You may have heard you need to eat more protein to lose fat.
You may have tried but find it very hard to hit your protein goal for the day.
So how much protein do you actually need to lose fat or build muscle and what’s the easiest way to hit your protein goal?
In this quick post I’m going to show you how to easily increase your protein intake, what the best protein sources for fat loss are and what the latest research recommends, so you can achieve your goals knowing you’re following the best information available.
I’ve also put together an action sheet with all the highest protein foods listed so you can have quick and easy access to the best foods for your goals on your phone.
WHY PROTEIN MATTERS
Every cell in your body contains protein. That’s why it’s so important to get enough in your diet!
The recommended dietary allowance for protein is actually only 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight. If you lift weights though, you can throw that figure right out the window. Your body needs more protein to recover from training and support muscle growth if you want to build muscle OR muscle maintenance if you want to maintain muscle and lose as much fat as possible.
The problem is that the vague advise of “eat more protein” isn’t very helpful and it leaves people guessing the amount of protein they need to lose fat and maintain a lean, strong body.
There was a study done recently in the Physique Enhancement lab and yes it was done on females but we can learn from it too guys. In our study, two groups of women completed an 8-week strength-training program. It involved two upper and two lower-body training days a week. One group ate a HIGH-protein diet; the other group ate a LOWER-protein diet. The results and changes in the women’s physiques are completely different, EVEN over a short 8 week period.
The high-protein group ate 1.1 grams of protein per pound of body weight (which is just over what we recommend our 28 Day Transformation Clients follow here in the gym). In the study that also included 25 grams of whey protein before and after each training session. The lower-protein group ate just 0.55 grams of protein per pound of body weight, including only 5 grams of whey protein immediately pre- and post-workout. The group who ate the HIGHER protein of 1.1 grams per pounds of bodyweight got much better results. They lost 50% MORE body fat than the LOWER protein group AND they were eating an extra 500 calories a day.
So if you follow me and what we do at FIT PROS you’ll know that we use resistance training with all our clients.
If losing fat and changing your physique is your goal, then resistance training isn’t something you can ignore.
If you’re new to training or maybe it’s been a long time, then make sure you start working with a trainer who puts you on a tailored program for your strength, mobility, and experience and tracks your performances every session, so you know you’re making progress every week. That doesn’t happen in classes, boot camps or in commercial gyms guys …so your missing out on the results you could achieve by being on a program because without a program and some prior planning, you’re just doing blind and random activity and that might burn a few calories at the time but it’s never going to help you achieve your ultimate goal.
So now that we know we need to be resistance training and to burn the most fat and recovery from each training session we need 1.1 grams of protein per pounds of body weight, the question is how do we increase our protein intake?
For most people starting their fat loss, 1-1.1 grams of protein per pound is a lot more than what they’re used to.
You won’t get near your protein goal for the day without planning protein in every meal. If you have a carb based meal for breakfast like cereal, oats or fruit with very little protein, you’re going to find it even harder again. You may even be used to eating only twice a day, which makes it harder again. So, rather than trying to hit our protein goal in these less than ideal conditions and finding it really hard.
Let’s put some prior planning into your meals and it will be so simple and easy.
Here’s my 6 proven steps to increase your protein and lose fat
1. PRIORITISE PROTEIN
The easiest way to hit your protein goal and lose the most fat you can is to plan protein in every meal, in advance.
Nobody ever hit a decent protein goal without prioritising protein in every meal.
The amount you need will depend on your daily goal and how many times you’re going to eat but as a guideline, you’ll want to get 30-40 grams of protein per meal. If your tracking macros, the easiest way to do this is divide your daily protein goal across the number of meals you have for that day and make sure your meal includes enough of your chosen protein source to hit that number.
A female whose goal is fat loss and weighs 75kg or 165 pounds will ideally need 180 grams of protein (1.1 grams per pounds of bodyweight) but at least 165 grams (1 gram per pound of bodyweight) a day. If she eats 3 meals a day then she’s going to need 55 grams of protein per meal. That’s a lot for most females so a more sensible approach would be to have 4 slightly smaller meals, in which case she only needs 41 grams per meal.
If that’s still too hard then you can factor protein into your snack as well.
Snacks are harder to find protein content in but with prior planning you can definitely find something you like with about 20 grams of protein in it. Quest protein bars taste amazing and have 20 grams of protein. They’re definitely not the only option but they handy for an infrequent protein hit.
If we factor in the quest bar with 20 grams of protein, then she just needs to get another 145 grams in for the day or 36 grams per meal, for 4 meals. To put that into perspective, that’s less than 140 grams of chicken, which is a pretty small breast of chicken. It doesn’t need to be chicken either, most lean proteins like turkey, lean beef, white and dark fish and so on will have around that sort of protein content in them.
Use MyFitnessPal to lookup the protein content in your preferred source. We also have a huge range of protein sources listed in the action sheet, which you download here.
So it can be a lot easier than you think to hit your protein goal but the key is prior planning and prioritising protein at each meal.
Basically, before you eat something, you need to be asking yourself –
“Where’s the protein in that!?”
Start with the protein and add greens, carbs and fats after. If you have no idea what a macro is and your lost on what I just said then try a simpler approach and include a palm size amount of lean proteins for females or 2 palms for guys in every meal. Make sure you download the action sheet above for a full breakdown of that nutrition plan, with all foods listed and how to start right away.
If you follow the advice I just gave you shouldn’t have a problem hitting 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. The only exception would be if you have a lot of weight to lose and with your protein goal being relative to your weight, it can be very unachievable. This is normally the case if your body fat percentage is 40% or higher. You can find that out with a quick google search to see what different body fat percentage tend to look like. If that’s you then click here to send us an message and well help you out.
Now that we have the basics down, let’s look at specific foods that will help you increase your protein intake easier and what foods you can start to include in your food planning.
2. LEAN PROTEINS
The first is lean proteins and they should be the staple of your diet and the first things considered when planning your food like I mentioned earlier.
Lean proteins are generally going to be meats with a dominant macronutrient of protein, which means they’re high in protein but low in carbs and fats.
Think chicken, turkey, lean beef, fish and eggs. There are more but they’re the ones that people know the best.
Sources you may not have considered would be things like Kangaroo, which you can actually get in Lidl in their select range in the white boxes in the fridge. They’ve got 30grams of protein per 150g and they’re delish. It’s a really lean red meat, tastes great and it works well for those of you who aren’t mad about red meat because of the taste but want to try new protein sources for more variety.
All other foods are listed in the action sheet.
Next up is eggs, which we all know are high in protein but did you know that 3 large eggs provide 19 grams of protein?
Studies have shown eating eggs for breakfast reduces your appetite and keeps you full for several hours, so you end up eating fewer calories for the day.
If the fat from the egg yolks is throwing off your macros, then have 2 full eggs with extra whites. If you had 2 full eggs with 3 extra egg whites you’d get 20 grams of protein. 3 eggs with 4 extra whites would be 36 grams.
You can buy egg whites in a carton so you don’t have to use loads of eggs. You can get these in most places, including Dublin Meat Company in Stillorgan beside Lidl. They’re €5 and you can freeze them if you want. Dublin Meat are also pretty decent for lean proteins like turkey burgers, lean beef, chicken and so on. They also do premade cooked meals but if fat loss is your goal I wouldn’t use them because they have about 150 grams of carbs per meal, which is huge.
Nuts are a great source of healthy fats and the best ones to pick for protein are almonds.
We definitely don’t want to use nuts as a snack if fat loss is your goal because they’re incredibly easy to overconsume and they’re very calorie dense.
Best way to eat nuts for fat loss is crush a few almonds and throw them on top of a salad. If you roast them on a pan they’re even nicer and they’re high in magnesium too which most people are deficient in.
5. GREEK YOGURT
Yogurts a good snack option in itself, its normally what people tend to eat it with that causes a problem with fat loss.
Like loads of fruit or pancakes or whatever.
This Greek yogurt by glenisk has 40g of protein and would make a great snack option.
If you want a snack that works well, add about 30 grams of protein powder to it and maybe 2-5 crushed almonds mixed in.
6. PROTEIN SHAKE
A shake or smoothie can be a great breakfast, depending on the ingredients.
Many smoothies contain a lot of fruit, vegetables or juice, but little protein. Protein powders make it easy to create a high-protein shake.
There are several types on the market, including whey, soy, egg and pea protein. Whey protein powder has been studied the most and seems to have an edge over the others when it comes to helping you feel full.
1 A scoop of whey protein is 30 grams and will get you about 20 grams of protein.
A decent shake recipe I found is
- 220ml unsweetened almond milk
- 1 scoop of whey powder
- 1 cup fresh berries
- 1/2 cup crushed ice
Into a blender and its done.
Most of the smoothie or juice recipes or even diets out there are pretty void of protein and extremely high in sugar.
As a rule for fat loss and your carbs (and fruit is a carb), you want to limit carb portions to a cupped hand size for females and 2 cupped hands for guys.
The best time to have your carbs is post workout. Your body is unlikely to store carbs as fat post workout but probably will at other times of the day if you don’t need them for energy.
Phil “Prior Prep Prevents a Poor Performance” Giffney
Personal Trainer Dublin and Body Transformation Gym in Blackrock, Dublin