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 in 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 Gaspari Myofusion Probiotic Series. It’s low in calories, sugar, fat and carbohydrates, and it supplies 24 grams of protein per serving. Plus, it tastes great! Try it in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, banana, cookies-and-cream, cinnamon roll or chocolate peanut butter flavors.
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 with Greens. Two scoops gives you 23 grams of complete, quality protein from peas, hemp, rice and chia seeds.
NPC National Figure competitor Melissa Transou, a fitness expert, wife and mother, blogs about the unique sports and nutrition needs of women and female athletes exclusively for Vitacost.com. Learn more about Melissa in this recent RXMuscle.com spotlight article, connect with her on Facebook or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.