Girls asking me questions about weight loss on tumblr often fail to eat adequate amounts of protein. Protein is vital when your calories are restricted. Protein protects you from losing muscle and makes you feel fuller.
Protein is not only important for muscle growth and maintenance, but it is the primary building block for the health and strength of your hair, skin and nails.
How much protein do you need?
The official daily intake recommendation for an adult woman is 1 gram per kilogram (about 0.4 grams per pound of body weight).
If you’re exercising and very active, though, you need more: most fitness gurus usually recommend 1.7-2.2 grams of protein per kg (0.8-1.0 grams per pound). Example: if you weigh 59 kg (130 pounds) you need 100 grams to 130 grams of protein a day.
Where can you get your protein?
People who aren’t used to read food labels usually have no idea how many grams of protein they’re getting. The following list of foods can help eyeball protein portions. Building every meal around a portion of at least 20 g of protein is good place to start for women trying to “shape up”.
20 grams of protein =
|21 grams protein powder (whey isolate)
83 kcal, 20 g protein, 0.2 g carbs, 0.2 g sugar, 0.2 fat
|182 grams egg whites (5 egg whites)
94 kcal, 20 g protein, 1.3 g carbs, 1.3 g sugar, 0.3 g fat
|80 grams canned tuna (packed in water)
84 kcal, 20 g protein, 0.0 g carbs, 0.0 g sugar, 0.4 fat
|80 grams turkey
88 kcal, 20 g protein, 0.0 g carbs, 0.0 g sugar, 0.8 g fat
|118 grams scallops
91 kcal, 20 g protein, 0.7 g carbs, 0.4 g sugar, 0.8 g fat
|87 grams chicken breast
91 kcal, 20 g protein, 0.0 carbs, 0.0 g sugar, 1.3 g fat
|75 grams shrimps
99 kcal, 20 g protein, 0.9 g carbs, 0.0 g sugar, 1.7 g fat
|143 grams codfish
101 kcal, 20 g protein, 0.4 g carbs, 0.0 g sugar, 2.1 g fat
|76 grams seitan
110 kcal, 20 g protein, 6.1 g carbs, 0.0 g sugar, 0.6 g fat
(Seitan is a vegetarian meat-subtitute made from gluten, the main protein of wheat.)
|194 grams fat-free Greek yogurt
111 kcal, 20 g protein, 7.8 g carbs, 7.8 sugar, 0.0 fat
|33 grams spirulina
123 kcal, 20 g protein, 6.3 g carbs, 0.0 sugar, 2.0 fat
Spirulina is a kind of sea weed rich in protein. However, eating 33 grams of spirulina powder in one go is too much and above the recommended serving size.
|125 grams ham
125 kcal, 20 g protein, 2.5 g carbs, 2.5 g sugar, 3.8 g fat
(but careful: high in sodium)
|138 grams Quorn – meat substitute made of mycoprotein (mushroom protein)
130 kcal, 20 g protein, 6.2 g carbs, 0.8 g sugar, 2.8 g fat
|105 grams lean beef
131 kcal, 20 g protein, 0.8 g carbs, 0.0 g sugar, 5.3 g fat
|182 grams mussels
131 kcal, 20 g protein, 4.5 g carbs, 0.9 g sugar, 3.6 g fat
|400 grams fat-free yogurt
144 kcal, 20 g protein, 16 g carbs, 16 g sugar, 0 g fat
NB: although fat-free yogurt contain protein, it is not a good food to rely on for your protein intake if you’re looking to lose weight as you’re also getting 16 g of milk sugar (lactose) along with the 20 g of protein.
|179 grams cottage cheese
159 kcal, 20 g protein, 4.1 carbs, 4.1 sugar, 7 g fat
|88 grams sardines
174 kcal, 20 g protein, 0.1 carbs, 0.0 sugar, 10.4 g fat
|667 grams mushrooms (uncooked) (I put the cooked mushrooms in the picture because the 667 g of raw mushrooms were taking too much volume for the plate)
180 kcal, 20 g protein, 20 g carbs, 10 g sugar, 2 g fat
|167 grams tofu
192 kcal, 20 g protein, 1.7 g carbs, 0.7 g sugar, 11.7 g fat
|121 grams feta cheese (10% fat)
194 kcal, 20 g protein, 0.1 g carbs, 0.1 g sugar, 12.5 g fat
(but careful: high in sodium)
|105 grams ground beef
196 kcal, 20 g protein, 0.5 g carbs, 0.4 g sugar, 12.6 g fat
|185 grams edamame (soy beans)
204 kcal, 20 g protein, 4.4 g carbs, 1.9 g sugar, 11.9 g fat
|103 grams tempeh (fermented soy product)
207 kcal, 20 g protein, 13.3 g carbs, 0.0 g sugar, 8.2 g fat
|159 grams eggs (3 whole eggs)
225 kcal, 20 g protein, 1.1 g carbs, 1.1 g sugar, 15.7 g fat
|235 grams lentils
228 kcal, 20 g protein, 33.2 g carbs, 0.0 g sugar, 1.6 g fat
|250 grams red kidney beans
240 kcal, 20 g protein, 37.5 g carbs, 1.3 g sugar, 1.3 g fat
|105 grams salmon
245 kcal, 20 g protein, 1.1 g carbs, 1.1 g sugar, 17.9 g fat
|313 grams chick peas
325 kcal, 20 g protein, 45.9 g carbs, 0.0 g sugar, 6.9 g fat
|222 grams surimi
278 kcal, 20 g protein, 26.7 g carbs, 10 g sugar, 10 g fat
Surimi is fish-based food product. It is a processed food and not the healthiest choice but it is a cheap source of protein.
■ NB: The fork on the pictures is just meant to give you an idea of the size of the foods. Many foods are raw / uncooked on the pictures because the nutrition facts I found on the foods’ packages were mostly based on the uncooked weigh of these foods.
■ The 8 first foods on the list (protein powder, egg whites, canned tuna, turkey, chicken breast, white fish and seafood like scallops or shrimps) are the best sources of protein for weight loss as they provide the “leanest” sources of protein with the fewest carbs and calories. However, other foods at the end of the list (like salmon or chickpeas for example) can be very beneficial too as they provide combinations of protein with other macronutrients (fats or carbs) making you feel even fuller.
■ I didn’t put any foods like nuts, nut butters, quinoa or falafels in the list. Although these foods contain protein, the amount of calories you’d have to eat to get to 20 grams of protein from these foods alone is very high. For example, you’d have to eat 5 tablespoons of peanut butter (470 kcal) to get 20 grams of protein.