For some reason, athletes love to overthink this…
You know protein is important for a multitude of things when it comes to success as an athlete. It stimulates muscle growth, provides the raw materials for that muscle growth to actually happen, it enhances your recovery from your training, it helps support your immune system, it helps fight off cravings, the list could go on…
Long story short –
If you’re under-eating protein, you’ll want to fix that ASAP…
Like I said, you know this. I don’t need to convince you any further…
Now, the question becomes – How do you increase your protein intake?
The simple answer?
EAT MORE PROTEIN!
This is where the overthinking comes in…
“But, what protein should I eat?”
“How should I time the protein intake?”
“Is there a special source of protein that I should be focusing on?”
Let me repeat – STOP. OVER. THINKING.
All you gotta do is eat more of the protein sources that you’re already eating every day.
Today, I want to present to you 3 insanely simple ways to increase your protein intake without the insane confusion that most of the nutrition industry will lead you to, LOL.
Let’s get into it!
TIP #1 – Increase protein portion sizes.
Number one on our list of ways to boost your protein intake is to simply increase the portions of protein that you eat at each meal. Assuming you’re eating protein at every meal/snack, this should be simple. If you’re not eating protein at every meal, START THERE FIRST!
Remember, you’re going to be getting your protein from things like meat, poultry (chicken, turkey, etc), seafood, protein powders, and possibly some plant-based sources like tempeh, tofu, etc. You might also be supplementing with protein powder, which is totally fine!
If you’re already getting protein in with each meal, then logically, increasing the portion size of that protein source would be the easiest way to increase your protein intake.
For example, if you have 4oz of chicken with your dinner you’ll be getting ~20g of protein from that. By simply increasing from 4oz to 6oz of chicken you can increase your protein intake from that meal by 10g (that’s a 50% increase with almost no extra effort!).
So, let’s say you’re 150lbs and your daily protein goal is 150g (1 gram per pound of body weight).
You’ve been trying to hit this target, but you find yourself struggling to get past 120g…
What should you do?
Well, let’s say you’re eating 4 meals per day and eating ~35g of protein at each meal.
At lunch and dinner, you could increase your protein portion sizes to get ~15 extra grams of protein from each meal. That would add 30g to your daily total and put you right on target to eat 150g of protein.
It’s really as simple as that!
Tip #2 – Add an extra meal or protein-rich snack throughout the day.
This tip is especially helpful if you’re eating a relatively small amount of meals throughout the day.
For example, if you’re only eating 3 meals per day and you’re struggling to hit your protein target, then just add a 4th meal that has a normal protein portion size and that will dramatically increase your protein intake.
You may have to cook a little extra protein when you meal prep, but the overall effort to do so is very low.
Let’s use our 150lb basketball player as an example again…
This time, let’s say he’s only eating 3 meals per day and each meal has 40g of protein…
This would put him at 120g of protein for the day, which is well below his goal…
Rather than increase the protein portion at each meal (40g per meal is already a pretty large amount), it would likely be easier for him to add a 4th meal throughout the day that has 30g of protein. Since he’s only eating 3 times per day right now, that should be pretty easy to do.
By doing this, he’ll raise his protein intake from 120g up to his target of 150g.
Tip #3 – Utilize protein powder to increase your protein intake.
For some reason, people tend to have a negative view of protein powder…
Obviously, getting most of your protein from whole food sources should be the number one priority. This will ensure that you get all of the vitamins and minerals that come from whole food sources, which protein powder tends to lack.
However, there is nothing inherently “bad” about protein powder and it is a totally safe option for you to use to increase your protein intake throughout the day.
I use protein powder nearly every day, and most of the athletes that I work with use it to.
It requires literally ZERO prep!
Just add it to water or toss it in with your smoothie and you’re all set. Logistically, it’s a no brainer.
I’ll likely write an article on picking a specific protein powder in the near future, but for now just understand that you can go with either whey protein or a plant-based protein blend. Whey is optimal when it comes to stimulating muscle protein synthesis; however, if you have a sensitive stomach, I’d recommend going with the plant-based source as whey can cause bloating and other GI issues for some people.
The most important thing to remember as an athlete looking for a protein powder is to BUY FROM A SOURCE THAT IS 3RD PARTY TESTED!
The last thing you want is to get popped for banned substances that you didn’t even intend to consume. Look for brands that are “NSF Certified for Sport.” You’ll see a little blue circle with “NSF” in white letters on the container (or the website if you’re ordering online).
Now, how much protein powder should you use daily?
Ideally, I’d recommend sticking to 1 serving per day. This will make sure that you don’t miss out on any micronutrients that you get from whole food sources.
If you really need to, 2 servings can be acceptable if you’re struggling to hit your protein goal.
WRAPPING IT UP
Remember, don’t overthink this!
If you’re struggling to hit your protein intake, remember these three tips:
1 – Increase protein portion sizes with each meal.
2 – Add an extra meal that has protein in it.
3 – Consider using protein powder.
If you implement these strategies consistently, you’ll be crushing your protein target with no issues!
As always, if you have any questions about the material in the article, please feel free to reach out to me on Instagram @tclarknutrition, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Also, if you’re looking for more ways to take your nutrition to the next level, check out these FREE resources I put together going over the 4 nutritional mistakes that are destroying your athletic performance. I hope you enjoy them!
Coach Tommy Clark