The importance of protein as a macronutrient certainly can’t be overstated. Protein is used by every cell in your body. It’s used to build and repair muscle and to make hormones and other chemicals your body needs to function properly. It’s also a main building block of bones, muscle, skin, and blood.
Whether you are trying to lose fat, gain muscle, increase strength, boost your energy, or improve your overall body composition, getting enough protein in your diet is of utmost importance. As a coach, this is what I hear my clients struggle with most, so I want to pass on my best tips to help you reach your health goals.
Along with carbohydrates and fats, protein is a macronutrient, which by definition means our bodies need substantial amounts of it to survive. Unlike carbohydrates and fats, our body does not have the ability to store protein and use it when needed. Consequently, we needed to consume the proper amount each day.
So how much protein do you need? It varies depending on age and if you are male or female. For growing teen boys or active men, it’s important to get a minimum of seven ounces daily. For children between the ages of two and six, the majority of women, and elderly people over the age of 60, five ounces a day is the minimum. And for older children, teen girls, active women, and the majority of men, it is recommended to get at least six ounces.
A high protein diet increases fat burning and encourages weight loss, increases satiety, and helps your body balance your hunger hormones. Studies show the importance of protein: over six months, a high protein diet encourages an average weight loss of about 4.5 pounds greater than any other diet.
You also want to choose your proteins wisely. If you are an active woman and order a 6-ounce steak at a restaurant and eat the entire thing, you have reached your minimum for the day. However, you also took in saturated fats that do not help you during your fat loss journey. Red and processed meats are high in saturated fats, which are linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other cancers. Instead, reach for fish, chicken, black beans, tofu, nuts, and whole grains.
Importance of Adding Protein to Your Diet
Make sure to add protein to every meal, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. The importance of getting enough protein should be at the forefront of your mind every time you cook food or order at a restaurant. Many nuts, legumes, and grains have more protein than you might think, so it will make it easier to incorporate into every snack and every meal.
- Eat Hard-Boiled Eggs
- Add Seeds
- Try Edamame
- Add Protein to Your Coffee
- Dip Into Hummus
- Keep Nuts Handy
- Add Beans to Everything
- Substitute Quinoa for Rice or Pasta
- Add in Ancient Grains
- Don’t Forget Lentils
1. Eat Hard-Boiled Eggs
Eggs Mother Nature’s multivitamin; they are also packed with protein, and the yolk is a source of good fat (in moderation). Add a little salt to make eggs an easy protein to eat on their own, or put them on top of a salad. You can make a large batch in under 10 minutes, and they keep in the fridge for a little over a week.
2. Add Seeds
Many seeds like chia, flaxseed, and hemp are an awesome way to add a little more protein to your food (3–6g of protein, specifically). They are packed with vitamins, so adding 2 tablespoons of these superfoods to your smoothies, oatmeal, salads, or yogurt is a great way to add a little oomph to your daily protein intake.
3. Try Edamame
Half a cup of edamame contains 9g of protein. That is a ton, considering there are only a few beans per pod. Edamame also has a ton of omega-3 fatty acids, which help promote a healthy and sharp brain.
4. Add Protein to Your Coffee
You don’t need to choose between the importance of getting your protein and keeping your morning coffee habit. With all the flavors of protein out there, it’s surely easy to find one that mixes into your morning cup of joe. For example, I like to add vanilla to give my coffee a milkshake vibe. Around the holidays, you’ll find peppermint (sugar-free) flavoring you can add, to,o which makes it similar to the peppermint mocha you find at your local coffee shop, but with around 15g of protein!
5. Dip Into Hummus
Hummus is a particularly awesome snack or protein topper. Many think of hummus with pita bread, but instead, chop up your favorite crunchy veggies like carrots or celery. Specifically, chickpeas are what pack this dip full of protein.
6. Keep Nuts Handy
Nuts are an amazing way to get some extra protein in your diet. They are especially great as an easy snack. For example, consider keeping them in your pantry, handbag or backpack, gym bag, and car so they are always on hand. Almonds, walnuts, and peanuts are extremely high in protein. They are all extremely versatile, as well—add them to your oatmeal and salads, or get the flavored kind and eat them instead of chips.
Nut butters also pack a high amount of protein, and they can be thrown into your smoothies, in a PB&J sandwich, and on top of your oatmeal. If you go the smoothie route, then try a quality device like the Vitamix Blender. However, you need to watch your serving size, as nuts are high in good fat, which makes the calorie content pretty high. In short, if you’re not careful, extra calories from nuts can sneak up on you.
7. Add Beans to Everything
This plant-based protein is certainly something to rave about. There are so many types of beans on the market, and most can be easily added into any dish. Beans have around 15g of protein in each cup. Additionally, they are packed with fiber.
8. Substitute Quinoa for Rice or Pasta
People who understand the importance of protein focus on adding complete proteins to their diets. Quinoa is a complete protein. This means it contains all the amino acids our body needs to carry out all functions that have to do with protein synthesis. In each cup, there are around 8g of protein. Quinoa is a great addition to salads and protein bowls; they can also be plated underneath your choice of lean protein.
9. Add in Ancient Grains
Speaking of grains, it can be hard to stick to one carb option, so when you get tired of quinoa, try other ancient grains like spelt, sorghum, or amaranth. There are just over 5g of protein in every half cup of spelt, 10g of protein in sorghum, and 4.5g of protein in amaranth.
10. Don’t Forget Lentils
Lentils have increased in popularity over the last 10 years or so due to their high protein and versatility. They can easily be added into soups, used as a pasta swap, or eaten as a side with your favorite lean protein. They are very mild tasting, with a ton of fiber and protein-packed into a single serving.
BONUS: Boost the Importance of Protein in your Routine by Making Your Own Protein Bars
Having protein bars on hand is an easy way to make sure you don’t go hungry. And it’s also a great method to be sure you’re factoring the importance of protein into your snack routine. I recommend making your own healthy protein bars at home so you know exactly what’s going into them—they won’t have any fillers, artificial sweeteners, and chemicals.