How Much Protein Do I Need to Eat?
Variety is the spice of life, and it couldn’t be truer when it comes to the foods on your plate! But it’s not only about combining food groups like veggies, meats, fruits, nuts, and seeds. It’s also important to vary the type of each food group you eat on a regular basis.
Variety is necessary in order to get the biggest bang for your nutrition buck when it comes to fueling your body for performance and function—inside and outside the gym.
Today we’re going to focus on varying your protein sources. We know it’s all too easy to fall into a food rut and default to chicken breast for dinner every night and eggs for breakfast each morning.
After all, humans, by nature are creatures of habit.
But with a little planning, there is so much to be gained from mixing up your rotation of proteins in your diet, to include a range of eggs, meat, chicken, pork, fish, shellfish, and even some natural soy (tempeh, miso) and organic dairy products.
Protein is essential—it’s a building block for all other nutrients and your body function in general. Here is a ballpark table of the varying protein amounts as a baseline for just ‘how much’ a person needs according to their level of activity based on their Lean Body Mass (LBM):
Sedentary – 0.5g/lb of LBM
Light – 0.7g/lb of LBM
Moderate – 0.9g/lb of LBM
High – 1.1g/lb of LBM
Intensive – 1.3g/lb of LBM
Your OPEX Coach will be able to help you determine your individual protein requirements when they analyze your body composition and consult with you on your lifestyle. (Interested in fitness and nutrition coaching? Find an OPEX Gym near you.)
That being stated, if you are training for gains, you need protein and lots of it…and not only plenty of it, but plenty of variety.
But why does varying your proteins even matter?
Chicken, fish, or eggs–isn’t it all the same?
What if chicken is easy for me to prepare?
Or I enjoy steak every night for dinner and a regular post-workout whey shake?
Or, I am a vegetarian and can only stomach vegetarian-friendly sources of protein—like tofu, beans and eggs?
Here’s the nuts and bolts:
Proteins are combinations of amino acids. During digestion, the proteins in food are broken down into separate amino acids, which are then absorbed by the body and used to:
- Build, repair and maintain body tissues
- Synthesize hormones and enzymes
- Supply energy when carbohydrates or fat are not available
All plant and animal cells contain protein, but the amount, as well as quality, varies widely among foods. Animal sources of protein tend to deliver all the amino acids we need (9 essential ones), while other sources (such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds) lack one or more essential amino acids.
In order to get the FULL BENEFITS of all 20 amino acids and nutrients in various proteins, it is essential to consume a variety of sources (preferably grass-fed and organic as much as possible).
- A 6-ounce ham steak has only about 2.5 grams of saturated fat, but it’s loaded with sodium—2,000 milligrams worth, which is 500 milligrams more than the recommended daily max!
- Compared to chicken, beef is much higher in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and omega 3s. Omega-3’s provide your body and brain with essential fats necessary for cellular metabolism, digestion and energy, and CLA is associated with positives such as improved cardiovascular health, brain function, the prevention of bone loss and weight gain associated with menopause, and body fat loss.
- Wild-caught fish often pose fewer consumer health problems than most farm-raised seafood, associated with less contamination of chemicals and toxins
- Ground turkey is a great source of lean protein, but if this is your only or primary source of protein, you’re missing out on some of the great essential fatty acids that a nice piece of salmon or grass-fed bison steak provides
These are just a few examples of why variety matters when it comes to protein!
So how do you put this into practice? Here’s an example of what varied protein could look like over 3 days of 3 meals and 1 snack!
- Chicken sausage
- Nuts and seeds
- Ground bison
- Beef jerky
- Leftover fish
- Ground turkey
- Greek yogurt
- Leftover turkey
- Ground beef
Protein quantity and variety is only one piece of the puzzle of your overall health! Ready to align your training, lifestyle, and nutrition habits? Find an OPEX Gym near you and start working with a coach.