When trying to build lean muscle and lose weight most people are always looking for ways to get more protein into their diet. Protein is responsible for building muscle right? While protein is the building block for muscle growth, consuming too much protein can actually do more harm than good.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that protein is bad for you. Balance in your diet is the key to getting the look that you want. Is a cookie going to totally wreck havoc on your progress? Get real! It’s just a cookie. How about a few cookies every night? Probably going to negatively affect your waistline. While protein is good for you, they are not calorie free. A good goal is to have protein comprise around 20%-25% of your food every day. The remaining amount of your diet can be filled with veggies, fruits, healthy carbs, and healthy fats.
According to WebMD, when protein is 30% or more of your diet it can create a buildup of ketones in the body. As a reaction to this uptick in toxins in the body, the kidneys work overtime to flush them out of your system. This can lead to dehydration in the body which gives the illusion of weight loss from the release of water. Don’t be fooled! The scale goes down so you think the high protein diet is working when in fact you are releasing more water than fat from the body.
Figuring out the right amount of protein to consume is pretty easy. As an ACE Fitness & Sports Nutrition Coach, I recommend most adults to get in about .8g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. The exception would be for those that train at an athletic level to which the level goes up to 1.2g – 1.5g daily. The average person that works out 3-5x/week for about an hour or so would fall into the first category. Currently, with my weight at 59kg (130lbs) my goal is about 47g of protein per day. It may not sound like much, but I can assure you not only do I feel strong that I also have 80lbs of muscle. Boom!
Protein sources come from more than just animal products and tofu. There is more research every day that leads people to lean more towards a plant based diet. I’m not saying that it is necessary to become vegan. Getting protein from a variety of sources, however, will increase the chances of you absorbing more nutrients that provide benefits beyond muscles. Think antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber. There are many plants that provide ample amounts of protein. Below is a list of my top 5 faves. For a lengthier list, check out this article by Prevention Magazine.
- Almonds – Having a bag of almonds in my car while I drive around from client to client is a must. These nuts have 6g of protein per 1/4c.
- Spinach – Seriously??? Yup! I like to add spinach to many dishes for extra greens with a bit of protein. 3g per 1/2c (cooked).
- Chia Seed – Add these tiny seeds to salads, smoothies or make chia seed pudding. 2T gets you 6g of protein.
- Chickpeas – Think hummus or adding these to soups or stews. You’ll get 6g per ½ c.
- Organic Firm Tofu – It’s normally the first thing people think of so I put it last on my list. Tofu is fairly versatile & easy to incorporate as an animal protein substitute. Firm tofu packs about 10g per ½ c.
What are your favorite sources of protein?