sources. Have the same bio availability, this simple explanation of bio availability is the percentage of amino acids the body can use after the protein source has been digested. This is a whole nother podcast episode that is coming where we talk about the best food sources for bio available protein. But the reality is this not all protein is created. Some protein sources have a higher bio availability than others. And I’ll give you just a little tidbit, animal based protein sources have a higher bio availability of protein than plant based. So how then do we get our protein? If we’re living a plant-based diet? I am not. By the way, I am a hashtag Mer. I love myself some meat , but this is a very real issue and there’s nothing wrong with a plant-based diet, but it means you have to be a little bit more intentional. We will talk about that in the meantime, I wanna give you a little tip as you are starting to look at your plates and you’re thinking, whew, how do I know if I have enough protein on this plate, approximately the size of your fist? So if you make a fist, there should be enough protein, the size of your fist. So for example, a chicken breast size of your fist, a pork chop. Size of your fist. The list goes on really, really simple way. If you’re looking at your plate and you’re wondering if you have enough protein, there should be at least enough protein that would be equivalent to the size of your fist. Food was meant to be enjoyed. But we need to learn to be mindful consumers of how we are fueling our bodies. We want to avoid, prevent, eliminate mindless eating so that we can actually think less about food and enjoy it more. Less stress. If you would like to learn a sustainable way of living fit, where food is leveraged as fuel to prevent disease, to strengthen your body, to lose fat fast, I’d love to have you join my next round of the faster way to fat loss. It is a virtual six week fitness and nutrition program. You can click on the link in the show notes to see when the next round starts. I would love to have you stay tuned. We are. If this is like the tip of the iceberg, there’s a whole lot more to come. There’s a whole lot more under the water that we are gonna unpack. Stay tuned for more on protein, including a food list of the best dietary protein sources. Again, we’re gonna tap into that concept of bioavailability. We’re going to chat supplements and protein powders, which is actually the best, especially when you want to pursue all natural ingredients. Good luck navigating the world of protein powders and trying to stay. All natural. I would know I’ve done it for many years. Don’t worry. I’ll make it simple for you and lots of delicious protein shake recipes to help you reach your goals. I will see you here next time. Thanks for listening to this episode of the imperfectly empowered podcast. I would love to hear your thoughts. From today, head to your preferred podcasting platform and give the show an honest review and let me know what you think. Remember, you cannot be redefined only redeveloped one imperfect day at a time. Your story matters and you are loved.