Let’s chat about the purposes of protein, how much you should be eating, and which foods will help you reach your protein goals!

Purposes of Protein:

1. Building and Repairing Tissues

  • Muscle Growth and Repair: Protein is vital for muscle repair and growth, making it especially important for athletes and those engaging in regular physical activity.
  • Wound Healing: Protein helps repair tissues and is crucial for healing cuts, scrapes, and other injuries.

 

2. Enzyme Production

  • Catalyzing Reactions: Proteins function as enzymes that catalyze and speed up biochemical reactions necessary for digestion, energy production, blood clotting, and many other processes.

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3. Hormone Regulation

  • Hormone Synthesis: Many hormones, such as insulin and glucagon, are proteins that regulate various physiological processes, including metabolism, blood sugar levels, and growth.

 

4. Immune Function

  • Antibody Formation: Proteins are essential for the immune system as they help form antibodies that fight off infections and diseases.
  • Immune Response: Proteins also play a role in the functioning of other immune cells.

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5. Transport and Storage

  • Transport Proteins: Proteins like hemoglobin transport oxygen in the blood, and other transport proteins move nutrients and molecules across cell membranes.
  • Storage Proteins: Certain proteins, such as ferritin, store nutrients and minerals in the body.

 

6. Structural Support

  • Cell Structure: Proteins provide structural support to cells and tissues. For example, collagen, a structural protein, gives strength and elasticity to skin, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Keratin: Another structural protein, keratin, is essential for the structure of hair, nails, and the outer layer of skin.

 

7. Energy Source

  • Energy Production: While carbohydrates and fats are the primary energy sources, proteins can also be broken down for energy when necessary, particularly during prolonged exercise or starvation.

 

8. Fluid Balance

  • Maintaining Osmotic Balance: Proteins in the blood, such as albumin, help maintain fluid balance by preventing excessive fluid from leaking out of blood vessels into tissues.

 

9. pH Balance

  • Buffering Systems: Proteins help maintain the body’s acid-base balance (pH) by acting as buffers that neutralize acids and bases.

 

10. Nutrient Transport and Storage

  • Transporting Nutrients: Certain proteins bind to and carry nutrients and minerals through the bloodstream to various parts of the body.
  • Storing Nutrients: Proteins can also store essential nutrients for later use.

 

As a general rule, you should consume at least 100g of protein daily to keep your body functioning optimally. This amount increases if you’d like to build muscle mass (which we do, duh!). To build muscle mass, you’ll want to consume 0.8-2.2 grams per pound of body weight. I typically have clients eat between 0.8-1g (so a 150-lb person would consume between 120-150g).

You might be thinking, “How the heck am I supposed to eat that much protein?!” Below is a 3-day sample of 150 grams of protein. 🙂 And below that is a list of high-protein foods!

Day 1

Breakfast:

  • Scrambled Eggs with Spinach and Feta:
  • Three large eggs (18g protein) **You could also sub out one egg with egg whites
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese (4g protein)
  • One cup spinach (1g protein)
  • One slice whole grain toast (4g protein)
  • Total: 27g protein

Snack:

  • Greek Yogurt with Berries:
  • One cup of Greek yogurt (20g protein)
  • 1/2 cup mixed berries (1g protein)
  • Total: 21g protein

Lunch:

  • Grilled Chicken Salad:
  • Six oz grilled chicken breast (42g protein)
  • Mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and bell peppers (3g protein)
  • Two tbsp olive oil and vinegar dressing (0g protein)
  • Total: 45g protein

Snack:

  • Protein Smoothie:
  • One scoop of protein powder (20g protein)
  • One cup of unsweetened almond milk (1g protein)
  • One small banana (1g protein)
  • Total: 22g protein

Dinner:

  • Baked Salmon with Quinoa and Broccoli:
  • Six oz baked salmon (34g protein)
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (4g protein)
  • One cup steamed broccoli (3g protein)
  • Total: 41g protein

Daily Total: 156g protein

Day 2

Breakfast:

  • Omelet with Turkey and Veggies:
  • Three large eggs (18g protein)
  • Two oz diced turkey breast (14g protein)
  • 1/2 cup bell peppers and onions (1g protein)
  • One slice whole grain toast (4g protein)
  • Total: 37g protein

Snack:

  • Cottage Cheese with Pineapple:
  • One cup cottage cheese (28g protein)
  • 1/2 cup pineapple chunks (1g protein)
  • Total: 29g protein

Lunch:

  • Turkey and Avocado Wrap:
  • Four oz sliced turkey breast (28g protein)
  • 1/4 avocado (1g protein)
  • Whole grain wrap (4g protein)
  • Mixed greens (1g protein)
  • Total: 34g protein

Snack:

  • Hard-Boiled Eggs:
  • Two large eggs (12g protein)
  • Total: 12g protein

Dinner:

  • Steak with Sweet Potato and Asparagus:
  • Six oz grilled steak (36g protein)
  • One medium sweet potato (2g protein)
  • One cup roasted asparagus (3g protein)
  • Total: 41g protein

Daily Total: 153g protein

Day 3

Breakfast:

  • Greek Yogurt Parfait:
  • One cup of Greek yogurt (20g protein)
  • 1/4 cup granola (4g protein)
  • 1/2 cup mixed berries (1g protein)
  • Total: 25g protein

Snack:

  • Protein Shake:
  • One scoop of protein powder (20g protein)
  • One cup of unsweetened almond milk (1g protein)
  • Total: 21g protein

Lunch:

  • Chicken and Quinoa Bowl:
  • Six oz grilled chicken breast (42g protein)
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (4g protein)
  • Mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber (3g protein)
  • Two tbsp olive oil and vinegar dressing (0g protein)
  • Total: 49g protein

Snack:

  • Almonds and Cheese:
  • One oz almonds (6g protein)
  • One oz cheddar cheese (7g protein)
  • Total: 13g protein

Dinner:

  • Shrimp Stir-Fry with Vegetables:
  • Six oz shrimp (30g protein)
  • One cup mixed vegetables (3g protein)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice (3g protein)
  • Total: 36g protein

Daily Total: 144g protein

High Protein Foods:

Whole Eggs, Trout, Salmon (Wild caught), Sardines, Cod, Shrimp, Tuna, Halibut, Crab/Lobster, Egg Whites, Chicken Thighs, Chicken Breast, Grass Fed Beef, Turkey, Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Isolate, Vegan Protein Powder, Beef Protein Isolate (If Dairy Sensitive), Bison, Lamb, Venison, Rabbit, Veal, Duck, Kefir (If Dairy is Tolerated), Greek Yogurt (If Dairy is Tolerated), Cottage Cheese (If Dairy is Tolerated), Grass Fed Cheese (If Dairy is Tolerated), Bone Broth (beef or chicken)

Vegan/Veggie Proteins

Almond Milk, Soy Milk, Oat Milk, Kind Bars, Rx Bars, Avocado, Flax Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Chia Seeds, Almonds, Walnuts, Quinoa, Millet, Kamut, Organic Edamame, Organic Tempeh, Red Lentils, Black Beans, Seitan, Chickpeas, Dairy Free Yogurt, Garden of Eden Protein Powder, Vega One Protein Powder, Nutritional Yeast, Teff, Spirulina, Ezekiel Bread, Oats/Oatmeal, Nut Butters

The author, Gray Gaines, is a certified fitness and nutrition coach who helps excel in fat loss, wellness, and fitness. Get her Complete Guide to Grocery Shopping FREE. Check out her podcast, With All Due Respect.