“I can’t eat enough protein” is something I hear a lot.
The thought of eating 100g of protein in a day is just impossible to some people.
It’s actually not nearly as bad as you think, so let’s break it down a bit.
Why 100g of protein?
100g of protein is just a nice round number to use as an example here, and certainly a number you don’t have to aim for.
When someone is not eating a ton of protein currently, the thought of 100g of protein likely seems unattainable, which is why I want to aim for that number.
For many of us, 100g of protein is a great target, but most of us can benefit from even more.
Why should we care about eating high amounts of protein?
Protein is not only essential for everyday living, but hugely beneficial if you have specific goals in mind. Yes, you can have “too much” protein, but it would take huge amounts consistently over a long period of time- something that the majority of people do not need to worry about.
Let’s look at why protein is so important:
For everyday living
When it comes to everyday life, protein is vital for a healthy life. Our bodily functions rely on protein, and everything from your immune system to your digestive system relies on protein!
Adequate protein helps with digestion, blood clotting, bone health, hormone production, and much more.
For building muscle
What you’ve heard 1000 times is true- protein is the building block of muscles.
If the goal is to build muscle, we know that you need to be in a caloric surplus (AKA you need to eat higher calories than you’re burning). But if you’re eating a ton of calories with very little protein, it’s going to be much harder to build muscle and get stronger!
While you will definitely be able to build some muscle without eating tons of protein, you’re making the job much harder for yourself by no maximizing your protein intake.
Even if muscle building isn’t the goal, see the previous explanation for everyday life. Adequate protein is necessary to make sure your body is functioning optimally, so you definitely want to prioritize it!
For weight loss
When you’re in a calorie deficit (or dieting) protein is the most important.
It’s recommended to increase your protein intake when you’re dieting, for a few reasons- most importantly, it allows you to hold onto as much muscle as possible. If you’re in a calorie deficit for a long time, you’re bound to lose some muscle as you lose weight, but prioritizing protein will help minimize that effect.
And I don’t know about you, but I’d like to hold onto as much muscle as I can to make sure I’m losing mostly fat!
Protein is also satiating, helping you to stay full while eating less than you’re used to, and the thermic effect of protein is the highest of all the macronutrients, which means it requires the most energy to digest, burning more calories. Note that the thermic effect is very minimal, so don’t go eating protein thinking you’re magically burning a ton of calories. But, every little bit helps!
How much protein do you actually need?
Can you just aim for 100g of protein and call it a day? Sure, you could. But there’s a much better (and easy) way to find how much protein you should be consuming. Don’t worry, it’s simple math!
The most widely recommended amount is 1g per pound of bodyweight. You’ve likely come across that recommendation in your search for answers on how much protein you should be eating.
I’ll admit, I aimed for 1g of protein per pound of body weight for a very long time (which would be 185g of protein for me), and I even bumped it up to 1.5g per pound of bodyweight at one point. That meant that I was eating 275g of protein per day at one point!
2 things about that…
- It is very, very expensive
- It will wreak havoc on your body. To put it less delicately: it will give you the worst gas of your life.
You DEFINITELY do not need that much.
Since I dropped my protein intake a bit, my progress in the gym has actually improved! Why? Because my body is now getting extra carbs and fats (since my protein levels are lower), and it has my body feeling much better! Not to mention, significantly less gassy.
Aim for 0.6g – 0.8g per pound of bodyweight
Generally speaking 0.6g – 0.8g per pound of bodyweight is a great range to aim for. I tend to lean towards the higher end of that range, but if you struggle to eat enough protein, or you’re just starting out, start on the lower end!
You may be thinking “but Matt, 0.8g is basically 1g”. Technically speaking, you’d be correct. But if you weigh 150 pounds, that’s a difference of 30g of protein! Over the course of a day, you may find it significantly easier to consume 120g of protein than 150g.
1g per pound of bodyweight definitely works as well.
It makes for much easier math, after all. People talk about the dangers of consuming too much protein, but 1g per pound of bodyweight is not going to be anywhere close to dangerous levels. If you feel better eating that much, go for it, but understand that you don’t need to consume that much. When you’re in a caloric deficit, it’s definitely wise to keep your protein intake high, so the 1g per pound of bodyweight can certainly work in those situations.
I like to set ranges for myself, because I know that every single day is going to be slightly different. Rather than stressing about hitting one specific number, I find it much more beneficial to aim for a range to stay within.
If you’re in a maintenance of muscle building phase, you can let your protein drop slightly lower to get some extra carbs in to aid your energy and performance. If you’re dieting and in a deficit, I highly recommend sticking to the higher end of that range (even up to 1g per pound if you’d like).
Food sources for a high-protein diet
Maybe you’re actually aiming for around 100g of protein, or maybe you’re aiming for even more. Where do you get all your protein from?
That answer largely depends on your diet, your lifestyle, and your preferences. So let’s look at some different options!
The Fitspo Way
The problem is that too many people think that they need to eat the “fitspo” way. Getting that much protein means eating protein bars, protein shakes, protein cookies, etc. For starters, you don’t need ANY of these products. While they can be a great tool to help supplement your diet in a pinch or on the go, they should not be the staples of your diet.
I have absolutely no issue with protein bars or shakes, but I don’t believe they should be your sole source of protein. If you eat a well-rounded diet, you should be able to get plenty of protein in your day.
That being said, I enjoy a protein bar every day. No, I don’t need protein bars, but I really enjoy them. I workout early in the morning and like to have a little snack before I lift, and protein bars are perfect for that.
Protein shakes are a slightly different story- I very rarely drink a shake.
I used to be the guy that would bring my shaker bottle to the gym in order to drink my shake immediately after my workout. You know, the good ol’ anabolic window. But I’ve learned just how unnecessary (not to mention expensive) it is to drink protein shakes.
If you struggle to get enough protein into your day, protein shakes can be a great help, but you shouldn’t have to rely on them as a daily protein source.
The problem with the “fitspo” way of eating
Most protein bars are just candy bars with extra protein. But we view them as healthy because they’re called protein bars. Lenny & Larry’s Compelte Cookies are viewed as healthy protein cookies.
In reality, they’re just regular cookies with some added protein.
There’s nothing wrong with eating this cookie, or a protein bar, or any other snack for that matter. But there is absolutely something wrong with consuming it INSTEAD of other foods you enjoy, just because you think this is a healthier option.
Look at this macro comparison. The right comes out on top in almost every single category, except having slightly less fiber. You can eat flavored Greek yogurt, flavored almonds (the sriracha ones are amazing, by the way) and a beer, and come out with more favorable macros (with the same amount of calories) than a single protein cookie.
The right can be any combination of foods, but the point remains. Just because a food isn’t labeled as “healthy” or “protein whatever”, it doesn’t mean it’s bad for you. You can pair a beer, which most view as empty calories, with some delicious, healthy snacks and still be well within your goals.
Don’t let your pursuit of a high-protein diet make you blind to everything else there is! Continue to focus on your overall health, and please continue to eat foods that you love! Don’t automatically grab a snack because it has the word “protein” on the label.
Learning to read and understand nutrition labels is the best gift you can give yourself. By relying on the marketing jargon on the front of packages, you’re forced to think whatever companies want you to think. By looking past those, you can build a diet based around what YOU like and what YOUR goal are.
The Animal Way
Animal-derived products tend to be very high protein. There’s a reason why the classic “bro” diet is made up of chicken and rice- because chicken is absolutely loaded with protein.
Take an 8oz chicken breast, add 3 eggs, 2 strips of bacon & one serving of Greek yogurt and you are already at 100g of protein! No protein bars necessary.
Of course, this is just an example, but there are tons of other foods that can help you hit your protein: beef, cheese, & fish, to name a few.
Steak is an especially great source of protein:
If you’re looking to add more protein to your diet, steaks can be a really great addition! Once trimmed of excess fat, they are a very lean source of quality protein.
Let’s be clear: I’m not advocating the carnivore diet here. In fact, I think that is a really foolish way to eat. We should all be eating fruits and vegetables in our diet. But this is to show you just how easily you can get 100g of protein into your diet without much food at all.
If you’re not vegetarian, these can be amazing sources of protein, but there are certainly many others out there.
The Plant Way
It’s not only animal products that are high protein- there are a ton of high protein plant-derived foods, too.
With so many people turning to plant-based diets recently, one of the major criticisms is that it’s difficult to get enough protein when eating like that. While that may be true that it’s more difficult, it’s far from impossible.
Black beans, lentils, and edamame are great sources of protein. They may not pack as much protein as meat, but they’re still quite solid.
I can’t say I’ve ever eaten seitan or tempeh, but both of those are also very high in protein. Combine all of those together and you’ve got yourself 100g as well!
The list certainly doesn’t stop there- there are nuts, peanut butter, seeds, tofu, etc. If you need some more vegan protein sources, here’s a handy guide!
When it comes to plants, the thing you have to be on the lookout for is fiber. Oftentimes, eating a ton of plant-based foods for protein comes with a lot of fiber as well, so be conscious of that if your bowels are, uh, sensitive to fiber.
How to get extra protein into your diet
Outside of some obvious options listed above, there are plenty of other foods out there that can help you hit 100g of protein. And, you’d be surprised by some of ’em!
Sure, none of these foods are packed with 50g of protein, but we’re looking beyond the obvious protein-packed foods like chicken, eggs, greek yogurt, tofu, etc.
These are all foods that I personally enjoy, and surely there are plenty more that can get added to this list. But if you struggle to hit your protein goals, these simple additions to your diet can really help! Have a veggie burger and some feta cheese wrapped up inside a lavash, and you have a quick and easy 35g of protein!
Hitting your protein targets doesn’t need to be difficult, and it certainly doesn’t need to be boring. Plenty of people will tell you to avoid bread, but depending on which type you go with, you can be getting in an extra 12g of protein by eating it! And who doesn’t want bread in their life? Crazy people, that’s who.
High-protein doesn’t need to mean 20+ grams of protein. If you add in foods throughout your day with some extra protein, it can add up quickly. I mean, if you eat everything on this list, you’ll be getting 137g of protein and only 1,500 calories! Granted, it would probably be tough to turn these foods into well-rounded meals, but you get it.
Conclusion: there is no wrong way to get your protein!
I’ve listed tons of different areas to get protein into your diet, but what I really want you to takeaway from this post is this:
Eating high-protein is important, and there is no wrong way to do it.
I always prioritize protein in my diet, and it has served me very well! Sure, my goal is to build & maintain muscle, but it helps in many other areas as well. It helps keep me full & satisfied, it gives me quality energy, and dare I say, it keeps me regular!
Don’t be afraid of eating too much protein- that’s a very difficult thing to do.
If you want to aim for 100g of protein, that’s a great place to start. And I promise you, it’s much easier than it sounds!
Want more protein in your life? I’ve got plenty of free high-protein recipes right here on my site to help: check them out here.
Here are some of my absolute favorite high-protein recipes, if you need some creative (and delicious) ways to help you hit that 100g of protein:
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