Fitness with Jennifer Hale
Are you eating enough protein? It’s not just important for body builders and elite athletes. Bumping up your protein intake can also be helpful for those trying to simply tone up or lose weight. Protein helps you feel fuller longer, taming appetite cravings. Always incorporate protein into your breakfast, not just carbs. You won’t feel hungry again nearly as quickly. Protein can also enhance your body composition or the way you look, by boosting lean mass and reducing fat. Remember 150 pounds can look very different on the same person, depending on whether it’s a muscular 150 or a fatty 150. I try to track my protein intake every day to make sure that I’m eating enough. When I need to slim down and tone up, increasing my protein is right up there in importance with decreasing carbs and fats. The key is to make sure you’re getting that protein from lean, low calorie sources. Getting 10 grams of protein from bacon is not going to accomplish the same effect as getting 10 grams of protein from grilled chicken.
1. How much protein do you need? A general rule of thumb is 56 grams for the average man and 46 grams for the average woman. The USDA suggests multiplying your body weight by .37, or that you should be eating a minimum of .37 grams of protein per pound of body weight. You need to increase that if you’re athletic, wanting to lose weight or trying to put on extra muscle. I try to get 55-60 grams a day, and when I was cheering at LSU, my trainer wanted me to average 75-80 grams daily. There are online calculators you can find where you can enter your bodyweight, sex, activity level and age to get a good idea of what your goal should be. Spread your protein intake out over the course of the day, so your body can absorb it before trashing it. Directly after your workout is an especially key time to down about 20 grams of protein, to aid in muscle recovery. I’ll often gulp a protein shake as I’m getting ready for the day, after my morning workout.
2. Foods that are great sources of lean protein include grilled chicken or fish, beans, nuts, eggs, Greek yogurt, hummus and milk. Chances are – to get the right amount of protein - you may also need to eat a protein bar or drink a protein shake. Make sure you check all the nutritional information on these products though. So many of them are now more of a dessert that a nutritional supplement. Yes, they may have 20 grams of protein and taste great, but that’s because they’re loaded with fats and sugars, which defeats your purpose. Find a protein bar or shake that’s low in calories, sugar and fat, but high in protein. Chances are you’ll have to read more than a few labels! I routinely shake my head when picking up “a healthy choice”, when it comes to protein bars at airports and even nutrition stores because of the high amounts of fats and sugars in so many of them. Unless you’re an elite level athlete working out enough to torch hundreds of calories daily, many of the options out there are more like candy bars that will torpedo your results.
3. Protein Powders: I use these almost daily. A few of my favorite ways to use protein powders:
- Traditional shakes
- Sorbet made by blending fresh fruit, powder and honey; then freezing the mixture
- Sprinkling protein powder lightly over a salad or veggies.