Let's Talk Protein

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Welcome back! Today we’re talking #protein. You know, the most popular topic in nutrition and fitness (next to avocados). If I made a graph to represent how many people care about protein now to how many people cared 10 years ago, it’d probably look something like this:

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So, with fads come false information, and it’s getting trickier to figure out what is legit and what is nonsense. Here are a few facts that might help clear things up, and hopefully make it easier for those interested to pay more attention to their intake.

How much protein should you get?

According to dietitians, the recommended daily intake for protein should range between .8 and 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight. (Thanks for making us do math, dietitians and whoever decided we should abandon the metric system!) 1 lb = 0.454 kg. So say that you are a 140 lb person- that’s 63.5 kg. Your recommended protein intake is around 50 to 77 grams.


“But what does this actually look like?” you say?

Let's say you eat 5 times a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two small snacks. You might shoot for about 15-20 grams of protein at each meal, and maybe 5-20 grams in a snack.

A few snack ideas within the target protein range:

  • hard -boilded egg: 6 g

  • 1 cup greek yogurt: 20 g

  • Handful of nuts: 6 g

  • Light string cheese: 6 g

  • Protein bar: 14-25g

  • Protein shake: 20-30 g

A few ideas to include in your meal:

  • One serving of oatmeal: 5g

  • One serving of rice: 4g or quinoa: 5g

  • a serving of lean meat or fish: 15-30g

  • One serving of beans: 5-8 g


Does my exercise routine matter when accounting for protein?

Yes! While the general recommendation sticks, you’ll want to be on the higher side of protein if you are strength training or trying to lose fat while resistance training. On the flip side, those cario enthusiasts out there (long distance runners and bikers) might feel better with a slightly lower protein goal, as they aren’t necessarily trying to grow their muscles.


Should I care more about protein than I do?

That depends. Remember that graph earlier? The level of attention to protein intake has skyrocketed lately, but I bet you or your parents and their parents never lost a moment of sleep thinking about protein, and they turned out just fine. If you are interested in nutrition or have specific fitness goals, it would behoove you to consider this macro nutrient a bit more.

Can you estimate about how much protein you get in a day? If you can and you’re in the comfortable range, then keep doing what you’re doing. If you know you’re not getting enough protein, make an effort to include more protein-dense options for the next couple weeks and see how you feel. If you have no idea, maybe pay attention for a few weeks with a food journal and see where you’re at!

Protein bars, shakes, and supplements

Tread carefully here, folks. Protein powder and supplements are not regulated by the FDA to ensure the ingredients are safe and free of contaminants. Now, competition drives quality and you can find tons of brands that promise clean ingredients and minimal additives, and those are the products you should look for. As a rule of thumb when buying powders and bars, glance at the sugar content and the ingredient list. I like to keep sugar under 13g for protein bars, only because the natural bars tend to have more natural sugar. If you look at the ingredient list and see more than 10 listed, look more closely. Artificial sweeteners are common, and while some are better than others, most can cause gas and digestive issues, especially in large quantities. AKA, if you see a bunch of words that end in “-ose,” steer clear!

Also, the source of protein is important too- I won’t go into too much detail here, but the general rule of thumb is that really cheap products are lower quality. This isn’t to say you should only buy the most expensive brands, but it’s my opinion that not all protein is created equally, and the extra crap in lower-quality protein sources should be avoided. A few brands I love are Quest, Oatmega, VegaOne, Optimum Nutrition, and Epic. A few I try to avoid are ThinkThin (sugar alcohols), Cliff and Cliff Builder (holy sugar), and the surprisingly cheap powders on the sale shelf at Target and Marshall's.

I hope this cleared up a few questions you had. As a last note, the popularity of protein is largely due to a wider understanding that protein can help people lose weight. This is sort of true, weight loss is pretty much determined by creating a calorie deficit. Protein is great because it can help curb appetite by regulating insulin and Ghibelline-producing hormones, but simply adding a few protein shakes and chicken breasts to your diet won’t cut it. In my skeptical view, I also think people who start paying more attention to protein also pay more attention to calorie intake in general, which is important in weight loss. Like everything, there’s a balance.

Have any favorite snack or meal ideas to share? Let us know in the comments!!

Don't Fall Prey to Deceptive Marketing

Deceptive Marketing:


We live in a world where marketing prevails. It’s exciting, colorful, and scary. Advertising has the power to create demand, to initiate trends, and even to sway public conception. It gets into our heads and tricks us into thinking something is better, stronger, or healthier.


As our society becomes increasingly infatuated with health, brands continue to direct their marketing efforts to appeal this, which makes shopping harder for virtually everything. This post seeks to help you weed out the deceptive health claims and understand how to read labels and ingredients. We’re talking popular health claims and what they really mean and swapping some popular items for their healthier counterpart.

“Healthy” claims

Natural: This marketing claim is everywhere- from poultry, meat, dairy, and even preserved items like fruit cups and chips! What does it actually mean?

According to the FDA, the term “natural” means that nothing artificial or synthetic  (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included or added to a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food. Pretty ambiguous, wouldn't you say? There are many products labeled “natural” which are minimally processed and preserved, though there are many items that are not as deserving of the title, such as deli meat, chips and crackers, fruit preserve cups, dairy products, and even soft drinks. These products may still contain ingredients meant to preserve, thicken, and color the food items.

Shop smart: Natural may be better, or it may be a simple ploy to con shoppers into spending a few bucks more. Check the ingredient list- the overarching recommendations usually stand: the fewer ingredients the better, and if you can pronounce most of the ingredients, you’re good.


Organic: Don’t you just feel better when you purchase “organic?” This claim is backed by its regulation- you should feel better! For the most part.

The labeling requirements are stricter than others. According to the eCFR-Code of Federal Regulations, the foods must be produced “without excluded methods” (i.e. genetic engineering or radiation). For foods labeled organic, preservation methods must not contain those nasty sulfates or nitrates. Any ingredient must also not be added solely for the purpose of flavor, color, or texture enhancement. In crop production, the most basic, safe, and least-harmful methods of maintenance, disinfectants, and repellents are permitted with very strict regulations.

Big picture? Organic is expensive, there is no dispute. You should also note that “organic” ensures the ingredient quality, not the nutritional quality. Shopping organic is mainly going to benefit your produce selection, not your chip selection ;-). Shop smart: purchase organic when buying produce which is grown above ground and where the skin is consumed, such as tomatoes, leafy greens, peppers, apples, berries, strawberries, and grapes. These foods are in direct contact to higher volumes of pesticides and may be artificially color-enhanced.  However, I would always recommend non-organic produce over none at all!!


Non-fat, Lowfat, and Trans Fat: Fat contains 9 calories per gram, as opposed to its fellow macro-nutrients, proteins and carbohydrates which contain 4 calories per gram. Thus, it MUST be evil! Right? WRONG! Your body needs fat for energy, regulating hormones, performing basic cell functions, transporting vitamins, and keeping your skin healthy! We just need the right fat- aka NO TRANS FAT!

The explosion of trans fat in the American diet can be attributed to its long shelf life, affordability, and convenience. Trans fat comes from the partial hydrogenation of oils, where chemical makeup is disturbed. This man-made fat molecule is known to lower good cholesterol and increase the bad cholesterol, clog your arteries, create insulin resistance, and contribute to type 2 diabetes. This type of fat is found in many packaged foods- like chips, cookies, breads, candies, and creamers. Be on the lookout for an ingredient list containing “partially hydrogenated” and “shortening.” NOTE: There may still be trans fat even if the label doesn’t say so- the FDA mandates that there be less than .5g per serving to be excluded from the label. Have you ever wondered why one serving of Oreo's is only 3 cookies? Sneaky!!

Now to “fat-free” and “lowfat.” Firstly, fat tastes good! When fat is taken out of a product, something needs to be added to it to return to its yummy expectation: SUGAR! Look at any two of the same products where one is fat-free- how much extra sugar is added in that product? Unfortunately, the sugar added is usually a cheap substitute, like high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, malt syrup, sucrose, or something along those lines, which can be even more detrimental to our health. To make it worse, many of the non-fat substitute ingredients often cause digestive issues and can lead to weight gain!

Shop smart: Try to avoid “fat-free.” When picking products like condiments, frozen treats, packaged snacks, and many dairy products, opt for the original product. Secondly, try to reduce trans-fats. Some of these products are going to be hard to get away from, but by changing a few of your choices in the grocery store can make a huge difference. Some of the biggest products to be cognizant of are peanut butter, packaged snacks like cookies, chips, crackers, breads, and creamers. Choose peanut and almond butters where you can see the oil separation and that need to be refrigerated after opening. When picking snacks, avoid many of the big-name commercial brands, like Skippy and Jif, Nabisco products like Ritz, Oreo's, 100-Calorie packs, Honey Maid, Wheat Thins, and more. Often there will be alternative options among these items which are produced without hydrogenated oils.


Whew! That’s a lot! Hopefully you found this helpful. This post is not to scare you or tell you to stop enjoying your favorite treats, but to help you to be a smarter shopper. Don’t be fooled by those advertising geniuses who put so many spins on health claims and food labeling that we don’t even know what we’re eating! One of the biggest objections to shopping for the healthier options are that it is too expensive. That may be true in the short term. If you consider that avoiding many of these chemicals and preservatives could save you hundreds, even thousands of dollars on health care in the long run, wouldn’t you agree it would be worth the extra dough? Choose food products that deliver you with the most nutrients and leave you feeling healthy and energized.