120 grams of protein a day meal plan may sound like the impossible, but it’s actually very easy to achieve that goal. Protein is an essential macronutrient that is necessary for building and repairing muscles, maintaining a healthy immune system, and supporting overall health. The recommended daily intake of protein varies based on individual factors such as age, weight, and activity level. However, for most adults, consuming 120 grams of protein per day is a good goal to aim for.
The key to hitting this goal is knowing which foods have the most amount of protein per serving. As well as how to manage your protein targets over the course of a day. In this blog post we will look at why protein is important, what are good protein sources, and how to hit this target over the course of a day. I’ll also provide a free download for a sample meal plan you can use!
PROTEIN AS A MACRO
Before I dive too deep into laying out a 120 grams of protein a day meal plan for you, let’s first understand the importance of protein and why it’s so vital to both weight loss and muscle mass building. Protein is one of the three major macronutrients that provides energy to the body along with fats and carbohydrates. Protein is essential for building muscle, maintaining healthy bones, and promoting overall good health. It plays a key role in the creation and maintenance of every cell in our bodies. It fuels our cells and powers our body.
There are 5 key benefits to having adequate protein in your diet:
- Speed recovery after exercise – protein is made up of amino acids which are building blocks for the body. When you eat protein after you exercise, it gives your body the amino acids necessary to repair and rebuild.
- Reduce muscle loss – multiple studies have shown that maintaining a sufficient level of protein during periods of inactivity reduces overall muscle loss
- Build lean muscle – Protein is the bodies building blocks for muscle. So if you are lifting weights trying to achieve a certain aesthetic, then eating an adequate amount of protein is going to help you with those goals.
- Helps maintain a healthy weight – typically a high protein diet boosts your metabolism and leads to reduced cravings and calorie intake
- Curbs hunger – Protein is the macro that keeps you feeling full because it takes longer to digest a protein rich food. So consuming enough per meal will keep you from potentially overeating.
ANIMAL PROTEINS VS. PLANT PROTEINS
I get this question quite a bit regarding what food sources you should get your protein. Simply put, it truly depends on your lifestyle and if you are a carnivore, pescatarian or vegetarian.
The easiest and quickest way to hit your daily protein intake will be from animal protein. It has the highest amount of protein per serving while still keeping both fat and carbohydrates relatively low. Additionally, animal protein is a complete protein meaning it has all of the essential amino acids our bodies need. While animal products are the easiest source of protein, you will still want to ensure that its lean sources of protein. Animal protein is found in meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Animal protein is also rich in iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, which are nutrients that are often lacking in plant-based diets.
Alternatively if following a plant-based diet, you can get your protein from plant sources. However the challenge becomes getting enough protein content per serving without exceeding or consuming a large amount of carbohydrates in the process. Plant protein is found in a variety of sources such as beans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds, and grains. While plant protein is not a complete protein, it can still provide all of the essential amino acids if a variety of plant-based foods are consumed throughout the day. Plant protein is also low in saturated fat and high in fiber, which can lead to better heart health
When it comes to environmental impact, plant protein is often considered the more sustainable option. Animal agriculture is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation, and it also uses a significant amount of water and other resources. On the other hand, plant-based agriculture has a smaller environmental impact, and it can also help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In terms of cost, plant protein is often less expensive than animal protein. However, the cost of animal protein can vary depending on the source, as well as the quality of the product. For example, organic, grass-fed beef is often more expensive than conventionally raised beef.
Finally, when it comes to taste, animal protein is often considered more flavorful and satisfying than plant protein. However, with the rise of plant-based meat alternatives, this is becoming less of an issue. Many plant-based meat alternatives are now available that mimic the taste and texture of meat, and they can be just as satisfying as traditional animal protein.
Both animal protein and plant protein have their advantages and disadvantages, and the best option for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences. If you are looking for a complete protein source that is rich in essential nutrients, animal protein is a great option. However, if you are looking for a more sustainable and cost-effective option, plant protein is the way to go.
HOW MUCH PROTEIN DO I NEED
The recommended daily allowance by experts is that 10% – 35% of your calories should come from protein. This number will vary depending on your body composition, health, activity level, and overall goals. So someone that is more sedentary will not need a lot of protein as someone who is weight training 4-5 times a week. Additionally, a person whose goal is to gain muscle mass will need to have higher protein intakes than someone who is working out to maintain an overall healthy state.
According to Julius Miles, B.S. Exercises Science, “A good rule of thumb is to consume about 1g of protein per pound of body weight. The RDA says to eat at least 0.4g per pound of body weight. Honestly that is not sufficient for someone who is weight training and doing other intense exercises. So, for a 150lb woman, you should consume as close to 150g of protein as you can. To break it down further, if you’re consuming 5 meals per day you could do 30g of protein per meal.”
“A good rule of thumb is to consume about 1g of protein per pound of body weight.”Julius miles, b.S. Exercise sceience
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO CONSUME PROTEIN
The best time to consume protein depends on individual needs and goals. Generally, it is recommended to consume protein after exercise to help with muscle recovery and repair. Eating a protein-rich snack or meal within two hours of a workout will help to promote muscle growth and recovery. Also, spread protein intake evenly throughout the day to maintain muscle mass and support overall health. However, the most important factor is meeting your daily protein needs, regardless of when you consume it.
If you’re looking to increase your protein intake, you may be wondering what a 120 grams of protein a day meal plan looks like. The good news is that it’s easy to reach your protein goals with a few simple food swaps and a few easy meal ideas.
- Breakfast: Start your day off with a protein-packed breakfast. A great way to get a head start on your daily protein intake is with a protein shake. You can easily make one with a scoop of whey protein powder, a banana, almond milk, and some ice cubes. This will give you 20g of protein and will help keep you feeling full and energized throughout the day. If you’d rather have something more solid for breakfast, try a bowl of oatmeal with some nuts and seeds. This will give you around 10g of protein, as well as lots of other essential nutrients. You can also top your oatmeal with some Greek yogurt, which will give you an extra 8g of protein.
- Lunch: For lunch, try a veggie-packed salad with some grilled chicken breast or salmon. This will provide you with around 27g of protein per serving and will keep you powering through your day. Alternatively you can try a tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread or with rice cakes for some additional carbs and energy.
- Dinner: Dinner can be light if you choose. Something simple like sliced turkey breast and a mixed vegetable or grilled shrimp tossed with some olive oil for healthy fat, mixed with mushrooms, grape tomatoes and onions. Either option will give you approximately 27g of protein per serving.
Here are some tips to help you meet your 120 grams of day protein goal:
- Plan your meals: Start by dividing your daily protein needs into 5-6 small meals and snacks. This way, you can spread out your protein intake throughout the day, ensuring that you are always consuming enough.
- Include protein-rich foods in every meal: Some good sources of protein include eggs, chicken, fish, beef, pork, dairy products, legumes, and tofu. Try to include one of these foods in every meal and snack to help you reach your protein goal.
- Snack on protein-rich food: Snacks can be a great way to help you meet your protein goal. Some good snack options include Greek yogurt, nuts, seeds, and protein bars.
- Make protein-rich smoothies: Smoothies can be a convenient and tasty way to get your daily protein. Simply blend together a protein powder, milk or almond milk, and some fruit for a delicious and nutritious drink.
- Use protein supplements: If you are having trouble meeting your protein goal through food alone, consider using protein supplements. There are many options available, including whey protein, casein protein, and plant-based protein powders.
- Get creative in the kitchen: There are many ways to incorporate protein into your diet. Try using protein-rich ingredients in recipes such as oatmeal, stir-fries, and salads.
SAMPLE 120 GRAMS PROTEIN PER DAY MEAL PLAN
- 2 whole eggs (12g protein)
- 2 slices of whole grain toast (8g protein)
- 1 slice of cheese (6g protein)
- 1 serving of fruit (0-2g protein)
- Total protein: 26g
- Turkey or chicken sandwich on whole grain bread (30g protein)
- Mixed greens salad with vegetables (2g protein)
- Total protein: 32g
- Greek yogurt with fruit (18g protein)
- Total protein: 18g
- Grilled salmon (30g protein)
- Brown rice (5g protein)
- Steamed vegetables (5g protein)
- Total protein: 40g
Total daily protein: 116g
It’s important to note that this meal plan is just a sample and can be modified to fit individual dietary needs and preferences. It’s also important to vary protein sources to ensure adequate nutrient intake.
In addition to the above food items, you can also incorporate high-protein foods such as nuts and seeds, legumes, and dairy products into your diet. It’s also a good idea to drink plenty of water to support overall health and hydration.
This sample meal plan provides a starting point, but can be adjusted to fit individual dietary needs and preferences.
If you’re looking for a few high protein recipe ideas, I got you covered there as well. Check out some of these recipes:
To recap, there are several simple ways you can increase protein to hit 120 grams of protein a day meal plan:
1. Eat lean meats such as chicken, turkey, lean beef, and fish. 2. Add eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and quinoa to your meals. 3. Eat more beans, lentils, and legumes. 4. Include nuts, nut butters, and seeds in your diet. 5. Choose high-protein snacks such as protein bars, trail mix, or hummus with vegetables. 6. Drink protein-rich smoothies or shakes. 7. Incorporate protein supplements such as protein powder into your diet.
Consuming 120 grams of protein per day can be an effective way to support muscle growth and repair. By including protein-rich foods in every meal and snack, and using protein supplements if needed, you can easily reach your protein goal.