If you want to level up your physique, you need protein, it’s that simple. Protein isn’t the only thing you need. But, most people tend to fall short on getting the adequate amount of protein to build a great physique. Before I dig too deep into the how I want to first explain the why. We need protein for one main reason: repairing and building new muscle mass. The big difference between muscle and fat is that muscle is “expensive” tissue. What that means is it COSTS our body energy to keep muscle around. Fat on the other hand is stored energy. Because muscle is expensive tissue our body, if given the chance, will break it down if there is an energy shortage. It also requires a certain amount of stimulation and nutrients to keep around. This is where protein and weight training enters the picture. Weight training creates a stimulus that forces our bodies to adapt and grow new muscle. Then, the protein provides the building blocks with which to do it. Without this vital cycle of stimulus and repair new muscle cannot be built and that means our physique won’t change. Studies have shown that eating somewhere between .8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of lean mass is ideal for building muscle for most average people. Talking about how to find the ideal number for you is outside the scope of this article, but for most people this will be a significant increase in the current daily norm for protein intake. So, if changing your physique is important to you I HIGHLY recommend using either some of all of these tactics to level up your protein intake.
Step 1: Get some form of protein in every meal/snack
The lowest hanging fruit for most people is simply making protein at each meal/snack a non- negotiable. Making sure you have a piece of lean meat with every meal is a great place to start. Or if you are vegan even a nice piece of tofu or seitan is a viable option. These days there are even a plethora of high protein snack options. Greek yogurt, beef jerky, protein bars, shakes, etc. Even for the pickiest of eaters there are ways to keep protein intake high even if you are an avid snacker. But, this has to become a non- negotiable. Unfortunately, most high protein foods require some form of prep work so this element of your diet should be planned out.
Step 2: Supplements
In my opinion there is zero excuse for not hitting a protein goal. Here’s why: if you don’t have any cooked high protein food in the house you can always substitute a shake or bar. There are THOUSANDS of protein powders and bars out there. They also come from a variety of places: whey protein, egg protein, meat protein, pea protein, etc. This means they can fit a variety of dietary restrictions. When in a bind slamming down a shake or protein bar is an easy way to get an extra 30-50 grams of protein in a single serving. Even if you were having the WORST day every all you would need to do is drink 3 shakes over the course of a day to either hit or get close to your protein goal.
Step 3: Meal Prep
Just like I mentioned before most protein heavy foods require a form of preparation. Making foods in bulk ahead of time is an easy way to ensure that you have high protein foods ready to go when you need them. Like to sleep late? No problem make breakfast ahead of time. Starving when you get home from work and don’t feel like cooking? No problem because you already made chicken on Sunday. The one piece of push back I get a Lot from people is the time commitment to meal prepping. Yes it does require time, but it doesn’t have to require a lot of time. Crock pot, insta pot, air fryer, baking in the oven are all pretty quick and easy ways to make high protein food that can also be done while doing other chores. Watching a movie? Cool throw the chicken in the crock pot and set a timer, easy peasy.
Step 4: Keep grab and go options around
I get it, you’re busy. But, if you know you’re busy and building a physique is important to you then you have to plan around your lifestyle. Keeping things around like greek yogurt, beef jerky, and protein bars are all great options for traveling. Things like sandwiches and deli meat can also be a great options for to- go meals. Lastly, if you are really in a bind stop at your local grocery store and grab a pre- prepared rotisserie chicken or cut of meat that is pre cooked. A rotisserie chicken can last an individual 2-3 meals depending on how much protein they need. Always having grab and go options around is a great way to ensure that you hit your protein targets even on the busiest days.
Step 5: Persistence and back up plans
It’s important to remember that sometimes in life shit is going to hit the fan. You won’t feel well, you will get busy, you will feel unmotivated at times. During these times it is important to have a back up plan and keep being persistent. As I said before muscle is expensive tissue and it requires upkeep and maintenance. Always try to have a back up plan in case things go awry. Ran out of prepped chicken for dinner, run to the store for a rotisserie chicken or have a shake. Woke up late and no time to make breakfast, grab a yogurt and head out the door. If you have a goal of changing your physique you have to be persistent about it regardless of your situation.
I know some of these tips fell into different categories. While some were more concrete lifestyle tips. Others fell into the category of more philosophical and mindset related actions. However, I believe all of these tips carry equal weight when it comes to consistently hitting a protein target from day to day. Use them, follow them, and watch your physique change.