Protein. It can be tricky to consistently get enough, I’ve seen enough food logs from enough clients to know that very well. The trouble is that a combo of conflicting advice and lack of a clear measure of protein content on most foods, makes it difficult to know how much you need and how much you’re getting.
The current government guidelines in the UK are incredibly low, but you have to remember that the number recommended isn’t for optimising muscle growth or fat loss, it’s about avoiding a deficiency. That’s a very different goal than what you are likely looking for.
So, how much do you need?
The current recommendations for body composition goals is between 1.6g and 2.2g of protein per kilo of bodyweight per day. So a 70kg person would have a range of values between 112 and 154g of protein per day. But as you know, I like to keep things simple, so I generalise this to 2g/kg/day. So our 70kg person needs 140g per day.
Oh, you want simpler? I can do simpler. Take your height in cm and there’s your protein goal. If you are 5’5″, that’s 165cm, so you aim for around 165g/protein/day.
This is all well and good, but you can see that if you are heavier, the more protein you’ll need to achieve your target intake. Using myself as an example, I weigh in at around 105kg, so my target is 210g/day. This is quite a lot of protein rich food. It’s also a big load of calories that, if I was trying to get into a calorie deficit, wouldn’t leave a lot of room for other foods. Add the fact that, as I mentioned in the first section, most people struggle to get anywhere near the recommended intake and me asking you to double your protein intake is like me asking you to deadlift 200kg on your first attempt ever.
Break it down
The first thing we need to do is figure out where you are. Keeping a food log, or tracking calories and macros on something like myfitnesspal, will help you establish where you are right now. It’ll help you understand how close or far from your target you are.
So let’s say you’ve tracked for a couple of weeks and you’re averaging 75g of protein per day pretty consistently. You’re 165cm tall and therefore your target is more than double what you are getting just now.
Step 1: Aim for 100g per day. It’s not a big jump, but it moves you forward with one serving of protein. More on serving sizes in a moment.
Step 2: Be consistent.
Step 3: Pick a slightly higher target, say 125g.
Step 4: Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you hit your target consistently.
It’s pretty simple in theory, but what if you don’t know how much protein is in a typical serving of food?
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
What does a typical serving of protein look like?
Meat and poultry – serving size of 100g will give you around 25-35g of protein.
Fish and seafood – serving size of 100g will give you around 18-25g of protein.
Beans and legumes – serving size of 1/2 a cup will give you around 8-13g of protein.
Veggies – serving size of 100g will give you around 5-9g of protein.
Dairy – cheese will give about 9g per 30g serving, yoghurt will be around 10g/100g serving.
Supplements – Whey protein is around 25g/serving
So getting 100g per day would equal something like:
150g of greek yoghurt = 15g
100g of chicken = 25g
200g of veggies = 15g
100g of fish = 20g
1 scoop of protein = 25g
Total = 100g. This doesn’t include “incidental” protein from other foods you’ll eat through the day such as bread, milk, etc.
Bumping that up to 125 or even 150g is relatively easy, add another scoop of protein, an extra 100g of meat or fish, and so on. Yes it takes planning and a level of awareness of what foods will help you, but it is achievable and it’ll definitely make a difference to your body composition results.