During a fitness journey, whether it be weight loss, fat loss or muscle gain, diet plays a huge role in your progress. The number of calories you consume will differ, depending on your goal, but what should always stay the same is protein intake.
Protein is an important macronutrient that plays a crucial role in the process of muscle recovery and repair when you are looking to build more muscle or tone your body. It has ‘building blocks’ called amino acids that the body uses to build and repair muscles and bones, in addition to making hormones and enzymes. Protein is also essential for retaining the muscle you have already gained and can be used as an energy source. It is recommended that, during the process of getting into and staying in shape, you have 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound (lbs) of body weight, so if your bodyweight is 160 pounds, you should be consuming 150-160g per day, for example.
For those getting started on their fitness journey, hitting the protein target set by their trainer can be an intimidating and overwhelming task. This is because it’s usually a drastic increase from the amount they have been consuming previously and finding ways to ramp this up this can be a struggle. However, the problem can be solved. This post will look at some simple strategies you can implement to help you reach your protein target on a more consistent basis and therefore boost your progression.
Have Protein With Each Meal
One of, if not the most important tips is to make sure that you include a good source of protein with every meal you have. Despite the overall target for the day seeming tough to reach, if you divide it up into 20-40g per meal and/or snack throughout the day, the goal suddenly becomes much more attainable. Make sure you begin with a protein-rich meal in the morning so that you start the day off right and that you do not have to play catch up later on. Also, aim to mix up your protein sources so that you have variety in your diet. You are not going to like everything, so knowing the best sources of protein, of which there are many, is going to help you become much more familiar with your diet going forward.
Divide Your Meals Up
It is important that you break your food up, usually into 3 to 5 meals, depending on your calorie intake. Having protein with every meal/snack and then dividing it up throughout the day is going to help you work your way up to the daily target. It is also key for its effectiveness, as your body can only properly take in a maximum of 40 grams of protein every two hours, so dividing up your protein will make sure that it is being utilised effectively for muscle recovery, strength and growth, as well as reducing the strain on your inside and on your vital organs.
Take Protein Supplements
Ideally, most of your protein should come from natural whole foods, due to their nutrient properties, but not everyone wants to have meat, fish or eggs with every meal and having too much of the same thing can be adverse for your overall health. So, consuming protein supplements is going to help add some variety to your diet. Supplements, such as protein powder and protein bars, will also make your protein target a lot more achievable due to its convenience – bars are tasty snacks, while protein powder is very versatile and can be used as in a shake, smoothie, or in your meals (oatmeal bowl, protein pancakes, for example). So, if you’re struggling to reach your protein target, investing in some supplements is going to help you massively.
Have Your First Meal Earlier In The Day
The final tip is to start consuming your meals earlier. If you are someone who has become accustomed to undereating for months or even years, consuming more calories to boost your metabolism and increasing your protein intake can be a challenge. There are several ways to help you do this, but one of the most effective ones is to start your consumption relatively early in the morning so that you get stuck into your target and set yourself up for the day. This is important not only from a protein perspective but also in terms of energy – you want to be fuelled up for your workout later in the day (if that is when you are training) and for your daily tasks.
Having a protein-rich breakfast will get you off to a good start and help you avoid playing catch-up with your food later in the day, which is where some people can falter, especially if they are busy with work. Some great ideas for breakfast include eggs (omelette, poached, scrambled), oatmeal bowl, protein smoothie, protein pancakes, or something more savoury (chicken, steak, fish). Having this for your breakfast will be essential and set the foundations to your day.
So, the key thing to remember when you are trying to consistently hit your protein target is to have protein with almost every meal or snack, break your meals up, incorporate supplements, and start eating earlier if you are struggling to consume the required volume of food. If you incorporate these strategies consistently, it will soon become a habit and it will play a huge role in developing your desired physique.
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