How I’ve increased my protein intake over the last few months

This one is about how I’ve increased my protein intake.

Hi! Here I am talking about protein again! To me, it’s the most important macronutrient to get right in your diet, and I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect amount of protein for myself for quite some time.

It was right around this time last year that I declared I was going to increase my protein intake from 100 grams of protein a day to 120 grams of protein a day. Well, I did that for a while, and then I decided to up it even more. These days, I try to eat about 145 grams of protein a day (which is approximately my bodyweight in grams). And eating my bodyweight in grams of protein will likely remain my goal, because that’s pretty much the standard for an active woman looking to build and maintain muscle. And yes, that’s a lot of protein!

Side note: I don’t use an app to track my protein intake, nor do I weigh my food. I eyeball it and check labels. And I don’t track overall calories, carbohydrates or fat. I’m not a huge fan of tracking everything you put in your mouth. But I am a fan of eating enough protein, so that’s why I keep a loose approximation of that one macro each day.

Today, I’m going to share exactly how I’ve increased my protein intake over the last few months. And the thing is, I did it gradually.

About two years ago, I was hardly getting 100 grams of protein a day. I was always eating healthy and staying really active by teaching my group fitness classes, but my body composition and overall strength were both pretty stagnant. So I decided to consistently hit 100 grams, and that felt okay and was pretty doable for a while. But still, I knew I could/should do more to match my activity levels. Months later (starting early last year), I decided to hit 120 grams of protein a day as a goal. Then, during the early fall of last year, I finally started to shoot for 145 grams of protein a day. This gradual increase was very helpful, because almost everything is more doable when you break it off into little chunks (except pulling off a Band-aid, of course).

Now, let’s talk about exactly how I’ve done it …

How I’ve increased my protein intake over the last few months

How I've increased my protein intake over the last few months by A Lady Goes West

Drinking one protein shake a day of at least 30 grams of protein.

I’ve always loved having a protein shake after a workout, and that’s something I’ve done for a very long time. However, oftentimes, I would have a protein shake with only 15 to 20 grams of protein in it.

And when I was looking at ways to increase my protein intake, I decided to either double the protein serving or find a protein powder that has at least 30 grams per serving. This was step number one for me, and it was incredibly simple.

How I increased my protein by A Lady Goes West

Also, I used to only have protein shakes right after my workouts, and I wouldn’t have them on rest days or on weekends when I wasn’t as active. But now, I have one protein shake every single day, so I meet my protein intake on the weekends as well as the weekdays. I never recommend getting a ton of your protein from a processed source like protein powder, but it’s totally fine to have one a day, which is what has worked for me.

I’ve used and enjoyed a lot of protein powders over the years (Organifi, NOW Foods, OWYN, etc.), and right now, I’m really into the Life Time Health Vegan All-in-One Protein, which has 30 grams of protein per serving, mixes up well and tastes great.

How I increased my protein by A Lady Goes West

Also, I have a discount code for you: 273605 is my special code for you to save on your order from the Life Time Health site or even in Life Time Cafes at Life Time locations. (You don’t have to be a Life Time member to order Life Time supplements, by the way. And I’m using quite a few of them right now, and I love them all.)

Adding more eggs to my lunch each day.

For the longest time, I would eat two eggs along with some veggies and grains for lunch. And well, that was not enough protein for lunch, even though it filled me up. The average egg only has six grams of protein, so two eggs, at 12 grams of protein, is not sufficient for a meal.

Now, I have three or four eggs, usually four. And when I mentioned this to someone once before, that person expressed concern about the amount of cholesterol in eggs. Well, yes, eggs are high in cholesterol. But, eggs are also high in a bunch of other valuable nutrients. And I choose pasture-raised eggs, which have less cholesterol than other eggs. I’m not at all concerned about my cholesterol levels, so eggs work well for me. And if they didn’t, I could always do egg whites, but I prefer the whole egg.

Once again, this is what has worked for me, and it’s absolutely not a blue-print for anyone else. We all have different wants, needs, likes and concerns.

How I increased my protein by A Lady Goes West

Eating more meat each week, especially at dinner.

I liked being mostly plant-based, and I did that for a very long time. I didn’t crave meat, and I didn’t cook meat. But I did eat it occasionally, mostly during dinners out or if Dave wanted to cook us steaks for some special reason. But now, I eat meat multiple times a week, and this has drastically increased my protein intake. We have a lot of chicken during the week, burgers on the weekends, and meatballs on our usual Sunday home-made pizza, etc.

Meat has a lot of protein, and eating more meat has helped me take my dinners from about 20 grams of protein a night to 30 or 40 grams of protein a night. By the way, our favorite easy-chicken dinner option to buy is Kevin’s Natural Foods chicken, which is pre-flavored and cooks up so easily on the stove-top. I love it. I also love to get rotisserie chickens to keep things simple.

Another point: I always order meat at restaurants now too. We eat lunch out at least once on the weekend, and I make sure my lunch plate has an appropriate serving of meat on it, whereas I used to not worry about that and would usually just get grains and veggies and bread.

This gradual mindset shift to always be loosely looking at the protein on my plate didn’t happen overnight, but I’ve come to do it very easily now.

Switching up my daily breakfast from oats to high-protein yogurt.

This one change right here is the most significant. And that’s because my first meal of the day is now full of way more protein than it was before.

For so many, many years, I ate oatmeal for breakfast. Sometimes cold overnight oats, sometimes warm stove-top oats, sometimes instant oatmeal packets. And I’d also add some almond or peanut butter. Even though it always felt like I was eating a high-protein breakfast, it just wasn’t exactly “high” in protein.

My oatmeal and peanut butter combination was probably only ever about 15 grams of protein, unless I had two packets of oatmeal when I was doing the packets and then it was closer to 20 grams of protein. It was so tasty, and I loved eating oatmeal for so long. And there was nothing wrong with that delicious breakfast, but unless I added in protein powder, it wasn’t going to be enough protein for me to meet my new goal of 145 grams of protein a day. I knew I needed to switch up my breakfast, and because I already eat a lot of eggs at lunch, I landed on switching to yogurt.

How I increased my protein by A Lady Goes West

For the last several months, I’ve been eating yogurt for breakfast every single morning. And not any yogurt, but a high-protein version. Now, my big bowl of yogurt with a banana every morning gives me 30-35 grams of protein in one shot. I tried a few different yogurts for a while and landed on this one that I absolutely love — called Ratio Food KETO Vanilla Yogurt. And I’ve mentioned it before. I can only find this version at the Publix near me, and it is absolutely the creamiest and tastiest yogurt I’ve ever had. I eat it every single morning.

It feels really good to have upped my protein intake first thing, because I think this jumpstarts my protein intake for the day.

Never skipping a protein-rich snack.

And finally, in order to meet my 145 grams (approximately, of course, because I never count the exact grams), I need to have three protein-rich meals a day and two protein-rich snacks. My protein shake is one of those protein-rich snacks, then I need one more. 

It used to be that on days I was less active, if I wasn’t hungry for a snack, I would skip it. And that’s intuitive eating, and I fully support that way of life. But, it also wasn’t helping me meet my protein goals. These days, every single day, even if I’m not super hungry, I eat a protein-rich snack in the mid-afternoon. On weekdays, that afternoon snack happens in the car when I’m in line to pick up Brady from school.

How I increased my protein by A Lady Goes West

I usually have a G2G Bar, which has 18 grams of protein and really good ingredients too. I’ve been relying on these bars for a long time, and I’m totally fine with having one most days of the week. (And if you’ve never tried them, they are quite tasty. My code ALADYGOESWEST, gets you 15 percent off on the G2G Bar site too.) Other days, I have another protein shake, or yogurt, or cottage cheese and nuts. Whatever it is, I try to have at least 18-20 grams of protein in my snack, and I never miss it.

And that concludes how I’ve increased my protein in take over the last few months. Now that we’ve covered the how, let’s talk a bit more about the why …

And now for the “why” I’ve increased my protein …

I’ve known for a long time how important protein is for overall health, muscle growth, strength, recovery, performance, immune function, cellular repair, and of course, body composition. And yet, I still struggled to eat enough for my activity levels. (You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you don’t put it into action, it’s not going to do you any good.) I’ve always been more of a carbs and fat girl, and so eating a lot of protein hasn’t come easy to me.

Well, last summer, after my third (and final) miscarriage, I decided I didn’t want to coast along with doing the same things I was doing for so long anymore. It was time to make some changes. I made quite a few changes in my life, and I took a good hard look at my wellness too. My fitness was pretty good, my diet was healthy, but the one thing I knew I needed to address was my protein intake. I started adding more and more in, and since then, I feel like I’ve gotten stronger, recovered faster and even seen more muscle definition than I have in a very long time, so I know I’m on the right path with this adjustment.

While we’re always learning, changing and growing, I know that what I’m doing now will not be forever. But it’s what’s working for me right now, and I wanted to share that with you. 

How I increased my protein by A Lady Goes West

(Here are my leggings. I’m in a medium, and they are high-waisted, compressive and have a zip pocket on the leg too. Love them!)

As a reminder, my journey and plan is mine and mine alone, and you may have totally different goals and needs. But I’ve always enjoyed talking about my experiences, and this seemed like something worth covering on the ol’ blog.

Thank you for taking the time to read this one, friend. Be well!

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Questions of the day

Do you know how much protein you eat each day?

What’s one thing you want to change this year with your eating habits/nutrition?

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11 Comments

  1. Great post Ashley! I’m listening to Outlive by Dr Peter Attia right now all about ways we can make sure we not just live longer but more functional and increasing protein is a big bulletpoint he makes in order to ensure we maintain muscle mass as we age!

    1. It’s especially important for women as we age to get enough protein, because women start to under eat — and they end up losing more muscle mass quickly by never having enough food. We need ALL THE PROTEIN to stay strong, full of muscle and well. I hope you are doing great, Amy! Thanks for saying hi and sharing with me. 🙂

      1. Great question! I do use collagen, but collagen by itself is not a complete protein (it doesn’t have all the essential amino acids), so I no longer count my collagen peptides into my total protein for the day.

  2. I was vegan for a very long time and had a really hard time meeting my protein needs. Fortified foods and tofu/tempeh/soya etc. were not readily available. I have also changed my way of eating and feel much better for it! Great post with some good ideas too ♡

    1. I’m so glad you made some changes that make you feel better! That’s what it’s all about — trying things and adjusting and seeing what your body needs and likes. More protein definitely works for me. Have a great day, Shelby! 🙂 xoxoxo

  3. Yeah the protein! I have been on the protein bandwagon for years (always make sure I hit that one first!) and similarly to you I have eggs daily for lunch and yoghurt with added protein (plus almond butter and protein powder) for a protein snack! Just these little additions can help you hit that number. Protein is so important for so many things as females so thank you for continuing the discussion!

    1. Hi Courtney! Protein is incredibly important to women! And unfortunately, I see from so many women that I encounter daily — they completely under-eat, especially protein, and thus can’t improve their body compositions like they want. I’ve felt so good now that I eat the right protein — I wish I had focused on it sooner. I LOVE that you’re there too! Thanks for saying hi! 🙂 xoxo

  4. My nutrition accountability partner said to me “Beef Jerky is your best friend” for my late night snack to use it to get more protein.

    Super interesting on women under eating. As someone who would love to loose 10-20 pounds, or as so many of my friends get on Oz or one of it’s counterparts, it always feels like eating less is how to get to that smaller stomach.
    I know it’s a long game of fitness AND eating(Adelle’s journey took a year and is inspiring), I often feel like I and others simply cut the food back.

    I’ve been doing the counting for a few weeks now and I find that I no longer eat things like Black beans or Good Grains because my daily carb count skyrockets(looking at you overnight oats). After about a month I really started to wonder if my body is actually missing out on what it needs. Am I seeing a difference in even my skin tone?
    I like knowing what I am putting in my body but I also over analyze and get into a control mode.

    I’m curious how you are with Pasta/Pizza(your weekend pizza nights sound so fun!).

    1. Yes, Sabrina! Have you tried “Chomps” jerky? I just bought some! It’s so hard for women to break the mentality of eating way less to lose weight — because all that does is eat away at the muscle we all want to keep and need to keep. These fancy weight-loss drugs must have side effects, and I’m sure we’ll hear more about that soon. It’s the old-fashioned way that seems to be safest and last. Keep up the great work being healthy, girl!

  5. Hey Ashley. I‘m curious if you consider other health implications besides protein intake and also implications on the environment regarding your meat consumption? I just read the latest guidelines on that and they say to consume a maximum of 300 grams per meat a week. Have you watched the Live to 100: Secrets of the blue zones documentary on Netflix? It explores regions of the world where people live extraordinarily long lives and all of those communities consume only very little meat or are completely vegetarian. I highly recommend it 😊

    Oh, and this is no criticism, just a genuine question with no subtext! Do what’s right for you 😊

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