As part of the TBCF Nutrition Coaching program, I very rarely tell clients to engage in the practice known as counting macros–keeping a daily record of exactly how many grams of protein, carbs and fats they’re eating. In my experience, most folks are able to keep up with counting their macros for a few weeks, but eventually life gets in the way and they throw the towel in.
The one area where I make somewhat of an exception to this rule is when it comes to protein. Protein is an absolutely essential building block for what most of us are trying to do…gain muscle and burn fat. For this reason, I put a lot of emphasis on encouraging clients to eat more protein.
Why is protein so important to helping us reach our fitness goals? For several reasons. When we exercise, we’re stressing our muscle fibers. At night while we’re asleep, our body uses the protein we ate during the day to repair the muscle fibers we stressed that day and build new ones. If we aren’t eating enough protein and giving our body the building blocks it needs to build the new muscle we want, all the exercise in the world won’t help us get stronger.
Adequate protein intake is also vital from a fat burning standpoint. Protein keeps us fuller, longer, so we’re less likely to overeat. Protein is also the most thermogenic of the three compounds, meaning our body burns more energy processing protein than it does processing carbs or fats. So protein has the double benefit of simultaneously keeping us full and helping us burn calories.
Finally, muscle tissue itself is more thermogenic than fat tissue. So the more muscle I have, the more calories my body will burn naturally each day.
How much protein is enough? There are a number of studies that show different ranges as being appropriate, but most nutritionists agree that in general our goal should be to eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. If I weigh 200 lbs, my goal is to eat 200g of protein each day.
If you’ve never eaten your weight in protein each day, it can be an adjustment. Your body needs time to acclimate, so I encourage you to gradually increase your protein intake over the course of several days.
The biggest hurdle most people face when getting adequate protein each day is the time it takes to do so. You will not be able to hit your protein target just in three meals. Instead, focus on adding a few daily protein rich snacks to your diet. Have a protein shake or two. Everytime you eat there should be a protein component…don’t waste calories on just carbs or fats.
If you have any questions about nutrition or protein specifically, you can click HERE to set up a nutrition consult. But in sum, remember: increasing your daily protein intake will likely be a key piece of helping you reach your fitness goals.