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Get wheysted: Simple ways to add protein to your diet

By Airman 1st Class Lauren Parsons | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Jan. 24, 2017


With the arrival of 2017, New Year’s resolutions to lose weight are in full swing.

However, another goal individuals may have is not only to lose weight, but to gain muscle.

The Institute of Medicine recommends adults get a minimum of 0.8 grams of protein for every kilogram of body weight per day. For athletes, the recommendation for protein intake - depending on training - increases to 1.2 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

Not only can a high-protein diet lead to muscle gain or better weight management, there is evidence it plays a role in maintaining good health as well.

The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health wrote that protein malnutrition can cause growth failure, loss of muscle mass, decreased immunity, weakening of the heart and respiratory system, and death, while eating protein from sources such as fish, chicken, beans or nuts can lead to lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and even premature death.

Here are some recommendations from Maj. Rachel Morgans, Jennifer M. Moreno Clinic outpatient and community nutrition services chief, on practical ways to add protein to your diet:

  • Don’t skip breakfast – “Many people who visit the nutrition clinic either skip breakfast or don’t eat very much at breakfast,” Morgans said. “You can help maintain your muscle mass and support muscle gains with weight training when you include a good dose of protein within two hours of waking up in the morning.”

For breakfast, Morgans recommends eating high-protein, low-fat dairy products such as Greek yogurt or higher protein milk. Eggs are another source of lean protein and veggie omelets can also be a great way to incorporate more vegetables into the day.

  • Dairy alternatives – “For those who don’t eat dairy products, soy milk makes a great alternative – just be sure to choose low or no sugar added varieties,” Morgans said.

She encourages adding protein powder to any fruit smoothie, as well as choosing a high-quality brand that is third party certified whenever possible.

  • Post-workout – “If they are at a gym and aren’t going to get to a meal within 60 minutes, an easy protein source that you could throw into a gym bag would be sports bars,” Morgans said.

Morgans added that people want to look for products with at least 10-15 grams of protein. Another quick alternative is to drink a protein shake or pre-make a deli or peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

  • Smart choices – Morgans recommends choosing lean or low-fat protein sources. For dairy, she suggests skim, 1 percent and fat-free milk. For meats, skinless poultry and fish.

For those not sure how to cook fish, an easy way to implement it to one’s diet is by eating tuna packets with crackers or getting ready-to-cook pre-seasoned fish at the grocery store.

“For red meat, loin or round cuts are leaner, but we want to limit red meats to twice a week at most,” she said.

  • Forgotten sources – “Another overlooked source of protein is high quality starches,” Morgans said. “They don’t offer as much protein as meat and eggs, but they do offer quite a bit and they can really boost your protein intake.”

Kidney, black, white, garbanzo or navy beans, quinoa, whole wheat pasta and oatmeal are solid choices for starches.

  • Timing matters - “We want to include 20-40 grams of protein with meals, and roughly 10-15 grams with snacks in between meals,” Morgans said.

For snacks, people should aim for choices like Greek yogurt with grapes, whole grain crackers with string cheese or veggies with hummus. During any meal, a portion of protein should be about the size of the palm of your hand, or three to four ounces.

“We can only use up to 35 to 40 grams of protein at a time to build muscles,” she said. “Anything above that, the protein is either utilized for energy or converted to our storage form, which is fat. Most Americans get plenty of protein in their diets, it’s just the dosing and timing of it that we need to work on.”

According to research by the University of Scranton, just 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions. By implementing these tips and strategies, individuals wishing to gain muscle can take one step closer to achieving their goal this year.