We all want to gain fat-burning, lean muscle, but in order to do so we have to feed our muscles protein. If you don’t get enough protein from the foods you eat, your body’s ability to make new protein slows down, and it may even break down existing protein (i.e. muscle tissue) in order to supply its needs. If your body starts breaking down its own muscle tissue, your metabolism slows down further, which results in burning fewer calories and fat.
Another plus to eating protein is that metabolic rate increases when protein is consumed, because digesting protein takes more energy than digesting carbohydrates or fats. This is how a diet too high in carbohydrates and low in proteins can cause a loss of muscle tone.
So how much is enough? As an active, exercising woman, you should shoot for 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. Women looking to really increase muscle can eat as much as 1.5 grams per pound of body weight daily. If you don’t have a kitchen scale to weigh your food, just remember that a serving size of protein is about the size of the palm of your hand, and you should eat about five to six servings a day.
Protein doesn’t have to come from just eggs and chicken. Try adding any of the following healthy foods to your daily diet to increase your protein intake:
- Pork tenderloin
- Fish (tilapia, salmon, tuna)
- Beans (black, pinto)
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts)
- Egg whites
- Greek yogurt (without the fruit on the bottom)
Sometimes it’s hard to eat enough protein in a day, especially when you’re on the go and don’t have time to make a home-cooked meal. This is where a good-quality protein shake comes in handy.
One of my top protein powder choices is Vitacost Whole Food Vanilla-Flavored Brown Rice Protein with Probiotics for its unique non-dairy probiotic blend. It’s low in calories, sugar and fat, and it supplies 22 grams of protein per serving. The fact that it’s certified organic and free of GMOs is a huge bonus!
I also like Vitacost Whey Protein Complex Powder with BCAAs which is also low in calories, sugar, fat and carbs, plus it has the added BCAAs.
If you’re vegetarian, try Lifetime Life’s Basics ® Plant Protein Powder. One scoop gives you 22 grams of complete, quality protein from peas, hemp, rice and chia seeds. Plus, it’s unsweetened so it mixes nicely with any smoothie flavor combo.