All Macros Aren’t Created Equal: Protein

By Rachel Holcomb

Protein is essential for body composition and muscle building, as well as hormone and immune health.  Protein is composed of amino acid chains and accounts for four calories per gram.  Many people that do not track their intake significantly under-consume protein.  Protein is not only important for healthy body composition, but it also keeps you full making it less likely to reach for less ideal food items.  High protein options are largely from animal sources including meat, fish, and eggs; however you do not have to eat meat to have a high protein diet.  Protein is also found in many vegetarian and vegan sources including seeds, beans and nuts.  Protein is essential for life, and getting enough protein is going to enhance your life!

How much protein should you consume?

This will vary depending on your goals, current bodyweight and food preferences; however, you can start by using your bodyweight in grams as a general goal.  Ideally, you want to get the majority of these grams from whole foods, however, supplementing can be helpful especially to those following a vegetarian or vegan diet.  If you are using a protein supplement, do your research and ensure that it is a quality product.  If the price seems too good to be true it’s probably because it is.  A quick way to check the quality of the protein supplement is to see how much a serving size is in grams and then compare it to the grams of protein in each serving.  The closer these numbers are to each other the better.  Protein quality is more officially scored by the Food and Agriculture Organization using the DIAAS scale.  The protein supplement must rate 100% or greater to be considered an excellent or high quality protein source.  Arguably the most important factor is that you are getting a complete protein; however many proteins that are incomplete such as pea and rice proteins can be consumed together to complement one another. [2]

How can I incorporate more protein without supplements?

Shop high protein foods first when grocery shopping!  We tend to add the most to our shopping carts when they are empty so start by shopping your proteins first!  Buy some protein options that are easy to take on the go when life gets busy again!  These to-go options could include EPIC meat bars, COMPS sticks, Vital Farms hard-boiled eggs, single serving yogurts, cheese or trail mix.  When meal prepping, start by adding two more ounces of protein to your meals that your usual intake.  The simple addition of two more ounces significantly increases your daily intake without having the stress or time of creating an entirely new meal to reach your goal.  Additionally, try substituting some of your usual carb sources with high protein alternatives like lentil or chickpea pasta or rice.  When you don’t have the time to meal prep or cook (it happens to all of us), try to avoid pre-packed meals in the freezer section of your grocery store.  These prepackaged meals are typically loaded with extra fats, carbs, and preservatives while containing very minimal protein.  Instead, order out from a local restaurant and ask for double protein, or order from a meal prep service where you have the option to select meals that are more specific to your needs including paleo, keto, vegan and vegetarian options!

Are there risks associated with a high protein diet?

A “high protein” diet may vary from person to person, however, as a general rule if 25 percent of calories are coming from protein then you’re in the high protein range.  Even up to 35 percent of calories from protein is said to be okay for healthy adults to consume, however, there has not been an upper tolerable limit established for protein.  A 35 percent protein ratio might put an individual at roughly 1.3 grams per pound of bodyweight.

Many people have heard that there are associated risks when it comes to eating a high protein diet including kidney damage, liver damage, and osteoporosis.  There is no evidence however to support these claims, in fact, eating more protein may actually help prevent osteoporosis due to an increase in bone density.  Heart disease and cancer are two other common health concerns when discussing a high protein diet.  While there is limited evidence to support this claim, there are many confounding variables that come into play including the sources of protein being consumed. [3]

What are the benefits of eating a high protein diet?

High protein diets have many benefits including lower blood pressure, improve glucose regulation, and improve blood cholesterol.  High protein diets are also important for athletes to support recovery from exercise.  Eating more protein can help support the growth of additional lean mass as well as reduce the rate of muscle loss as you age.  Adding more protein to your diet can even help you maintain lean mass as you lose fat.  Protein also supports fat loss by physically requiring more energy to digest and keeping you satiated. [3]

What is best for me?

Each individual will vary when it comes to optimal protein consumption.  Ultimately you should be eating to support your goals and to have you feeling your best.  To support your training and recovery with CrossFit training, you can use the one gram per one pound of bodyweight rule of thumb and gauge how you feel and changes in your physique.

High Protein Food Options:

Meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, bison, elk)

Seafood (tuna, salmon, shrimp, crab)

Dairy (eggs, cheese, yogurt, kefir)

Bone broth






Protein powders (whey, casein, pea, rice)




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