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Why You Should Eat a Serving of Protein With Every Meal

nutrition Jan 02, 2024
Eat a Serving of Protein With Every Meal

Today I want to talk about the importance of eating a serving of protein with each of your meals.

Protein is the most satiating and appetite-suppressing macronutrient.

Before I continue, some quick definitions.

Macronutrients are the nutrients you need in larger quantities that provide you with energy. Think protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

Micronutrients are mostly vitamins and minerals. They are equally important but consumed in very small amounts.

Of the three macronutrients, protein has the highest thermic effect.

The term "thermic effect" is a fancy way of describing the amount of energy it takes for your body to process the food you eat.

Protein also helps you maintain muscle when your calories are reduced.

Better still, it's the least likely food type to be overeaten and stored as body fat.

That's why this might be one of the most important habits of all for fat loss and healthy body composition.

If you adopt only this one simple habit, it has the potential to make a massive impact on your fat-loss results.

What are a few examples of high-protein foods?

Eggs, lean beef, chicken, turkey, lean pork, and game meats (like venison) are a few protein-dense options.

Even though some folks shun dairy nowadays, low or nonfat dairy products (milk, cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt) are popular protein sources.

Other high-protein sources are fish, shellfish and protein powders (like whey, casein, milk or egg).

Speaking of protein powders, oftentimes I'm asked which protein powder is the best.

Well, I'm not a medical doctor or even a registered dietician so you should ask someone with those credentials for an official statement on the matter; but here's my personal opinion regarding supplements:

Choose fresh organic and unprocessed food first. Fill in the gaps with supplements if you feel you are deficient.

This may seem overly simplistic, but it works for most folks over the age of 40.

Imagine investing your hard-earned money on a bunch of pills and powders when you could simply make better meal choices?

But since I mentioned casein and whey protein, I'll share a quick story.

Why You Should Eat a Serving of Protein With Every Meal

I was working with a client early in my career. I was in my 20s and had just finished graduate school.

My client, we'll call him "Gore," was in his mid 40s and some type of computer engineer.

Gore wanted to "lose weight and get in shape."

He was on a work visa from a European country, like Romania, and had very little experience with gyms or the concept of working out.

Gore was a gregarious guy and very enthusiastic about getting healthy after his doctor instructed him to lose 50-or-so pounds.

I also recall, at our first session, he wore a powder-blue terry cloth jogging suit with brown socks and dress shoes.

It was a getup that screamed, "It's 1977 and I'm visiting from an Eastern European country. I'm unfamiliar with your local fitness customs."

And it wasn't like he forgot his sneakers at home that day because he often wore dress shoes with brown socks to a coaching session.

Gore's outfit was ridiculous. And by ridiculous, I mean awesome.

But I digress.

At that particular coaching session we discussed his nutritional habits. He said he was super busy at work with no time to cook.

He mentioned that he often ate protein bars and shakes as meals when he was traveling for work.

He emphasized that he was lactose intolerant and even the slightest bit of milk or cheese would cause immediate stomach distress and, in his words, "fast flat-ul-ence."

I thought to myself, boy I hope Gore doesn't eat a cheese sandwich before our next coaching session.

Or a banana split.

That could get awkward.

I suggested he avoid casein and whey protein, since both are derived from milk and contain lactose.

I shared my disclaimer about not being a medical doctor or dietician, but my personal opinion was to choose food first and then fill in the gaps with supplements.

He asked me more detailed questions about protein supplements, namely casein and whey protein.

I said, according to the research, they differ in digestion times — casein digests slowly, making it good before bedtime, while whey digests quickly and may be better around your workouts.

Both contain different bioactive compounds that may boost your immune system and offer other benefits.

Choosing one over the other won’t necessarily boost gym results or markedly improve your health, so select the one that you prefer or buy a blend that contains both.

But, for the record, I strongly suggested he avoid both casein and whey protein powder since he was unable to fully digest the sugar (lactose) in milk.

At a critical moment in the conversation, when I mentioned that last part, he became distracted in the commotion because someone accidentally set off a fire alarm and we had to leave the building in a hurry.

Fast forward a week or so and we're getting started on a new workout.

Gore is diligently performing bodyweight squats and other moves designed to warm up the hips and knees.

He's in another non-traditional workout uniform: That day's ensemble included a mint-green terry cloth jogger with the brown leather office shoes and brown socks.

And he's looking, how should I say this, distressed.

He stops the warmup for a quick swig of some white liquid from his plastic shaker cup, the kind you would use to make a protein drink.

In between sips Gore is apologizing for "flat-ul-ence".

I soon discovered that, the previous week, after the fire alarm cut our workout short, Gore traveled directly to the local supplement "shoppe" to pick up supplies.

An associate at the store gladly sold Gore a big tub of whey protein powder, yes whey, and he had been using it for his pre-workout protein drink that particular day.

I spare you the details but Gore somehow misinterpreted my opinions regarding avoiding dairy-based protein supplements.

As a result, that particular day was indeed awkward.

What's my point?  Actually, I have two points:

  1. If you plan to exercise in Eastern Europe, pack brown socks and loafers.
  2. Choose non-dairy protein options if you are lactose intolerant. 

How many grams of protein should you eat for the day? At each meal?

While these numbers are important, forget about it for now.

If you haven't built a habit of eating a protein food at every meal quite yet, there's no point in worrying about "optimal" grams of protein.

Remember, with the habit-based approach, start simple.

Once eating protein at every meal becomes a habit, one of two things will happen:

Everything works and you've gotten lean, and you're staying lean, as a result of you stacking this habit with the other positive changes you've made.

If this is the case there's no need to start counting calories/grams of protein.

Two, if you're not losing fat, or if you've gotten some results but you think you could be doing better...

...then circle back around to the numbers approach, and set a goal for daily protein grams, using science-based guidelines. 

This type of paint-by numbers nutrition system is included in all of our fitness-and-nutrition coaching programs.

A straightforward way to get enough protein is to have at least three meals per day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

This old-school approach provides you with three opportunities consume adequate protein.

One of the reasons I recommend my clients eat more often (usually 3-4 times a day and sometimes more) is to make sure that they'll automatically hit an optimal protein goal.

If you are frustrated and struggling to lose weight, try this nutrition tip.

To your success,

Coach Joe 



Joseph Arangio helps 40+ men and women get leaner, stronger, and happier. He's delivered over 100,000 transformation programs to satisfied clients around the globe. If you want to lose weight from home, with the best online personal trainer, or you want to visit the best personal trainer in the Lehigh Valley, you can take a free 14-day trial.

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