How to Get Enough Protein in a Busy Lifestyle

Balanced meals, decent sleep, and regular physical activity define how well you can perform your daily tasks and succeed in your career. Still, watching the proportions of each nutrient on your plate is not an option for you if you're always busy. Typically, when you're on the go, you just grab something quick to suppress your hunger, and that's all. In turn, your body still needs the right amount of carbs, fats, and proteins for healthy functioning. Especially proteins, since you can find many carbs and fats in any fast-food or quick snack.

According to the University of Missouri study, you need to get 20-30 grams of protein with every meal. Even with the trending "protein obsession" common among people who work out and lead a healthy lifestyle, many people still consume less protein than their body needs. For example, vegetarians and vegans aren't getting enough protein without eating meat, while older people's bodies can't absorb protein well. If you're prone to skipping at least one meal per day, that means you could also have a protein deficiency.

Then, what can you do to ensure that you get enough protein when you have a busy lifestyle? Our insightful article will help you with that! So read on, and we'll help you change your eating habits so that they give you more energy.

Why does protein matter for your health?

A protein-rich salad

When carbs and fats supply you with energy, protein acts as a building material for all your organs, muscles, and hormones. In addition, every cell of your skin, bones, hair, and nails contains protein, so without it, your body wouldn't exist. Moreover, protein contributes to the creation of enzymes that are responsible for chemical reactions through your body.

What's also crucial is that protein helps your blood carry oxygen to organs, muscles, and tissues by making up hemoglobin. Therefore, protein is an integral element in your body that has numerous roles in maintaining your healthy living. Now let’s define the right amount of protein to take.

How much protein do you need?

There are two types of protein in your body: essential (that you can't produce and must take with food) and non-essential (your body produces itself). As you live, these proteins constantly go through a cyclic process — they break down, and then the body replaces them with new ones. So for protein synthesis to proceed smoothly, you must regularly replenish your body's protein stores.

According to dietary recommendations, the average adult should get 0,8 grams of protein per kilogram (0.36 grams per pound) with food. It means that you need 60g of protein daily if your weight is 75 kg (165 pounds). If you translate these numbers into percentages, then protein should make up 10% of your daily calorie intake. You can also easily calculate your protein daily norm by dividing your weight in half, and one-half will be how much protein you should take.

Meals rich in protein on the table

Still, that doesn't apply to older adults (50+ years) since their bodies have a decreased protein absorbance and need more of it to support muscle mass. Therefore, they need to take 1-1,2 grams of protein per kilogram (0,5 pounds). So now, when the proper dosage is clear, what сan you do to get enough protein if you're always in a rush?

Top-5 foods rich in protein

Can you list foods that are particularly rich in protein? Well, chicken breast, eggs, and… that's all. Most people don't get enough protein because they simply don't know its sources. Today we're going to fill this knowledge gap. So here are the products you should eat more often to get enough protein:

1. Chicken breast (skinless). It was pretty obvious, but chicken breast is still the most protein-rich food you can find. One 170g or 6oz chicken breast cooked dry heat has 55g of protein which is 109% of an average daily value. Imagine, by eating just one chicken breast, you meet your protein norm. Still, we know that chicken could become boring if you eat it too often. That's why we included other food options in this list.

2. Tuna fillet. Are you more into fish? That's totally okay since the same amount of cooked dry heat tuna fillet has almost the same amount of protein — 51g. It's 102% of your daily protein value, making this food a perfect alternative to chicken. Plus, by eating tuna, you'll also take care of your heart health as tuna is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.

Tuna slices as a perfect protein-rich meal

3. Lentils and beans. What about some legumes? In fact, they're the next top food rich in protein after meat. Just one cup of boiled lentils has 18g of protein which is 36% of the daily value. You can add them to your lunch soup or have them as a garnish with braised pork. At the same time, one cup of boiled large white beans has 17g of protein (35% of the daily value), which makes them an excellent replacement for meat. You can also use them as a garnish or a soup ingredient.

4. Greek yogurt. Indeed, all dairy foods are rich in protein, but we have an unbeatable champion among them — greek yogurt! Its 100g or 3,5 oz portion can contain from 3 to 9 grams of protein. So by eating greek yogurt, you supply your body with a massive dose of protein (=energy) and still don't get extra calories. That's why it's perfect as a snack, salad dressing, or breakfast ingredient.

5. Squash seeds. You may have seen them as a decoration for pastry or burger buns but rarely as a stand-alone snack or ingredient. Still, these seeds have plenty of protein — 1 oz or 28g portion of roasted squash seeds contains 8,5 grams of protein (17% of the daily value). You can add them to salads and sandwiches, take as a to-go snack, or add them to your meals as a topping. However, remember not to take too much of them since such a portion has 163 calories.

Ways to get more protein with your diet

The first thing to remember if you want to consume more protein is that your every meal should include it. Whether you're making a quick breakfast or grabbing a to-go lunch, protein should always be there. Even a tiny amount of it matters when maintaining a high energy level, healthy bones, and muscles. Follow our practical and easy tips, and you'll always have enough protein in your diet!

A greek yogurt with berries as a perfect protein snack

Always have a pre-made protein in your fridge

When you rush to work, you don't have much time to think about your daily diet. It will be great luck if you have some leftovers that you can grab for lunch. In turn, we suggest you alter this routine. Prepare protein-rich foods in advance and store them in your fridge so you'll always have a nutritious addition to your meals.

For example, you can boil a few chicken breasts and store them in vacuum containers. Then you can put some in your lunch box or serve it with a garnish for dinner—the same works for other protein-rich meats, boiled eggs, and legumes. Then, when you have them ready to eat, it will take less than a minute to serve them or take them to-go.

Add nuts to your meals

If you want to get more protein, then it'd be good to have a nut mix at hand. For instance, 1 oz or 28g of almonds has 6,4 grams of protein, while the same amount of peanuts has 7 grams of protein. You can take nuts as a healthy snack that provides you with long-term energy or use them to add to your meals. Still, be careful with the portions — nuts contain many calories.

Almonds will perfectly match greek yogurt or cottage cheese, while pistachios are incredibly delicious with salads. If you have them in your bag or the pantry, you'll never need to worry about getting enough protein.

Include fish in your weekly menu

Okay, we're not going to tell you to eat fish more often to get more Omega-3 (but it still won't hurt). Instead, we suggest you add more fresh or canned fish to your diet in the name of protein. While tuna is one of the best protein-rich foods, 6 oz or 170g of grilled salmon has 32 grams of protein. That's why eating more fish will increase your body's protein intake and help you maintain bone, skin, and muscles health.

A meal with chicken and veggies to restock your body's protein stores

If it's hard to keep in mind that you need to eat more fish, you can mark those days in your calendar and set up notifications. They will remind you in advance to buy a salmon steak or a can of tuna and pre-made it if there's a hard busy day ahead.

Reach for protein-rich spreads

It's complex to find anyone who doesn't enjoy hearty sandwiches with cheese, ham, or a few sliced veggies inside. Still, if you want to get more healthy protein, we have a little trick for you. When making sandwiches, replace the mayo or fatty sauces with plant-based healthy spreads. As for hummus, it has 1,2 grams of protein per tablespoon, plus it's rich in fiber and healthy fats. Meanwhile, one mashed avocado has 3 grams of protein, which makes it a perfect protein-rich spread.

If you prefer sweet spreads, you can reach for the almond butter (7 grams of protein per two tbsp) or peanut butter (8 grams of protein, respectively). Such plant-based spreads are available at supermarkets, but you could also prepare it yourself and always have a protein-rich option at hand.

Fill your protein gap with the supplement powders

Don't want to mess with cooking and watch your diet to get enough protein? Luckily, there's a way to avoid all cooking hassle and still get what your body needs. Protein powders that come as a supplement are the quickest option to restore your protein stocks. They're available in tons of different flavors and forms. Although, scientists suggest you choose sugar-free and moderately flavored protein mixes with at least 80% protein.

Woman making a protein drink from the powder

Whey protein isolate that comes from milk is the purest protein, so it'd be an outstanding option to fill your daily needs. However, if you prefer plant-based protein, reach for organic options like rice or peas protein since soy mixes are full of chemicals and harmful substances.

Wrapping up

Even when you're low on time due to busy schedule or life issues, there's still a way for you to get enough protein. It's crucial to maintain your muscle mass, keep your tissues and bones healthy, and have long-term energy after meals. That's why you should always strive to have protein in your diet, be it a chicken breast or a protein drink. In addition, with our practical tips, you'll never fail to have a hearty protein-rich meal or snack even with the busiest schedule.

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