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Why You Should Be Eating High Protein Meals

February 17, 2024

If I told you that we all have an organ that supports longevity, improves blood sugar regulation, increases mobility, tames hunger, strengthens bone health and metabolism, and improves body composition and biometrics, would you be surprised to hear that I was talking about skeletal muscle?

Our skeletal muscle is an underappreciated health asset that protects us against disease, burns fat, boosts metabolism, and much more. In order to build muscle, we need to eat amino acids, the building blocks of protein. 

But most of us aren’t eating enough protein to even maintain our muscle mass, let alone build it. The typical guidelines for Americans recommend 46 grams of protein for women and 56 grams of protein for men. As a Registered Dietitian, I regularly recommended 2-3+ times this amount when working 1:1 with clients, and that was largely to help support muscle mass, improve metabolism, and maintain long-term health.

And aside from helping you build muscle, protein is also essential for almost every cellular function in the body. We need protein for the structure and metabolic function of all of our tissues and organs (muscle included!). And if you care about your bones, tendons, skin, fingernails, and brain, those are all built from proteins too. Protein is even important for the neurotransmitters that control your mood. 

The proteins in our bodies are all built from amino acids, which we get through the food we eat in the form of dietary protein. 

Whether you have goals to lose fat, improve your performance in the gym, maintain your weight, or maintain good health as you age, protein is a crucial piece of the puzzle. 

How much should you eat?

This can definitely vary depending on your goals, your current weight/height, your activity level, and your health history, but there are some good general guidelines that you can use as a starting point. I’m borrowing these guidelines from Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, an incredible resource for all things protein and high protein diets. 

First, most adults should be eating more than 100 grams of protein each day. 

If you’re looking to optimize your longevity, Dr. Lyon recommends consuming 0.7-1 grams of protein per lb of body weight daily. 

If you’re looking to lose weight, she recommends 0.8 to 1.1 grams of protein per lb of ideal body weight daily. This amount of protein helps ensure you’re retaining your lean body mass (AKA muscle!) as you lose weight. 

Finally, if you’re looking to gain muscle, a combination of strength training and optimized protein intake is required. Aim for 1-1.2 grams of protein per lb of body weight daily. 

Which foods have the most protein?

While almost all foods have at least some protein (even veggies!), you’ll find the most protein in different animal proteins, like:

  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Bison
  • Venison
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Whey protein
  • Dairy – milk, Greek Yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, etc. 

For vegetarians, the best sources of protein are eggs and dairy, along with soy and legumes. Plant-based sources of protein like legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts, etc) and veggies are not as bioavailable for the body. Bioavailability refers to the body’s ability to digest, absorb, and utilize nutrients. Since plant-based sources of protein are not as easily absorbed as their animal-based counterparts, you will need to consume more of them to meet your protein goals.

Not sure where to start?

I get it! The numbers I’ve outlined above may be a lot more protein than you’re currently eating. The best approach is to work your way up to where you’d like to be over time, as you get more well-versed in which foods have the most protein, and how to combine them in a way that works for you. 

And we can help, too! Our new Snap for 4 options are here to support you whether you’re already eating a lot of protein or you’re working on increasing your intake. Choose from an array of meals and proteins/sides that you can mix-and-match to meet your goals, making it easy to get 30-40 grams (or more!) of protein per meal. 

To help get you started, we put together a few of our favorite combinations. If you’re looking for more protein per meal, simply increase your portion! 

  • Grilled Salmon + Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli – 41g of protein
  • Angus Burgers + Mac & Cheese + Loaded Cauliflower – 41g of protein
  • Pancakes + Bacon & Cheddar Egg Bites – 39g of protein
  • Salt & Pepper Chicken + Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli + Loaded Cauliflower – 49g of protein
  • Hill Country Chicken Salad + ½ Protein Snack Pack – 29.5g of protein
  • Angus Burgers + Mac & Cheese – 33g of protein

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