One step you can take to enhance practically every aspect of how you look, feel, and perform is prioritizing protein with every meal.
Proteins are chains of amino acids that our bodies use for everything from building muscle and organs to supporting immunity, detoxification, cell signaling, metabolism, antioxidative response, gut health, neurological function, and gene expression (1, 2, 3).
Definitions vary, but generally we use 21 unique amino acids, nine of which – termed “essential” – we must get from food (4).
The recommended daily allowance for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram (g/kg), or 0.36 grams per pound (g/lb.) of body weight, but you might consider this more of a bare minimum than an optimal amount (5).
You’ll likely look, feel, and perform your best with around 1.4 – 2.0 g/kg (0.64 – 0.91 g/lb.) – or up to 2.3 – 3.1 g/kg (1.0 – 1.4 g/lb) if your primary goal is fat loss – per day (6).
When losing weight, higher protein intake promotes lean mass retention – meaning it’s fat you’re losing – higher basal metabolism, and feeling full (7).
Both plant and animal foods offer protein, but animal sources generally offer more digestible, bio-available, complete amino acid profiles, and nutrients like heme-iron, cholecalciferol, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), vitamin B12, creatine, taurine, carnosine, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that aren’t found in plant foods (8).
Restricting animal foods may also lead to inadequate calcium, vitamin D, potassium, iron, and folate intake (9).
Finally, animal sources usually offer more protein per calorie.
For example, 30 grams of protein could come from around 200 calories’ worth of steak or over from over 800 calories’ worth of almonds (10).
Consider making one or two palm-sized servings (4 – 8 oz.) of beef, fish, shellfish, game, or other animal protein the foundation of every meal, three to four times a day.
This’ll provide around 30 to 60 grams per meal and around 1 gram per pound of body weight per day.
From here, you may want to experiment to find your ideal protein intake and sources.
We’ll explore ethical and environmental considerations in a separate post.
You’ve got this.