When the buzzwords “protein intake” and “high-protein diet” make their way into conversation, it’s easy to pass them off as vocabulary suited only for bulging, muscular bodybuilders or the stereotypical gym rat. In reality, however, protein is important for much more than gaining shirt-ripping muscle.
I talked to a nutritionist and personal trainer at my local gym to ask about my protein intake. Based on my exercise regime, age, gender and lifestyle, she recommended that I consume about 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight.
At first, I thought this had to be wrong – the FDA recommends about 50 grams of protein daily for women my age, but my trainer had recommended about 125 grams. I decided to try this new, higher protein goal and realized that it truly was a goal: I had to focus throughout the day to make sure that I was consuming enough protein, and it was difficult. Even more, my less-than-fond feelings toward most kinds of meat provided an additional challenge.
Read on to follow my protein-laden journey, and to see if you could do it yourself.
Pre-Workout: Rice Cake with Cottage Cheese
I like to work out in the morning, but find that running and jumping and lifting heavy objects tends to send me into a downward spiral of hanger before I can get through 30 minutes. Thus, pre-workout snack is key. My go-to pre-workout had been a banana with peanut butter, but I decided to substitute today to get some protein in from the cottage cheese right away.
Grams of protein: 8
Post-Workout: Blueberry Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie
Although my pre-workout snack from the morning warded off the hangriness for a while, it didn’t last long after I got home from the gym. I threw some protein powder, almond milk, blueberries and peanut butter in the blender and rewarded myself with this delicious smoothie.
Grams of Protein: 30
Lunchtime neared and I started to panic as I realized that despite my best efforts, I had eaten a measly 38 grams of protein, which was only about 25% of my goal. I wracked my brain for what to eat besides a PB&J and settled on an omelette, even though my brain rebelled a bit against this breakfast-for-lunch scenario.
Two eggs, an egg white, refried beans and some turkey beefed up the protein count in this meal, while the fresh veggies upped the flavor and nutrient content as well. Yum.
Grams of protein: 28
Dinner: Tempeh & Turkey Salad
Since we had just gotten a bunch of fresh vegetables from the farmers market, I was craving a big salad. Unfortunately, spinach and tomatoes weren’t helping me much with my goal. I added tempeh, a fermented grain product that is actually extremely high in protein. I discovered this awesome product when I realized that I hated tofu in all forms, but wanted to find a tasty, non-meat form of protein.
I added some turkey to my meal again, and thoroughly enjoyed this light summer meal. For dessert, I searched desperately for something with protein and settled on peaches and greek yogurt. Basically peaches and cream, right?
Grams of protein: 40
Snack: Quest Bar
You heard it here: Quest bars are the holy grail of protein bars. Their stellar nutritional profile combined with mouth-watering flavor make them the perfect snack (or dessert). This bar was a great way to end the day and hit my goal.
#SpoonTip: pop these in the microwave for 15 seconds for a gooey, fresh-baked-cookie-esque treat.
Grams of protein: 20
Overall, I barely scraped by. My total protein count was around 121, which is close to my goal of 125.
Was it tasty? Definitely. Was it manageable? Sort of.
With some of the other random snacks I had during the day, I likely hit my goal. I did learn, however, that truly eating enough protein took a lot of concentration, especially for someone who doesn’t really enjoy a big steak.