Protein is one of the most important substances that we put in our bodies.
Without it, many of our most essential bodily functions would simply cease to work and over time our bodies would shut down.
The only molecule that is more abundantly found in the body is water, which is arguably the single most critical substance in our bodies.
But, considering that proteins are found in almost every organ, in skin, in muscles, in blood cells, and even in hair, it could be argued that proteins are a close second to water in importance.
Yet, for all their importance, those who wish to increase their protein intake actually find it quite hard to get enough of the good stuff.
This isn't some kind of lack of trying or ignorance over proteins themselves, but more the fact it is actually quite hard to ramp up protein intake without significant steps.
So, how do you increase your protein intake effectively? In this article, we will seek to answer this very question.
How to Effectively Increase Your Protein Intake
The first thing to consider when increasing protein intake is what type of protein you should take.
There are two types of proteins: animal proteins and plant proteins.
These are both great sources of dietary protein, but they have different effects on the human body.
Animal proteins come from animals like beef, chicken, pork, fish etc., whereas plant proteins come from plants such as beans, lentils, nuts, seeds etc.
It's not really possible to consume too much either of these types of protein, although there may be instances where people can experience discomfort if consumed in excess.
But, because of their differences, it is better to focus on consuming them in combination to avoid any negative side effects.
So, how does one go about increasing protein consumption? Well, let's look at five different ways to do so.
Increase Protein Intake Through Dairy Products
While dairy products are often thought of as being mostly made of carbohydrates, they also contain small amounts of protein.
This makes them an excellent source of protein. They also tend to be relatively low in fat, which means that they are easy to digest, making them ideal for anyone with digestion issues.
So, how exactly do you increase your protein through dairy products? You just need to ensure that you eat a variety of foods containing dairy products.
If you are eating cheese, milk, yogurt, butter, cream, ice cream etc. then you're already getting plenty.
However, if you're only eating a few of these items, then you'll benefit by adding other high-protein options. For example, you might add eggs, meat, legumes etc. into your diet.
Meat is another great way to increase protein intake. While it contains less protein than dairy products, it has been shown to provide extra benefits for those who consume it.
In particular, red meats such as beef, lamb, pork, venison etc. contain iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamin B12.
All these elements are vital for energy production within the body, which is why it's important to include them regularly.
However, while meat is indeed a fantastic source of protein, it does have its downsides. Not only can it make you feel bloated if eaten in large quantities, it can also cause constipation.
As such, it's best to limit your intake of meat to around 2-3 portions per day. The same goes for processed meats such as sausages, bacon, ham etc.
Eat More Beans
Beans are another one of the great sources of protein. They are low in calories and full of fiber, meaning that they are perfect for weight loss.
Furthermore, they are a wonderful source of potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, phosphorus, and folate.
Most importantly though, they are packed with protein, which is essential for building muscle mass.
As such, you don't need to worry about going overboard on beans. Just make sure that you get enough every week.
And when it comes to choosing between white beans and black beans, remember that both are equally nutritious.
Legumes are yet another great source of protein available. They're quite similar to beans, but are usually considered to be part of the vegetable family rather than the bean family.
These include peas, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, peanuts etc. They all offer a wide range of nutrients, including calcium, iodine, vitamins A & C, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folate, fiber, and lysine.
As such, they're perfect for ensuring that you get enough protein. However, like beans, too much legume consumption may result in stomach upset or bloating.
So, again, stick to one serving per day. That said, if you find yourself struggling to fit more food into your meals, then you could try including some beans in your cooking, whether this takes the form of hummus, guacamole, soup, stir-fry, etc.
Add Protein Powder
Protein powder is essentially protein mixed with carbs. It's used by athletes and bodybuilders to bulk up their muscles.
But it's also very useful for anyone looking to build lean muscle mass. While consuming protein powder straight from the bottle isn't recommended, mixing it with water before drinking it provides added benefits.
For example, combining it with milk will help prevent stomach cramps and nausea. It'll also help boost your metabolism, making it easier to burn fat throughout the day.
Additionally, adding protein powder to smoothies gives you an easy way to enjoy it without having to eat it separately.
Increase Your Folate Intake
Folic acid helps maintain healthy cells and DNA, whilst helping to reduce the risk of heart disease.
It's found naturally in leafy green vegetables, nuts, beans, and eggs.
However, folic acid doesn't occur naturally in animal foods such as chicken, fish, red meat, cheese, yogurt, etc.
As such, it's important to ensure that you include plenty of fruit and veg in your diet.
For example, you should aim to consume at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid each day. This means that you should aim to eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables daily.
Include Nuts In Your Diet
Nuts are an excellent source of protein, and they provide many other health benefits, too.
They are high in vitamin E, folate, zinc, magnesium and selenium, amongst others. However, don't go overboard with them.
Stick to just 1/2 cup (60 grams) of almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts etc. per day.
What Hinders Your Protein Intake?
If you're finding it difficult to fit more protein into your diet, then there are several things that can hinder its availability. Here are some of the most common:
Too Many Starches
This is perhaps the biggest problem facing people who want to increase their protein intake. After all, the majority of our calories come from carbohydrates.
As such, eating too many starchy foods regularly makes it harder to cut down on carbohydrate consumption.
To avoid this, try cutting back on refined carbs such as bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, cookies, crackers etc., and replace them with healthier alternatives. You could try swapping them out for whole grains, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, millet, etc.
Not Eating Enough Fat
It's true what they say – we need a certain amount of fat in our diets for optimum health.
If you're not getting enough fat, then it may be affecting how easily you absorb proteins.
To make sure you're meeting your needs, try increasing your intake of fats such as avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, dairy products, seeds, nuts, fatty cuts of meats, seafood, raw egg yolks, etc.
Taking A Low Glycemic Index Diet
Research has shown that low glycemic index foods actually help us to better regulate blood sugar levels.
Since protein is metabolized differently than carbohydrates, it may take longer for it to digest.
This means that it tends to cause a spike in blood glucose levels, which can lead to increased hunger.
However, if you stick to lower GI foods like lean beef, lamb, pork, poultry, wild salmon, fresh tuna, sardines, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, cauliflower, etc., then it should have less of an impact on your appetite.
Having An Unhealthy Lifestyle
Another thing that can hinder your ability to get enough protein in your diet is an unhealthy lifestyle.
The body requires protein to function properly. So if you're sedentary, or overdoing alcohol and caffeine, then it might become harder to meet your protein needs.
A good rule of thumb is to aim for 150 grams of protein per day. This works out to around 4-5 ounces of meat or fish every day.
That said, it's worth noting that athletes tend to require higher amounts of protein than non-athletes. For instance, elite athletes often require twice as much as recommended.
As you can see, there are many ways to include protein in your larger diet and to increase the amount of protein easily.
However, it can be hindered by the diets we are already on, and just increasing protein in our diet without adjusting it may mean we do not intake as much protein as necessary.
Therefore, prepare more protein rich food, but make sure that other parts of your diet don't hinder its consumption.