To fall within the 1.2 to 2.0 grams per pound range, a 160-pound woman should eat between 87 and 144 grams of protein per day.
If you’d rather not count to the last gram, leading protein and amino acid requirements researcher Don Layman, Ph.D. mindbodygreen previously said that consuming around 100 grams per day is a solid goal for most women. “From a metabolic standpoint, which mostly works with women, we find that when they go below 100 grams per day, they lose most of the benefits of protein: fatty acid metabolism, insulin sensitivity, weight loss, satiety,” Layman said on the mindbodygreen podcast.
If you spread your protein intake throughout the day, your body gets a constant supply of these amino acid building blocks. Consuming around 25-30 grams of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, along with one or two high-protein snacks, will cover your daily needs. “We should aim to get some type of protein feeding about every 3-4 hours,” says Kerksick.
Keep in mind that during periods of heavy activity, during your luteal phase, or after you’ve hit perimenopause, you may want to eat a little more protein.
As for what to eat to achieve this goal, try to get as much protein as possible from whole foods (like those listed below). It’s also smart to get protein from a variety of different sources throughout the day — especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan. This is because, while plant-based proteins are packed with fiber and phytonutrients, they typically don’t contain all of the amino acids your body needs (leucine in particular). Animal proteins do, and they can be utilized more efficiently in the body.
Protein powders and supplements can be helpful when you’re in need and don’t have the time or appetite to eat a full meal. Be sure to look for one that has at least 20-25 grams of protein per serving and isn’t loaded with sugar or unnecessary additives.
Here are a few foods that can help you meet your protein needs. (You can find a more complete list of high-protein foods here.) If you’re new to building a high-protein plate, it can help to keep a food journal to make the process more intuitive.
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