Updated: May 20, 2021
Okay we are going to be blunt.
This post is about how to increase your protein intake.
We aren't going to be covering trendy or voguish protein sources.
Quinoa, chia seeds, nut butter, organic almonds, are not good sources of protein. Period.
Are any of these bad for you?
Absolutely not. But the purpose of this post is to help increase protein intake without increasing calorie intake by a million.
A higher protein - lower calorie diet seems to be the most effective way to lose body fat while holding onto lean body mass, fending off cravings, mood disturbances, while keeping us fuller, longer. (All while burning a few more calories in the digestion process, sick🤘🏼)
(If you're wondering how much protein you should be getting for your lifestyle and goal, check out this calculator.)
The fact is there are few protein options that are truly pure good sources of protein.
We are going to break down different sources and grade them on:
Macros: This grade will be based on protein:calorie ratio. The less tag-a-long calories from carbs and fats, the better the grade.
Satiety: This grade will be given on how "full" or satiated the protein source makes us feel. The more satiating, the higher the grade.
Convenience: I wanted to add this because when you find out how much protein you need (by using a calculator like this one), convenience matters. I'm busy, you're busy, so being able to get quick protein can make or break you hitting your goal for the day.
Let's start with staples, supplements.
And without going too deep into it, no, protein supplements are not bad for your kidneys, the are not synthetic, they are not any worse for you than protein from real foods.
The supplements we will cover are isolated proteins from animal sources. Whey and Casein protein are isolated milk proteins cutting out most of the lactose, carbs, and fats. And having 1-2 of them per day if you have a higher protein goal will not hurt your progress at all (they will probably help.)
Whey Protein Powder: A whey protein isolate is the quickest way to get 25g+ of nearly pure protein. Optimum Nutrition, Legion Athletics, and MusclePharm make great tasting and third party tested powders.
Casein Protein Powder: A casein protein is a much slower digesting form of protein powder (taking 6-8 hours to fully digest.) Optimum Nutrition has a solid and in my opinion, best tasting casein out there. (And no I am no affiliated to them in any way, I just write what I personally use/have used;))
Now let's look at shmeats
Lean Beef, Chicken, Turkey: I grouped these three together, if you're getting them all 90%+ lean, the macros are very similar. These will be some of the highest protein sources in food you will find.
Macros: B to A (depending on how lean)
Lean Fish: Tuna, cod, bass, octopus, mahi-mahi, haddock, walleye, sole, shrimp, shellfish, etc. are all lower fat/higher protein options if you like seafood. The cost is a bit higher but it's nice to mix things up. Fattier fish like salmon are great but do hold a higher calorie count.
Deli Meats: Deli meats are higher on the convenience scale and most of the time hold better macros. Chicken, turkey, honey ham, all have options that can save the day.
Full Eggs: Full eggs are tasty. Full eggs are a phenomenal source of healthier fats and cholesterol. And they're cheap.
Macros: C (high fat)
Egg White: The less fatty, more macro friendly version. These can be added to smoothies and different meals since egg whites are basically tasteless. (This is easily the sexiest pic of an open egg I could find, the pinecone is a nice touch🤌.)
Greek Yogurt: Oikos is the brand with the best flavors, if you decide to go flavorless, you're going to puke. Great snack or addition to breakfast.
Beef Jerky: For when you're on a road trip, or the only available stop for food is a Shell gas station. The least cost effective source. (One bag is like $7!?)
Protein Bars: Protein bars are hit or miss. Some (like Quest) have phenomenal macros, and others are pretty much candy bars with protein injected. Best to read the label before buying.
Macros: A-C (depending on tag a long C/F)
The sad truth is that plant based sources outside of protein powders are not good sources of protein. Yes, there are sources of plant protein, but none that come without a hefty amount of calories with it.
Vega Sport Protein Powder: This is the best macros you're going to find from a plant based supplement. If you have a plant based lifestyle considering 1-2 of these a day would help bridge a larger gap.
While we're at it, here is a little macro cheat sheet for more protein options that include higher carb/fat options.
Hopefully this helped fill in some blanks. Protein intake can be tricky but has such an insane positive effect on almost every aspect of your health.
See you at Chipotle for a double chicken burrito?