I often get asked the very simple questions “How much protein should I eat daily?” and “What are the best sources?”. To be honest, this is one of the easiest parts of the daily macro to figure out. Unfortunately, the web is filled with a lot of misinformation and many looking into this end up more confused than when they started. I hope this post will make this part super easy for you to figure out.
I will first outline the easiest way to figure out the answer to “how much protein should I eat daily?” and go on to provide some clarity as to what are my top 5 best protein sources.
Easiest Way To Figure Out Daily Protein Intake
If you workout and want to build lean muscle mass, or maintain your muscle mass you need to get your calories and macro (the percentage of fat, carbs, and protein intake daily) right first. Protein is only one of the three aspects of the macro.
The optimal amount of protein intake to build and maintain lean muscle mass is 0.73g to 1g of protein per pound of body weight. Going over this range doesn’t seem to provide any added benefit. However, if you have healthy kidney functions its safe to go over this range. In my personal opinion, too much of anything is never good, so there is no point in over-consuming just because it’s safe.
If you don’t work out or exercise, less than this amount should be sufficient. I highly recommend doing an annual physical with your doctor to ensure that all your organs are in optimal condition and keeping your doctor informed about your diet. Always consult your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet.
The study on the optimal amount of protein intake to build muscle if you want to dive much deeper can be found here.
When To Consume Protein?
Consume the necessary amount over all your meals. It is better to consume a protein shake within 30 to 45 mins after your workout. The research on this is now mixed, some of the research indicates the consumption of protein within this period doesn’t see to have any meaningful impact on building lean muscle and others indicate that there is a meaningful impact. Personally, I prefer to drink a protein shake immediately after my workout. Also when it comes to pre-workout or post-workout protein shake, the research is also mixed. I prefer to workout on a fasted state since there is growing evidence that this helps the body burn fat and produce human growth hormones (HGH).
What Are The Best Sources Of Protein?
Always try your best to consume any nutrients from food and natural sources, before turning to supplements. Protein is no exception to this rule. With the exception of my post-workout protein shake, all my protein intake is from organic food sources.
Here Are My Go-To Protein Sources:
This has been my go-to protein shake for well over a decade. The reason I stick to Optimum Nutrition (ON) is because it’s clean, and it has no creamers. It mixes well and tastes great. The great thing about ON whey is that it gets absorbed very fast by your body and helps build lean muscle. As I stated above I only use one scoop (31g) immediately after my workout and that’s it. I don’t like relying on supplements as my primary source. The reason I am putting whey as number one on this list is because it does absorb very fast to the body and the body utilizes it right away to repair broken muscle tissue (this is how your body builds muscle)
I drink a whey protein shake (31g of ON whey) daily even on my rest day. I do this even when I am on vacation – that’s why I like protein powder, it’s easy to pack and take with you, even on the go.
Ok, so Rule 1 whey isolate had to go on my list because it will probably overtake ON in the coming years. Why? Well, Rule 1 was founded by Tony Costello Sr. and his son in 2014. Tony Costello Sr. is one of the co-founders of Optimum Nutrition, in 2008 he and his brother sold ON to Glanbia Nutritionals. So if Tony Sr. is back making workout supplements with his years of knowledge, you know he is going to make something better than ON. I haven’t switched over to R1 yet, because it’s actually expensive to ship to Canada and ON has been great so far. I did try R1 when I was in the US and it does mix well and tastes great. Also, its a very clean source of whey. It is currently a toss-up between Rule 1 and ON right now and both are great.
I love Qu’Appelle’s organic beef products as they are raised without added hormones & antibiotics, they are also free from pesticides & herbicides from the land and are not fed GMO’s or animal by-products. Their practices far exceed Government organic specifications and standards plus they treat their animals humanely from birth to harvesting.
Qu’Appelle Beef originates from the Qu’Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan, Canada and are grass-fed and slowly raised on lush pastures. They are the first craft beef brand in Canada. I usually buy my Qu’Appelle Organic Lean Ground Beef from Metro stores here in Toronto but you can also find them at Longo’s and Costco. Metro has the best price though, a pack of 454g Qu’Appelle Organic Lean Ground Beef is $8.99 CAD. If you can’t find Qu’Appelle Beef, an alternative is Costco’s Kirkland brand organic lean ground beef. Unfortunately, I am not sure if Qu’Appelle Beef is sold in the US and other parts of the world.
I suggest if you are looking for lean ground beef, look for organic grass-fed lean ground beef free of antibiotics and hormones.
I eat ~114g of lean ground beef three times a week.
3) High Liner Market Cuts Wild Pacific Salmon (22g of protien/113g serving)
High Liner Market Cuts are great and for frozen salmon, they taste amazing – you can hardly tell they were frozen (take it out of the freezer and let it defrost for 4 to 5 hours before cooking). I prefer wild Pacific salmon because they are free from pollutants and toxins, especially mercury and plastic. I would prefer to buy my salmon fresh, however, fresh wild Pacific salmon is hard to come by.
Atlantic salmon is farm-raised and I’d advise staying away from farm-raised, as the standards are still not great and the use of antibiotics and colouring is a big cause for concern. Due to overfishing, there is a ban on fishing for Atlantic salmon and that’s why you can’t get any wild Atlantic salmon. High Liner products are all responsibly sourced and are of high quality.
Salmon is a great source of high-quality protein and long-chain omega-3. I aim to eat at a minimum of three servings of salmon a week. Long-chain omega-3, which is vital to our brain, can only be sourced from seafood such as salmon and sardines.
It’s better to consume cold water, smallmouth fish because they have very low levels of mercury which is a toxin that significantly harms the body and damages the brain. This is why I stick to wild Pacific salmon.
I buy my High Liner Market Cuts Wild Pacific Salmon from Metro stores here in Toronto. You can check where these are sold where you live by visiting their website at highliner.com. If you can’t find High Liner, look for wild Pacific salmon, that are sustainably sourced. I recommend checking Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch and/or Ocean Wise to check if a particular brand follows sustainable and responsible practices when it comes to fishing.
I eat at least three servings of salmon weekly.
4) Kirkland Signature Organic Greek Yogurt (17g of protien/175g serving)
Greek yougurt is an awesome source of protein and active probiotic culture. I usually add one serving (175g) to my daily spinach and kale smoothy for that creamy texture I love plus it cuts the taste of kale (lol I hate the taste of raw kale). I prefer the Kirkland brand because I shop a lot at Costco and it’s easy for me to grab and you can’t beat Costco prices. Especially for organic products. And they are really high quality as well. If you haven’t realized by now, I bloody love Costco!
If you can’t find organic Greek yogurt, go with fat-free Greek yogurt. I don’t like going fat-free because fats are good for you. Unfortunately, if it’s not an organic product, the fat is where all the harmful toxins are stored in animals and consuming these fat transfers the toxins to us. For organic Greek yogurt look for grass-fed, free from GMO’s and antibiotics, with active probiotic cultures.
I eat a 175g serving of Greek yogurt daily.
5) Kirkland Signature Large Organic Eggs (6g of protien/1 egg)
Eggs have gotten a bad rep over the years and now people are more confused than ever. Eggs are actually a great source of protein, vitamins and nutrients. If you are concerned about the health implications of eggs, consume egg whites. Although most of the nutrients and vitamins are in the yolk.
When you are buying eggs look for organic, free-range eggs. Unfortunately, in North America, we treat the eggs to prevent salmonella. However, in Europe, they vaccinate the hens to prevent salmonella. That is why here in North America we have to refrigerate our eggs. But eggs are still a great food source.
I eat one whole egg and one egg white six days a week.
Calculating protein is easy, aim for 0.73g to 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight if you workout or exercise. As always, consult your doctor before making any drastic dietary changes and always keep your doctor informed.
Look to getting your nutrients from food and natural sources first, before turning to supplements. If you do turn to supplements, do your research and ensure they are clean and safe. When consuming animal products make sure they are organic, grass-fed, free from hormones and antibiotics. For seafood, go with smallmouth, cold-water fish, such as salmon and sardines, for long-chain omega-3s and to avoid mercury toxicity.
Finally, with any animal and seafood products, please try your best to see if they are humanely raised and sustainably sourced. Remember organic doesn’t mean humanely raised or sustainably sourced. There is a big difference between the two, please do your research. Great sources to refer to when looking for humanely sourced and sustainably caught are:
- Certified Humane – They ensure your food comes from farms where the farm animals are treated humanely from birth to harvest.
- Global Animal Partnership – A not for profit organization of farmers, advocates, manufacturers, retailers and scientist who work together to improve the welfare of farm animals.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch – A program that allows business and consumers to make choices that help ensure the well being of our oceans.
- Ocean Wise – The conservation program that allows consumers to make choices of seafood that are from sustainable sources and ensure that our oceans are healthy for future generations.