In order to effectively build lean muscle and burn fat, you've got to do more than just cut calories. Ensuring that you eat the right macronutrients (protein, carbs, fats), is critical to changing your overall body composition, and doing more than just becoming a smaller version of yourself.
Protein is critical to:
- Increasing satiety
- Helping your muscles repair themselves after a difficult workout
- Increasing your metabolism
- Decreasing the number of stored calories from food
- Reducing cravings
- Preventing muscle loss which can slow your metabolism down
When a high protein diet is paired with a solid weight training program, you will begin to see incredible changes to the shape of your body. You will see lean muscle gains, and fat loss...giving your body the toned, lean look most of us are going for!
But...how much protein should you eat?
Well, that depends on a lot! When figuring out how much protein you should eat each day, you need to consider your height, weight, activity level and goals. If you want to add muscle, you are going to eat a larger amount of protein than if you want to lose weight. If you are a 6'5 man, you are going to eat more protein than a 5'5 woman. If you are lifting heavy, multiple times per week, you are going to need more protein than if you are barely active at all.
According to Ryan Andrews of Precision Nutrition, "The basic recommendation for protein intake is 0.8 grams per kilogram (or 0.36g per pound) of body mass in untrained, generally healthy adults. For instance, a 150lb person would consume around 54 grams per day" (Andrews). This amount of protein is only to avoid being deficient. If you are training at a higher intensity level, the same person's protein intake would increase to around 95-135 grams of protein per day.
What are some good sources of protein?
It can be really hard to hit your protein goals for the day, especially if you are like most Americans and live on a steady diet of carbs and fats. However, there are some really great ways to squeeze some protein into your diet.
Lean Meat: Chicken and turkey are great ways to get lean protein in at each meal. You can also eat lean beef and pork as well. It is a good idea to get a palm sized serving of protein in each meal. Just to give you an idea of how much protein is packed into white meat, "1 roasted chicken breast without the skin contains 53 grams of protein, with only 284 calories" (Gunnars).
Fish: Fish is a great way to squeeze in some protein. Be sure to choose leaner types of fish, or eat the fattier kind (it's okay, its the good fat), in smaller portions. "Salmon is 46% protein, with 19 grams per 3 ounce serving, with 175 calories" (Gunnars).
Milk, Cheese, Yogurt: When looking to dairy for protein, be sure to go with the whole versions. One glass of whole milk is 8 grams of protein and 149 calories.
Eggs: Eggs are a fantastic source of both protein and healthy fats. On egg contains 6 grams of protein with 78 calories.
Protein Shakes: I am kind of a protein shake junkie! I have found some that I truly love, and usually have at least one a day for breakfast. Using a whey based protein powder will help you not only squeeze in some protein, but depending on the brand you use, you could also be getting in a ton of other vital nutrients and minerals. I use this meal replacement shake that has 20 grams of protein (it lasts about 3 weeks for us), and this whey protein powder for my veggie/fruit smoothies.
For a more extensive list of proteins, check out this blog post from Authority Nutrition.
Ladies, if you want to get lean, strong and toned, upping your protein intake, and adding in some intentional weight training is the very best way to get there. You won't get big and bulky, but you will teach your body to effectively burn fat while building lean, calorie burning muscle.